A memorable seal meal

One evening last spring, we were out for a stroll along the scenic Kinramer permissive path, which always offers some of the most spectacular views of anywhere on Rathlin Island.  But the view we had that evening, taking a casual look over the cliff edge down to the ocean below, was certainly something we’d never seen before. Check this out:

Not only were we enthralled by the struggle between the hungry Grey Seal wrangling to get its dinner down, and the feisty fish valiantly fighting for its life, we were intrigued as to what species of fish that was.

Our first thought was that it was an eel, but after closer inspection of the video we weren’t sure – judging by the body colour, could it be a Ling? But the body was so long, so that didn’t seem right either. We posted the video on the local Facebook group for some help. That led to a lot of debate, but quite quickly we had an interesting answer that it was a Sea Lamprey (thanks Paul Graham!). We searched online for more information and found terrifying close-up images of their circular tooth-filled mouths, and pictures of lampreys latched onto other fish, rasping at their skin with those rows of teeth to feed on their blood.


Lamprey anatomy By LadyofHats [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Lampreys are primitive fish, and are distinct in having gill slits, like sharks and rays, rather than gills covered by an operculum, like bony fish.

We checked the video again, and yes –  at certain points you can clearly see the seven round gill openings. That was unmistakeable – it had to be a lamprey.

seal eel meal3

Seven gill openings clearly visible

What a surprise! And what a whopper! Imagine encountering that beast on a swim.

We’ve another interesting video of a seal meal, this time a big eel – https://youtu.be/Ee2qjwOHTjc


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