On the coast of the American resort of Point Reyes, a two-ton elephant seal rescued a baby female. Biologists were very surprised by this act, because the males of this species do not have paternal instincts.
The New York Times writes about it.
Wildlife biologists from the National Park Service have been investigating a population of northern elephant seals near San Francisco. Passing by their colony, which was resting on the beach, they noticed how the tide had dragged a cub into the sea, which was lying next to an adult female.
It was still too small to withstand the wave. The female watched this and responded to his plaintive cries. This attracted the attention of a male who was nearby.
|Males of this species do not have paternal instincts
He sniffed the female, and then rushed to the water.
Having reached the cub, the male gently pushed it to the shore. In this way, he probably saved his life, biologists add.
|The male carefully pushed the cub to the shore
Dr. Sarah Allen, who has been watching elephant seals for more than 40 years, says she has never seen anything like this before.
According to Daniel Costa, an ecologist from the University of California, male elephant seals do not have parental instincts. During the breeding season (around December to March), these far from gentle giants are focused solely on mating with females and fighting other males.
And when, stretched out on the beach, they move their two-ton bodies, they can often crush even their own offspring.
|During the breeding season, these giants focus only on mating with females and fighting other males
Sarah Allen and her colleagues published their observations of elephant seals in the journal Marine Mammal Science. This paper may encourage other researchers to monitor similar behavior in these mammals.
Scientists note that rushing to save the baby, the sea elephant not only left his harem of females, but also spent valuable energy. They interpret this gesture as a potential act of altruism, when one organism sacrifices part of its well-being to help another.
Dr. Allen suspects that the male elephant seal and the baby he rescued may be related, but without genetic data, it’s impossible to say for sure.
|All photos by Matthew Lau
Dr. Costa believed that elephant seals generally lacked the intellectual abilities of their cousins, the sea lions. But a dramatic rescue on the beach at Point Reyes made him question those conclusions. This gesture showed that they may have more intelligence than meets the eye.
We will remind, in Scotland, they saved the “loneliest sheep”, which lived near an inaccessible rock for 2 years.
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