Surprising find for NIWA scientists in year-old seal poo

07 February, 2019, 15:35 | Author: Trevor Moore
  • A Leopard Seal appears to roll around laughing while resting on sea ice

Researchers are trying to trace the owner of a USB stick that survived the trip through the innards of a leopard seal, before being frozen in a feces sample for over a year.

On Tuesday, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), shared their random discovery in a press release.

"It's be great, just for novelty, I think, to find out if somebody's missing their USB stick and find out how it got to be on the beach where the leopard seal was", Hupman said.

Wildlife researchers in New Zealand found a surprisingly resilient memory stick in a surprising place - a 14-month-old lump of frozen seal feces.

About three weeks ago, volunteers thawed out the sample and discovered the memory stick, which was "in reasonably good condition considering where it had come from".

"W$3 e basically have to sift it". They have a whole page on the proper way to collect and send them finds (turns out an ice cream container is the preferred vessel) if rummaging around for seal poop sounds like your idea of a good time. You put it under the cold tap, get all the gross stuff off, smoosh it around a bit and separate the bones, feathers, seaweed and other stuff, ' explained NIWA volunteer Jodie Warren.

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Warren left the stick to dry for weeks, curious to see if any data could be recovered.

Although it's remarkable the USB stick survived the ordeal, it's nevertheless a bad sign for the seals and their environment.

NIWA said the only clue in the photos as to who might have taken them was the nose of a blue kayak. This raised some concern, since swallowing an object this big could potentially injure or kill a leopard seal.

In November 2017, the scat sample, which is roughly the size of two bread rolls, was collected by a local vet at Oreti Beach in New Zealand.

Hupman's work also includes analysing leopard seal sightings to determine if they are becoming more common in New Zealand waters.

"They said: 'You won't believe what we've found, '" she recalled.

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