WTF?! USB sticks can be resilient pieces of hardware. They’re so tough, it appears that passing through the digestive system of a leopard seal and spending a year in a freezer can’t break them.
Scientists from New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) place a lot of value on leopard seal excrement. Not only can it provide useful information about the mammals' diet, but it also reveals if they’re in good health and how long they've been in the country’s waters. What the scat doesn’t usually contain, however, are USB drives.
Back in November 2017, one of the volunteer poo collectors, a local vet, found a sample and sent it to NIWA marine biologist Dr Krista Hupman, who placed in in a freezer.
NIWA is searching for the owner of a USB stick found in the poo of a leopard seal…— NIWA (@niwa_nz) February 5, 2019
Recognise this video? Scientists analysing the scat of leopard seals have come across an unexpected discovery – a USB stick full of photos & still in working order! https://t.co/2SZVkm5az4 pic.twitter.com/JLEC8vuHH0
The sample, which is about the size of two bread rolls, stayed in cold storage up until three weeks ago when volunteers removed and examined it. After running the poop under a cold tap to defrost it and remove the “bones, feathers, seaweed and other stuff,” the USB stick was found embedded deep inside.
“It is very worrying that these amazing Antarctic animals have plastic like this inside them,” said Jodie Warren, who made the discovery.
The device was in reasonably good condition, so after leaving it to dry out for a couple of weeks, its contents were examined. Somewhat ironically, it contained videos and images of sealions.
A search for the owner has resulted in “no serious leads yet” but NIWA will keep trying. The only clue is the nose of the blue kayak in the video. No word on the USB stick’s brand, either, but whatever make it is, it gets our seal of approval.