A tragic and bizarre story from the animal world has come to light in Germany. One male seal may have caused the death of 11 female seals, that too in a most unusual way, by having sex with them. These 'murders' took place in the 2018-19 winter and came to light after the dead bodies of the victims were found on the North Sea coast within a period of 41 days.

What led the scientists to suspect a sexual angle into the death of 11 female seals was the fact that all of the victims were pregnant or had been pregnant just prior to their death. Further examinations revealed that six of the dead seals had lacerations on their genitals, further strengthening the theory that it was sexual intercourse that caused their death.

grey seals
DNA of one seal was found on the dead bodies of all victims (Representational picture) Christi Bubac

The cause of death was discovered to be septicemia – bacterial infection in the blood. What made the investigators pin the blame on one anonymous culprit was the presence of his DNA in the vagina of all the victims. The journal Scientific Reports published the startling findings.

Why sex was fatal?

The reason why a normal activity such as sexual intercourse would have led to the tragic deaths of these 11 seals is the fact that the male perpetrator belonged to a different sub-species. The DNA of the male seal has shown that he was a grey bull seal. All the victims were harbour seals.

The grey bull variety of the animal is much heavier than the harbour sub-species. On top of that, a male seal is bigger than a female one. So, while the male grey bull can be as heavy as 600 pounds, a female harbour one might be around 200 pounds. So, an act of copulation between the two is likely to be physically damaging to the female.

A PREGNANT SEAL
All dead seals were or had been pregnant (Representational picture) Pixabay

The lacerations on the genitals suggest that the act of intercourse wasn't consensual and the male grey bull was forcing himself upon the females. This would have caused serious trauma to the victims. The scientists who studied this case also suspect that the culprit may have been an adolescent who was looking for partners in the breeding season.

One-off incident

What the scientists are not sure of is whether this incident is an aberration or something much more common in the natural world.

"The present study is the first one reporting fatal interspecific mating attempts of at least one male grey seal with pregnant harbour seals in the German Wadden Sea. It remains unclear if the described cases are an exception caused by one individual on a local scale," the study questions.