Every winter, about 500,000 gray seals gather on a remote sandbar called Sable Island. Located 200 miles off the coast of Nova Scotia, the seals gather here to rest, molt, give birth to their pups, and breed. While they don’t face many predators on the island, they do mingle with some wild horses that have roamed free on the island for years.
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) marine biologist Michelle Shero and colleagues are currently spending several weeks studying these pinnipeds. They are studying how much iron the mother seals get in their diets and how that impacts the pup’s diving capacity and survival rates. The population of gray seals on Sable Island has exploded in recent decades, but roughly 90 percent of pups die during their first year. The team believes that it is because of an increased competition for food.
Check out some pictures of the work below:
Shero is working with the Canada Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and her research is funded by the National Science Foundation in partnership with Texas Tech University and the University of Alaska.