The Antarctica Files: Seal Madness

Okay, once again, I dont like birds.

I was no way at risk of developing Penguin Madness.

Seal Madness, though… that was a different matter all together.

Unfortunately, I have this habit… when Arnie is taking an afternoon nap, fat black puppy butt lying in the sun, I physically cannot resist running up to him screaming ‘PUPPYPUPPYPUPPY!!!!’ and playing his ribcage like a bongo drum. And then when he sits up going “WTF??” I give him a noogie.

And then I am presented with a beach, with a dozen seals with their cute puppy-dog-eyes and fat grey butts in the sun… *twitch*

*twitch*

I made it without succumbing to the madness, but I don’t know how much longer I could have held out. And Im glad we werent really at a ‘peak’ seal time, so I only had to deal with a few dozen as opposed to hundreds. The seals were fat silver dogs to me, evolutionary history be damned.

They fell into three distinct groups.
1. These guys did not give a rats ass about us. Raised their head to look at us, went back to sleep. I wanted to tackle them and give them noogies and flop their ears.
2. The super-crazy-social-funny ones. At one point, a seal came up on the beach, all by himself, and put on a hysterical show for us. And we were kinda in molting season, so some of the seals would do that thing where dogs roll around on their backs? Then they would pat their tummies and rub their adorable eyes and start rolling around again, happiest chubby little buggies EVAH!!!!
3. The I-dont-know-wtf-you-are-Im-getting-out-of-here guys were my favorite! They would wake up, look us up-and-down, and then you could hear their seal brains thinking “Oh HELL no.” as they got up and left. It wasnt like a ‘Im scared!’ thing. It was like a ‘I dont know. I dont wanna know. Im out. Peace, Homies.”

This guy was a #3, but he chilled out. He was like, “What?… Wait, what? You… Im keeping my eyes on you… *squint* Im watching you…”

Here is the most adorable story I have ever heard in the history of ever:

Comments

  1. #1 Jason Dick
    January 20, 2011

    That is awesome :)

    The last time I visited Monterrey some years back, there were sea lions all over the beach. And I sooo wanted to do precisely that: run at them and smother them.

    What held me back was that some of them were a lot bigger than I was, I knew almost nothing about how they would respond, and I might get bit or crushed if they saw my actions as threatening (or just by accident…some of them were quite large…). So I contained my desire to treat them like puppies :)

  2. #2 Katharine
    January 20, 2011

    Oh fuck, sea lions. Have you ever smelled a sea lion? People think they’re so cute but then they smell like vomit.

    I hear crabeater seals are assholes.

    Gray seals are okay, I guess, since the only ones I’ve seen are at the zoo and don’t smell, but other pinnipeds – fuck them.

  3. #3 Tommykey
    January 20, 2011

    So, maybe that’s how the penguin got on the telly in that Monty Python skit.

  4. #4 Jason
    January 20, 2011

    wow – the leopard seal story is amazing. I love it! What a huge animal – and I wonder what the evolutionary reasoning is for the behavior of an apex predator trying to feed (or maybe just show off for) a lesser predator in her ocean.

    *goes back to doing science but thinking about this*

  5. #5 Kulvinder Matharu
    January 20, 2011

    Oh god, I’m responding to all your Antarctica posts!

    I’m not a dog person. Or even a seal person. Got to within 2 feet of a leopard seal. Not doing that again!

    Give me a cute penguin or two any day!

    http://www.metalvortex.com/images/Antarctica/slides/IMG_0417a.html

    What about albatrosses and petrels in the Drake Passage?

  6. #6 Katharine
    January 20, 2011

    Seriously, Abbie, what were you doing in Antarctica? Presumably some microbiology thing.

    If I can get down there at all during my research career that would be awesome. I even have an idea for a project.

  7. #7 titmouse
    January 20, 2011

    Okay, once again, I dont like birds.

    *sniff*

  8. #8 eddike
    January 20, 2011

    I got the Nat Geo that this guy ios in :))))

  9. #9 Alex
    January 20, 2011

    The German for seal is seehund – seadog.

  10. #10 DexX
    January 20, 2011

    Eh, as evolutionary history goes, you could do worse than to describe them as water-dwelling dogs. They’re probably closer to bears, but they’re certainly cousins of dogs. They’re all in carnivora, anyway.

    Actually, checking Wikipedia it seems they’re closest to weasels and the rest of that family, but still not too far from bears and dogs.

    Their teeth are certainly very doggy.

  11. #11 Jerry Coyne
    January 20, 2011

    ADORABLE? It involves DEAD PENGUINS!!!!

  12. #12 mo
    January 21, 2011

    It’s maybe a similar behavior to cats which bring their owners dead critters to show them how to hunt.
    Maybe the leopard seal had just lost her young and thought the fotographer looked cute.

  13. #13 Optimus Primate
    January 21, 2011

    Yeah, that settles it. I *must* go to Antarctica now.

  14. #14 jaranath
    January 21, 2011

    Of course, we’re never gonna survive UNLESS we get a little seal madness.

  15. #15 SAWells
    January 22, 2011

    There’s an interesting range of degrees of adaptation among the pinnipeds. The sea lions have external ears and their rear limbs can still be turned forward allowing them to lollop around on land quite happily, while the true seals have no external ears and the rear limbs are very tail-like and can’t be used for land locomotion; contrast both to the cetaceans, for whom grounding is fatal. The evolutionary lesson: we can see a continuous range of mammalian habits and habitats, ranging from fully terrestrial to fully aquatic, which gives a nice insight into the history which led to the fully aquatic cetaceans from their fully terrestrial ancestors.

  16. #16 Paul Burnett
    January 23, 2011

    South of San Francisco is Ano Nuevo State Reserve, where elephant seals congregate in season. The males are the size of a Volkswagen Beetle, and their dominance battles shake the ground up close. Details of guided tours at
    http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=1111

    If you walk to the end of the Coast Guard jetty in Monterey, California, you can touch sea lions through the fence – but the stench when the wind is wrong is worse than a sewage treatment plant.

  17. #17 JustaTech
    January 24, 2011

    Many years ago, in Monterrey Bay, I watched a harbor seal sail about on the front of two very frightened tourist’s kayak. Now, the kayak rental people will tell you about a thousand times to stay the hell away from the animals, but there’s not much you can do when it decides to perch on your kayak. (Good thing it wasn’t one of these guys, or it would have snapped in half!)

  18. #18 eddie
    January 29, 2011

    This vid, feat. David Attenborough, shows that leopard seals are more cat-like than dog-like:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvB0lmqbL_Q

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