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The seal photographed the sea eagle spitting, which baffles scientists

by News Room
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© Clare Jacobs

A bird watcher was able to photograph a seal spitting a sea eagle. And it amazes scientists because they had no idea seals could spit.

Bird watcher Clare Jacobs was delighted to see a white-tailed eagle flying above the water at a nature reserve on the Ilse of Wight on January 3, 2022. A rare occurrence in the area. So Jacobs took out his camera and tried to take a photo. But at that moment he suddenly saw a seal appear on the surface of the water.

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

© Getty Images/iStockphoto

Jacobs showed his photo to his daughter, who is studying fossils at the University of Portsmouth, and a lecturer at the school. They published the finding last month in the scientific journal of the Isle of Wight Natural History and Archaeological Society.

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

In their paper, they argued that the seal probably wanted to tell the eagle that it needed to “scratch.” Both may have had the same catch. It’s also possible the animal was just playing, according to Professor Sean Twiss of Durham University, who has studied seals for 30 years and has never seen a single spit. According to him, seals do not look for prey in such shallow water.

But he can’t say for sure why the seal spat on the bald eagle. According to Twiss, special, one-of-a-kind observations like this don’t often get published — as they almost did here. And that’s a shame, because they can teach us a lot about nature, he says.

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