University of St Andrews
Sea Mammal Research Unit

SMRU News Centre

item 308
[19-10-2010 to 30-04-2011]

News Item:
Corkscrew Seal Deaths

The Sea Mammal Research Unit at the University of St Andrews has produced a report of the preliminary findings of investigations in to the causes of the recent spate of "corkscrew" injuries to seals. This work has been carried out in collaboration with the RSPCA, National Trust and the Scottish Agricultural College, Veterinary Investigation Centre.

We have concluded that the most likely cause of the injuries is ducted propeller systems on ships operating in shallow coastal waters. We have eliminated most other possibilities include the effects of fisheries, deliberate killing, the effects of illegal traps and predation by killer whales or sharks.

To date, most of the injuries have been seen in animals washed up in the Tay and Forth estuaries in Scotland, north Norfolk and in Strangford Lough in Ireland. The injuries themselves mostly involve a severe, sudden and deadly trauma leaving the animals with a very characteristic laceration injury that starts at the head and travels in a smooth spiral for the length of the body. Both grey and harbour seals have been involved.

The SMRU is keeping an open mind about the possibility that this type of injury may be more widespread than these cases suggest.

For more information contact : Dr Dave Thompson e-mail

Report on unusual corkscrew seal injuries

see here for further details
contact: Dr Dave Thompson


SMRU News Archive:



Upcoming Events
  • Eavesdropping on whales: working on the challenges of estimating cetacean abundance using passive acoustic data - Danielle Harris - CREEM
    speaker: Danielle Harris (CREEM)

    building: The Observatory
    room: Seminar Eoom
    see also: additional details
    host/contact: Dr Janine Illian

    “Eavesdropping on whales: working on the challenges of estimating cetacean abundance using passive acoustic data”


    Acoustic data are increasingly being used to infer cetacean abundance or density.  Recordings of the vocalisations of many species are being collected from both dedicated and opportunistic surveys.  In some circumstances, standard abundance estimation methods can be used to analyse the acoustic data.  However, abundance estimation methods may need to be adapted or novel methods created, especially for use with opportunistic datasets.  In this seminar, I aim to (a) give a general overview of abundance estimation using passive acoustic data and (b) highlight some of the current research areas by focusing on two specific examples.  The first example involves adapting distance sampling methodology to deal with marine mammals at depth.  The motivation for this work came from two sources: monitoring deep diving beaked whales using acoustic equipment towed by ships, and a recently completed project that investigated the potential to monitor fin whales using Ocean Bottom Seismometers.  The second example involves the development of an abundance estimation approach where only the direction to a calling animal is known.  This work is part of a new project that is utilising the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty network of instruments (primarily designed to detect nuclear weapons testing) to monitor blue and fin whales. 


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  • SOI seminar: Using data-driven models to explore sea louse infestations on wild and farmed salmon
    speaker: Prof Crawford Revie and Dr Maya Groner (University of Prince Edward Island, Canada)

    building: SOI
    room: Gatty Lecture Theatre
    see also: additional details
    host/contact: Dr Dave Ferrier


    The relationships in any ecological system are affected by many, often interacting, factors and this is certainly true of farmed and wild salmon hosts, and the sea louse species which are amongst the most important of their natural parasites. In particular L. salmonis have been the most significant health threat to Atlantic salmon farming for the past two decades, while the impact of spill-over from these concentrated loci of infestation to wild populations has been a concern in many regions. These health threats and concerns have led to the collection of large data sets some spanning many years, and a range of questions arise as to the best way to model and interpret the relationship that may be present in such data. This talk will present a range of statistical and mathematical modelling approaches that the presenters have explored over the past decade address these challenges.  



    Dr. Crawford Revie

    Crawford holds the Canada Research Chair in Epi-Informatics at the Atlantic Veterinary College in Prince Edward Island, Canada. The main focus of his research involves novel methods to extract and organize knowledge that exists in large/complex epidemiological data sets. He has extensive experience in designing and delivering distributed database solutions in the domains of human and veterinary health. He leads a team of researchers who use epi-informatics approaches to tackle a range of tasks; from the development of web-based fish health databases, through network modelling of zoonotic pathogen spread, to the application of mobile phones in assisting animal health assistants in sub-Saharan Africa.


    Dr. Maya Groner

    Maya is a postdoctoral fellow at the Atlantic Veterinary College in Prince Edward Island. Maya's research focuses on ecological and evolutionary consequences of infectious disease in aquatic systems including sea louse parasites of salmon, wasting disease in seagrasses and chytridiomycosis in amphibians. Her research employs a range of approaches, from field surveys, to experiments, to theoretical models. Dr. Groner is also a member of the National Science Foundation supported Research Coordination Network on the Ecology of Infectious Marine Diseases.


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  • SOI seminar: Comparative diving eco-physiology: a tool to assess environmental change
    speaker: Dr Andreas Fahlman (Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi, USA)

    building: SOI
    room: Gatty Lecture Theatre
    see also: additional details
    host/contact: Dr Sascha Hooker

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  • BSRC Seminar Series: Fragment-based drug discovery- a decade of thinking small
    speaker: Dr Harren Jhoti (Astex Pharmaceuticals)

    building: BMS
    room: Lecture Theatre
    see also: additional details
    host/contact: Prof Jim Naismith

    refID: 1466

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  • SOI seminar: Toothed whales and tooth fish: depredation by marine mammals on fisheries around the Southern Ocean Islands of Kerguelen and Crozet
    speaker: Christope Guine (Centre d'Études Biologiques de Chizé (CEBC))

    building: SOI
    room: Gatty Lecture Theatre
    see also: additional details

    He will be discussing the depredation by sperm whales and killer whales on fisheries in the Crozet  and Kerguelen area that he and Paul Tixier have been doing over the last 10 years.

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