"The behavior seems to be all about creating and maintaining social bonds within the colony," says Wilson, who added that by about six months, pups start playing with each other like the ones in this video, which she guessed were about one to three years old. The video appears to be capturing the seals "transferring their normal behaviour to the divers" -- surprising, she says, because pups are usually much more wary of humans.
From the video, it's hard not to think of canine puppies -- especially when they seem to enjoy belly rubs and chins scratches from the divers. But do they really enjoy being scratched, like a dog would? Kelly Froud, a Marine Biodiversity Officer with the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust, says yes -- but maybe not for the same reason.
When a pup is nursing, she says, the mother seal will often scratch the pup. "This could be to aid the molting process, to loosen the fur or perhaps it could be a sign of affection," she added. "Perhaps this is why the seals in the video are so keen to be ‘petted.'"