Over a span of 41 days in Winter 2018-2019, eleven dead female harbour seals washed up along a confined stretch of Germany’s North Sea shoreline. Curiously, all were pregnant or had recently been pregnant, and six had lacerations to the genitals. All apparently died of septicemia, an infection of the blood, in this case by bacteria. DNA extracted from the vaginal tracts of the deceased seals revealed the apparent perpetrator of the killings: a bull grey seal.
A team of German researchers recently reported the disturbing find in the journal Scientific Reports.
In the animal kingdom, sex isn’t always consensual. Sexual coercion is widespread and takes a variety of forms. And, as the present case elucidates, it doesn’t always occur between members of the same species.