We’ve known for a long time that seals enjoy clapping. The seal clap has become a craze in the meme world. Observing seals clapping on shore or above ocean had been the mainstay of this practice until now. However, a study led by Monash University in Australia shatters our initial knowledge of seal clapping.

The researchers caught the first-ever video of a wild seal utilizing “rhythmic signaling,” as the study authors describe it. A male grey seal swims off the shore of the Farne Islands in northeast England in this footage. He twirls by another seal and swims away, but not before slapping his forelimbs together repeatedly, each time generating a piercing noise. Naturalist Dr. Ben Burville, a guest researcher at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom, captured the video footage after 17 years of diving and searching. The claps last less than a second each, so it’s a short ‘look-away-and-you-miss-it’ event.

The researchers suggest that the clapping may play a vital part in social relationships such as mating because this clapping male seal swims by a female making grunting sounds. The female seal swims away, but when she reappears later in the video, the male claps again and gets a little playful by nearly nipping her, providing credence to the hypothesis of social connection.

Only male seals appear to clap beneath the water, and their smacks are frequently directed at some other seals, leading the researchers to believe that the clapping serves as a breeding action “to ward off possible rivals or to promote attractiveness to females”.

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