Polar Biology

, Volume 38, Issue 5, pp 741–746 | Cite as

Multiple occurrences of king penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus) sexual harassment by Antarctic fur seals (Arctocephalus gazella)

  • William A. Haddad
  • Ryan R. Reisinger
  • Tristan Scott
  • Marthán N. Bester
  • P. J. Nico de BruynEmail author
Short Note


Sexual coercion is the use of force to achieve mating, while reproductive interference encompasses many forms of interspecific interactions during mating. We describe three new occurrences of the sexual coercion of king penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus) by Antarctic fur seals (Arctocephalus gazella) on sub-Antarctic Marion Island. These recurrent observations follow a common pattern where the seal chases, captures and mounts the penguin, followed by copulation attempts. These observations are similar to a previously published observation from the same island, and we suggest that this may be an emergent behaviour. Two hypotheses directed at possible drivers for these coercive actions are examined: it may be learned behaviour associated with some sort of reward or it may be an extreme case of reproductive interference that can be explained by the ‘mate deprivation hypothesis’, resulting from the continued growth of the A. gazella population on the island. Reporting of similar occurrences from a range of species may allow more robust inference towards the ultimate drivers of the behaviour.


Sexual coercion Reproductive interference Arctocephalus gazella Aptenodytes patagonicus Marion Island Animal behaviour 



We thank Mr. F. W. Fourie for the use of his photograph, Ms. D. Cory Toussaint for help with preparing the manuscript and two anonymous referees for useful comments on the manuscript. The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism supplied logistic support within the South African National Antarctic Programme. The Department of Science and Technology (DST), through the National Research Foundation (NRF) (South Africa), provided financial support. Any opinion, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors, and therefore, the NRF and DST do not accept any liability in regard thereto.

Supplementary material

Supplementary material 1 (MPG 102966 kb) Online resource 1 Antarctic fur seal’s (Arctocephalus gazella) penis visible while coercing king penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus). (W.A. Haddad)

Supplementary material 2 (MPG 79504 kb) Online resource 2 King penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus) tries to resist sexual coercion by Antarctic fur seal (Arctocephalus gazella). (W.A. Haddad)

Supplementary material 3 (MPG 258500 kb) Online resource 3 Antarctic fur seal (Arctocephalus gazella) sexually coerces king penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus). (W.A. Haddad)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • William A. Haddad
    • 1
  • Ryan R. Reisinger
    • 1
  • Tristan Scott
    • 1
  • Marthán N. Bester
    • 1
  • P. J. Nico de Bruyn
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Zoology and Entomology, Mammal Research InstituteUniversity of PretoriaHatfieldSouth Africa

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