TWIN arrivals at a North East beauty spot may have sealed a world wildlife first for the region.
It is believed that a grey seal has just given birth to twins on a secluded beach on the Farne Islands, off Northumberland – a feat never seen before by wildlife experts.
National Trust Farne Islands head warden David Steel said that the seal had been the only female on the beach for two days.
He said: “She gave birth yesterday morning and there were two newly-born pups, so all the evidence suggests that it was a twin birth. The two pups are now suckling from the mother.
“There is no evidence for any previous twin birth on the islands and in fact this could be a world first for grey seals.”
The wardens have informed Dr Ailsa Hall, senior research scientist with the Sea Mammal Research Unit in Scotland.
She has replied: “My knowledge of twins suggests it has not been reported either in the literature or anecdotally because it’s so costly for a female to have enough reserves for two.
“But biologically it’s not impossible and may just be so rare as to not have been observed with as much corroborated evidence as you seem to have.
“It does sound like this could be a first confirmed report. We would be very interested in confirming this genetically. If either survive then good for her, she’ll be super mum.”
The challenges facing the twins include a pup mortality rate on the islands of up to 55% and the concern that the mother may not have sufficient milk for two.
Pups are suckled for, on average, three and a half weeks and then must fend for themselves.
The twins will continue to be monitored by the wardens on a daily basis.
Dr Hall has asked the wardens that if the pups do not survive then a sample of skin should be taken for DNA tests.
David said: “If the DNA tests confirm that this is a twin birth, as it seems to be, then that will be very exciting.
“The next move may be to tag and monitor the twins, if they survive, and to mark the mother.
“Female seals usually return to the same spot to give birth and the mother can be watched next year to see if she gives birth to twins again.”