Photograph: A male sea otter guarding the carcass of a juvenile harbor seal. And those males that remain denied an opportunity to mate take out their frustrations on the hapless young harbor seals, an interspecies interaction that has been known to take place, albeit with less dramatic consequences, in other marine mammals. Harris and colleagues describe one instance in which a male otter held a struggling female underwater until her body became limp and then copulated with her several times. The sea otter and pup rolled violently in the water for approximately 15 min, while the pup struggled to free itself from the sea otter's grasp. A decrease in female sea otters may be behind some male sea otters' violent sexual interactions with juvenile harbor seals. Here, too, the encounters may prove fatal for the female, either as a result of wounds inflicted from the male's bites and scratches or because of drowning. Finally, the sea otter positioned itself dorsal to the pup's smaller body while grasping it by the head and holding it underwater in a position typical of mating sea otters. Sea otters are polygynous ; stronger males establish territories with high numbers of females and work to exclude other sexually mature males.
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