Twins: A First for Grey Seals?

Written by on October 26, 2012 in Marine Life
Gray seal pup, only a few days old.

Gray seal pup, only a few days old. Photo credit: Andreas Trepte.

A National Trust ranger spotted two gray seal pups, recently born on the Farne Islands off the coast of Northumberland in north-east England.

Why is this news?  Because wildlife experts believe the new pups are twins–possibly a first for gray seals.

The Farne Islands are known for their large seal colony.  About 1,500 pups are born there every year, but there are no records of multiple births ever occurring on the islands.

The Sea Mammal Research Unit at the University of St Andrews in Scotland has requested DNA test to confirm that the pups are twins.

“It is biologically possible for seals to conceive twins, but the female would usually abort one fetus prior to birth as she wouldn’t have the resources to feed both pups,” explained Alisa Hall, acting director of the Sea Mammal Research Unit.

“Should the pups survive the rangers can take DNA sample from the pups and we will test it just like you would a human to see if the pups came from the same mother,” she continued.

David Steel, the National Trust ranger who spotted the pups, had recently been monitoring the mother.

“On the small rocky beach, two pups were together, wet and bloody, with the mother in attendance,” said Steel.  “It was evident that both had just been born and with no other female in this area of the island.”

You can see adorable pictures of the pups on Steel’s blog.

Grey and Harbor seals hanging out on the beach.

Gray and Harbor seals hanging out on the beach. Photo credit: Meghann Murray/NOAA Fisheries.

Copyright © 2012 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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  1. Joseph Butler says:

    Twin Grey Seal pups were born at the Louisville Zoo in the late 70’s two years in a row. So this is not the first time twin Grey Seal pups were recorded. The reason I know this I was working there at the time.

  2. Emily says:

    That’s really interesting, thanks for sharing! I suppose they must mean this was the first recorded case in the wild…