Bonus Projects

The Baltic Seal - BONUS BIO-C3

Join the adventures of our Baltic Seal in this journey through his life history, and the history of the seal populations, in the Baltic Sea, and discover how their interactions with humans affect the ecosystem. As a postdoc trying to model the ecological role that the seals have in the Baltic Sea, especially in relation to fisheries, I spend much of my working time in front of a computer. This is my way to get closer to the Baltic Sea water and its fauna.
08.05.2016 19:35

The arrival of the pioneers

David Costalago

A couple of months after his first immersion in the waters of the Baltic, our seal, now nearly a teenager (a juvenile), was resting on a rock hundreds of kilometers away from his birth place when an adult approached him. It was a not very large seal that had a strange look about it. It is not very often that seals come across other individuals, except when they congregate on beaches or rocks, but our young seal knew that there was something really different about that adult seal.

The teen, willing to start a conversation, explained that he was there because he had to take a break.

- It is exhausting to swim all the time, especially after having to chase the fish for a long time-, he said. - I have been swimming to hunt fish during the last few days, and I think I need a break now. The fish I have been eating should be enough for me to obtain, on average, the 5 kg of food per day that my mum said I should consume.

At first, the adult seal didn’t seem very interested in the young one, but once it found a nice spot to lay down, it said to our seal:

- Well, given your size I hope you only ate fish.

- What do you mean? What else could I eat?

- Don’t you read the news or what? There have been a couple of cases, not too far from here, where one of your kind killed and ate one of my species.

- Oh, no, I didn’t know. But now I understand why you look different. You’re another species.

- Yes, I belong to the harbour or common seals, smaller than the seals of your species.

- And how many different species are there?

- In this Sea? Only our two groups here in the south, and then, farther north, you are also likely to encounter the ringed seals, more like my size… but colder-. And the adult harbour seal released a loud laugh, unaware that our little friend did not get the joke.

- How did we all get to this Sea? -, asked the juvenile.

- Hmmm, that’s a very long story-, replied the adult, who began to look interested in the questions dropped by the young one. The young seal’s new companion then started relating the story of when the first seals arrived to the Baltic Sea. - Soon after the big Ice retreated, the Ancylus lake, which was how this region was then known, got filled with so much water that a pass to the Ocean was opened. Then, our ancestors, yours and mine, entered this newly formed sea. Our ancestors liked it here, apparently, because soon after that hundreds more came from around some islands out in the Ocean, and also many of the ringed seals arrived from the North. That happened about 8000 years ago, so no one knows exactly what it was like this place back then, but if you ask your elders they will probably tell you that, for what they know, it wasn’t as hot as it is now.

- Wow, that’s a very long time ago. I wonder how many of us there were around here at that time.

- OK, buddy, I think I am going to take off. My mates must be about to start moulting, and that is one of the few opportunities we have to hang out together. It’s been nice talking to you, but I have to find them before the end of June.

- Moulting?

- Renovating the jacket, that is. Soon your time for that will arrive too. Bye!

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