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Nature isn’t always kind and cuddly. A study showed that sea otters will restrain baby seals and then begin copulation; sometimes drowning it during the 105-minute-long process. Even after the seal is dead, the otter will hang on to the carcass and continue to mate with it for up to a week.

Otter raping baby seals

I read this post on "I fucking love science"-group on facebook. Is it really true sea otter rape baby seals to the death?

  • If you need the skepticism: origin is only one serious work mentioned in answer " Lesions and Behavior Associated...", 2010. It is not enough to be sure. The most important sentence of the work "Nine animals (seals) examined in depth exhibited vaginal and/or colorectal perforation, which provides strong presumptive evidence for forced copulation. Although spermatozoa were not observed in the rectum/colon or vaginal tract... " So was this is a sexual conflict or just some "war tactics" is actually unclear... Also there are no equivalent evidence that sea otters rape each other. It is strange. – Roman Pokrovskij Jan 17 at 19:20
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    Usage of "rape" term is also questionable. You can say "my dog rape pillow", but actually it is only metaphoric phrase. This rape is not a social interaction , when rape is always interaction "give me what I want or I will kill you". There otters do not want to kill baby seal and do not ask it. It is possible they kill it first. They just play and use. Otters copulation is one of longest in the animal world: 30 min. So it is not easy to survive for baby seal. – Roman Pokrovskij Jan 17 at 22:17
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The very next line of the quote you included, from the site you linked was:

More info: http://bit.ly/XLKKXb

That redirects you to a 2011 news article in Discovery.com called The Other Side of Otters, which includes a witness account:

A weaned harbor seal pup was resting onshore when an untagged male sea otter approached it, grasped it with its teeth and forepaws, bit it on the nose, and flipped it over. The harbor seal moved toward the water with the sea otter following closely. Once in the water, the sea otter gripped the harbor seal’s head with its forepaws and repeatedly bit it on the nose, causing a deep laceration. The sea otter and pup rolled violently in the water for approximately 15 min, while the pup struggled to free itself from the sea otter’s grasp. Finally, the sea otter positioned itself dorsal to the pup’s smaller body while grasping it by the head and holding it underwater in a position typical of mating sea otters. As the sea otter thrust his pelvis, his penis was extruded and intromission was observed. At 105 min into the encounter, the sea otter released the pup, now dead, and began grooming.

The new article explains this was just one of at least nineteen occurrences documented in an article in the journal Aquatic Mammals.

A quick search in Google Scholar produces the actual article. Note: contains photographs that some people may find distressing.

In conclusion: Yes, it happens. There are detailed descriptions documented by marine biologists, including photos.

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    I'm almost afraid to ask, but do we know why? – Avi Apr 21 '13 at 12:45
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    @Avi: Why do humans? I'm reluctant to ascribe motivations to animals, but I assume (without research) it is misfiring in-species behaviour, whether mating, dominance-assertion or play. See also: dogs humping people's legs. – Oddthinking Apr 21 '13 at 14:22
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    @Ilmari: Good point. I hadn't read that part of the article. They suggest that aggressive mating with female otters is common - to the point of significant fatalities. The aggressive mating attempts with seals may be triggered by recent underpopulation of female otters, plus the nature of polygynous territorial males excluding others males from access to the females. "These subdominant sea otters would have been denied access to female conspecifics by territorial males and may have simply redirected normal sexual responses toward [seals]." – Oddthinking Apr 21 '13 at 16:59
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    If the rule being selected is "when you haven't earned a harem, violently mate with small, furry creatures at any opportunity", that may lead to more offspring on average rather than less, outweighing the wasted energy. See also: men's nipples. – Oddthinking Apr 22 '13 at 7:05
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    @BrianDHall: I think the thing is shocking because people attempt to humanize animals, which is just senseless. It is their natural behaviour, it is not right or wrong, it is just how they roll... Is like the hold-handing part in the picture reported by the OP: it is not done because it is "cute", but for a purely "mechanical" reason (not to drift away). – nico Apr 26 '13 at 5:57

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