Seal Poop Sample Contained a Surprise

NZ scientists hunting for owner of USB after it was found frozen in seal poo

It turns out that USB thumb drives can as well, at least when the pinniped digestive system is involved. This raised some concern, since swallowing an object this big could potentially injure or kill a leopard seal.

On it, they found several photos and videos of of what appear to be fur seals or sea lions on Porpoise Bay, about 96 kilometres away from where the scat sample was found.

A team of New Zealand scientists sifting through a slab of frozen leopard seal droppings have found a USB stick containing photos of frolicking sea lions. But nothing was done with that sample for more than a year, it wasn't until January that volunteers defrosted the sample and sifted through it looking to learn about its contents.

This particular scat was collected from a skinny leopard seal on Oreti Beach, Invercargill, back in November 2017 and has been in the freezer since then.

The owner of the mystery stick has not been located. Scientists hope to learn what Antarctic leopard seals eat, as well as learning about their health and how long they may have been in New Zealand waters.

The sample, which is about the size of two bread rolls, stayed in cold storage up until three weeks ago when volunteers removed and examined it.

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"Concealed deep inside the scat was a USB stick", the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) said on its website.

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

As Hupman tells NIWA: "The more we can find out about these creatures, the more we can ensure they are looked after".

The only clues of who the USB owner's identity are footage of a blue kayak and the fact that they were at some point likely hanging out with leopard seals.

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

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