June 02, 2021

Can you spot this seal's bizarre shark bite?

Can you spot this seal's bizarre shark bite?
Dr. Chris Brown

Today I spotted this fur seal in Sydney’s east sleeping off a very different kind of shark bite. But can you see it?

At first glance, this seal is complete winter beach goals. Sunny spot, the sound of the ocean and yes, complete body confidence. But take a closer look and you might see he’s also sleeping off more than the big swells of the past week. He’s also sporting two shark bites from one of the most mysterious creatures of the deep.

Just at the top of his hind flipper and along his hips are two perfectly round bites from the rarely seen Cookiecutter Shark. They might only grow up to 50cm in length but it’s how they get their meals that might leave you with nightmares. These sharks spend their days in dark, deep water (often up 1000m deep) and then migrate to the surface during the night and use their round jaws (pictured) to latch hold of their prey and then twist off perfectly round pieces of flesh. Just like a cookie-cutter mould does. Check out the sides of whales and you’ll often see their rather uncomfortable round calling card.

For this fur seal, the bite didn’t quite detach the piece but you can see, he’s still quite keen to rest, air the wounds and expose them to sunlight.

Seals and sea lions are remarkable healers so he’ll make a full recovery but may be a little hesitant about those late night, deep sea fishing trips from now on.

Images: Me and The Australian Museum

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