When a female grey seal was found to be nursing two pups last year on a beach near Norfolk, eastern England, observers suspected that they might have been twins, an incredibly rare event for grey seals. Now it seems their intuition was correct, as they have received confirmation that the two young seals are indeed brother and sister, making them the first ever recorded grey seal twins in the world.
Tissue samples from both pups, as well as blood from the afterbirth collected from the sand moments after the birth, were sent to The Institute of Marine Research in Norway, where scientist Kirstine Frie conducted DNA analysis to confirm that the seals were twins. There was some doubt as mother seals are known to nurse two pups at once, one of which is their own, and one of which is unrelated. There have been rumors of twin grey seal pups being born in Eastern Europe, but official records have not been found, says Frie.
“I have never experienced it myself, and my British colleagues who do a lot of fieldwork have never observed it,” Frie is reported as telling BBC News. “It must happen in the wild from time to time, but we have never had knowledge of wild grey seal twins. In the wild they very rarely survive, the both of them, but these are both in good health.”
In fact, the two pups had to be taken into care after their mother seemingly abandoned them after nine days in December last year. They were taken to the RSPCA Wildlife Hospital in Norfolk, where the brother and sister were named R2-D2 and C-3PO, and were found to be underweight. They have since been cared for and fed up, and are now thought to be ready to be released back into the wild.
Here are the grey seals pictured more recently. RSPCA