DAVIS (CBS/AP) — Swine flu has been detected in elephant seals off the Central California coast.

The Contra Costa Times cited a University of California, Davis study that finds the seals contracted the H1N1 virus back in 2010, just as the pandemic caused by the virus was winding down in humans.

READ MORE: 49ers Win Wild Card 23-17 as Time Runs Out for Cowboys in Frantic Finish

Professor Tracey Goldstein tells the newspaper that the influenza virus is known for its ability to cross species barriers, and this isn’t the first time a marine mammal has been found to carry a human strain.

Researchers still aren’t sure exactly how the seals contracted the virus but they say it’s unlikely that it was from direct contact with people.

READ MORE: 1 Killed, 2 Injured in Sonoma County Crash on Route 116

The researchers raised the possibility that seabirds may have passed on the virus.

Goldstein says the presence of H1N1 in seals is not a cause for alarm.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

MORE NEWS: French Bulldog Stolen at Gunpoint During Castro Valley Armed Robbery