It may be freezing in Antarctica, but this adorable photo is still managing to melt hearts all over the internet. A photo of a Weddell seal pup kissing its mom’s cheek in Erebus Bay, Antarctica, is going viral on Instagram.
The baby seal’s smooch was caught by U.S. Geological Survey scientist William Link. The photo was taken last October near McMurdo Station while Link was helping researchers tag seal pups, Link told ABC News.
The image was shared on the Instagram accounts of the USGS and the U.S. Department of Interior. The photo had over 12,700 likes combined from both Instagram accounts as of Thursday afternoon.
“I carried my camera a good bit and took about 4,000 photos while I was there,” Link said. “The seals would just be hanging out on the ice. They’re not afraid of people. You can walk right up to them.”
Weddell seals have been “extensively studied for over 40 years,” the caption of the photo says, adding that studies of these seals are one of the longest-running of a long-lived animal.
“Because of its isolation, this population is undisturbed by human activities,” the caption adds. “The Weddell seal population is healthy and stable, and thus gives a good example for studies of animal population dynamics.”
USGS scientists and Montana State University researchers have been recently conducting mathematical modeling, including marking and weighing newborn seal pups in Antarctica, the caption says.