Thursday, February 10, 2011

Mammal bite marks on fur seal bones, Part 3

Within 48 hours of my paper being published, I tried seeing if I could find anything if I searched for 'pinniped bite marks' on google. Sure enough, I saw that Dr. Alton 'Butch' Dooley had already covered it (thanks, Butch!), but I saw something else that made me angry and very excited at the same time. This was an article on feeding damage induced by a leopard seal attack on a human.

Pair of tooth punctures from the leopard seal attack.

Yes, the loss of human life is very tragic and all, but this is really exciting! As aggressive as leopard seals are (and as bad a rap as they get in movies like March of the Penguins and Happy Feet), and as scary as some other pinnipeds are, they normally don't attack humans, and if anything are typically wary of humans. This attack involved the 28-year old Kirsty Brown, a scientist in Antarctica, who was snorkeling at the time. The seal attacked her, and dragged her under water for 6 minutes to a depth of 70 meters (!). That's pretty incredible. Observers estimated the seal was 4-4.5 meters long.

What is most interesting about this paper is that the punctures figured above in the article are very similar to those that Frank Perry and I described (Boessenecker and Perry, 2011). The bite mark on the radius is most similar, as the puncture penetrated the cortex, and left a peripheral ring of depressed bone, just like these. It is difficult to say because the article did not go into the details much, but although these punctures are undoubtedly canine punctures, they appear much too close together to be from the same bite. Perhaps these were from the same canine on different bites, or something along those lines.

Unfortunately, this paper was published in 2007, and had I known about it, I would have totally cited it. In fact, this paper makes the pinniped origin of the bite marks seem all that more probable. And, on top of that, it also bolsters the case that these bone modifications have been identified correctly. So, my apologies to Guy Rutty; I didn't mean to not cite you, and I certainly wish I had.

Rutty, G.N. 2007. Pathological findings of a fatal leopard seal attack. Forensic Science, Medicine, and Pathology 3:57-60.

1 comment:

Doug said...

Thanks for the write up. I couldn't get to the actual article so these posts are the nxt best thing.

Also thanks again for letting me use your drawings in out marine bio project. Teacher said it was probably the best presentation she'll see all semester.