Home » Seal photographed spitting at sea eagle, leaving scientists baffled

Seal photographed spitting at sea eagle, leaving scientists baffled

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© Clare Jacobs

A bird watcher was able to photograph a seal spitting at a white-tailed eagle. And that astounds scientists, because they had no idea that seals could spit.

Bird watcher Clare Jacobs was extremely pleased when she saw a white-tailed sea eagle flying above the water in a nature reserve on the Ilse of Wight on January 3, 2022. A rare event in the region. Jacobs therefore took out her camera and tried to take a photo. But at that moment she suddenly saw a seal appear on the water’s surface.

The marine mammal opened its mouth and spat water at the bird. Jacobs didn’t think much of it at the time, but her experience turned out to be highly exceptional. It was not known that seals could spit. There are only a few animal species that are known for their ability to spit, such as the camel. But most animals don’t have that ability. Or not that we know of.

(Read more below the photo)

© Getty Images/iStockphoto

Jacobs showed her photos to her daughter, who studies fossils at the University of Portsmouth, and a lecturer at the school. They published the observation last month in the scientific journal of the Isle of Wight Natural History and Archaeological Society.

The American newspaper The New York Times presented the photos and the article to some seal authorities and they all said the same thing: they had never seen a seal spit out.

In their article, the two argued that the seal probably wanted to tell the eagle that it had to ‘scratch’. The two may have had the same prey. According to Sean Twiss, a professor at Durham University who has studied seals for 30 years and has never seen one spew, it is also possible that the animal was just playing. According to him, seals do not look for prey in such shallow water.

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But he cannot say with certainty why the seal spat at the bald eagle. According to Twiss, such special, unique observations are often not published – as was almost the case here. And that’s a shame, because they can teach us a lot about nature, he says.

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