Things are getting hot (and ratchet) in the Sub-Antarctic to say the least. In an article in the journal Polar Biology, scientists from the Mammal Research Institute in South Africa report “multiple instances of male Antarctic fur seals sexually harassing and even raping king penguins.” More than one fur seal has been caught in the act, on more than one occasion. And it’s all been captured on film, with quite disturbing images/footage (Polar Biology).
The image of a massive seal mounting a tiny and vulnerable penguin is so ridiculous and admittedly, borderline hilarious until you really think about what the fuck is going on, and then it’s not so funny, just disturbing and engrossing. For one, an adult fur seal is significantly more massive and heavier than a king penguin and it’s a no brainer that a penguin experiences difficulty breathing caused by their attacker. To add insult to injury, fur seals have a baculum or penis bone, which increases the degree of trauma that might result from a successful penetration. The gender of the hapless victim penguin (which was unknown for the reported cases and is hard to tell externally), would not really matter either because both male and female penguins have a cloaca or common opening that serves for solid and liquid waste disposal and also as the sexual portal of entry for normal carnal relations. I don’t know much about penguin intelligence or cognitive ability, but we should at least consider the possibility that this is psychologically traumatic for the poor penguin. Especially, if the male penguin doesn’t swing that way and isn’t down for the cause! Perhaps, the most revolting and “what the fuck” moment, is when you read the researcher’s observation that in one of the instances when the fur seal was finished raping the penguin, he killed it and ate it. That’s just savage as fuck!
Now, for the million-dollar question, why is this happening? The strange behavior seems to be tied to sub-adult male fur seals and the researchers speculate that it may result from “sexual frustration.” Why then would a fur seal suffer from blue balls? Most likely because the dominant adult male in the colony is preventing them from mating with his harem of ten or more females. Fur seals are one of those pinniped species that has a “beach master” like this, so the social structure of a seal colony may predispose sub-adult males to this sort of behavior. Research can only speculate why this behavior is caused and think it could be because the opportunity for apparently aberrant behaviors increases with increasing social complexity of the offending species. In this case, the penguins are in the wrong place at the wrong time and of the wrong approximate size and end up bearing the brunt of frustrated sub-adult seals.