Seagulls, organisms best known for harassing people at the beach for food and being antagonists in Finding Nemo, occupy a loathed status in the animal kingdom. Their negative reputation only gets crappier with the realization that seagulls eating baby poop are harming both baby seals and the ecosystems they inhabit. Reports of seagulls attacking baby seals appear to show these avians getting bolder in their hunting techniques. Now, many baby seal butts sport lacerations and injuries from greedy seagulls, who literally go at the pups' behinds to get all that good sh*t. But though these incidents just sound like unexpected animal battles, these seagull attacks on seals might be causing great harm to the ecosystem.
These coprophilic seabirds, specifically a species known as the kelp gull, made made seal poop a staple in their diets. Why these birds have chosen to eat poop remains as fascinating and disgusting at the act itself, but the consequences prove disastrous for the seal population. The sad fact is, seagulls may be more disgusting and more dangerous than anyone possibly imagined up to this point.
Scientists Were Puzzled By A String Of Anal Injuries On Baby Fur Seals
When get stationed as a researcher at South America's Guafo Island, the last thing you expect to discover is a bunch of baby seals with inexplicable butthole wounds. Yet this is exactly what happened to Mauricio Seguel, a scientist with the University of Georgia's College of Veterinary Medicine. As the lead author of a study to uncover the source of these young seals' wounds, Seguel and his team discovered one of the most terrifying cases of coprophilia on Earth.
The First Theories Had Absolutely Nothing To Do With Seagulls
After discovering the mysterious wounds, researchers assumed the cause was likely some kind of bacteria or virus eating away the baby seals' tender booties. But the tests they ran showed no signs of microbial infection, so they needed to dig a little more. A new theory started to circulate after they observed kelp gulls pecking at the afflicted seals butts. Though it became obvious the seagulls caused the injuries, researchers still remained unsure why they ate seal poop and only from younger pups.
Baby Seal Poop Hides A Tasty Seagull Snack
While no one doubts that disgusting birds like seagulls enjoy the taste of animal butts, there exists a good reason for why they do it. The poop of these baby fur seals comes chock full of delicious hookworms, a common parasite among seals. Kelp gulls love snacking on these parasites, so they gobble up as much of the poop as they can. Gulls specifically target younger seals because their poop is full of adult hookworms, while adult seals tend to only carry the hookworm larvae.
Kelp Gulls Are Causing Some Unintended Consequences
While the gulls never intend to hurt the baby seals, they still cause a whole mess of problems. The seagulls love eating seal poop so much they can't wait for it to actually come out of the seal. These overzealous poop-eaters peck at the area around the baby seals buttholes in order to pry out every last drop of feces, and this means inadvertently doing damage.
Due to their aggressive nature and sharp beaks, the gulls often leave wounds deep enough that they become infected, which can lead to death in baby seals. Even the research team taking fecal samples found themselves accoested by these aggressive birds for trying to steal their favorite food.