Seals | Pinnipedia
Seals | Pinnipedia
Pinnipeds, also commonly known as seals, are large furry fin or flipper footed carnivorous semi-aquatic marine mammals. While pinnipeds live primarily in the ocean, they can come on land for long periods of time. Millions of years ago, pinnipeds were land-dwelling creatures; it is believed that they were bear or weasel-like animals that spent increasing amounts of time in the ocean and eventually adapted to the marine environment. Pinnipeds have advanced senses with sight and sense of smell adapted to both air and water and whiskers with an advanced tactile system. Pinniped have a layer of blubber, or fat, under their skin to help them retain heat and stay warm in the cold water habitats they typically inhabit in the Northern and Southern hemispheres.
Seals, falling under the group Pinnipeds, are charming marine mammals uniquely adapted to life at sea and on land. They have sleek, torpedo-shaped bodies, which, combined with their powerful flippers, make them agile swimmers. On land, they either "galumph" using all four limbs or wriggle on their bellies. Seals possess whiskers that are highly sensitive, helping them detect prey in murky waters. Their eyes are large and adapted for underwater vision. While they don't "speak" as we do, seals make a variety of vocalizations, from barks to roars, for communication and mating calls. With a keen sense of hearing and smell, they're adept ocean hunters.
Seals have shared a diverse history with humans. Traditionally, indigenous communities hunted them for food, skin, and blubber. In modern times, overhunting by larger commercial endeavors led to declining populations. Seals have also been popular attractions in marine parks and have starred in films and TV, like "Andre" or the lovable sea lion "Sammy" in "50 First Dates."
However, the portrayal isn't always positive, with seals sometimes depicted as threats or nuisances. Conservation initiatives, bolstered by public awareness campaigns, have protected many species from the brink of extinction. Today, seals are often celebrated for their playfulness and are a focal point of marine conservation endeavors.
The largest pinniped on record is the southern elephant seal measuring 21.3 ft (6.5 m) captured in 1913. The average male southern elephant seal can weigh between 4,900 to 8,800 lbs (2,200 to 4,000 kg) and are 14 ft to 19 ft (4.2 to 5.8 m) long. Bulls are typically 5 to 6 times heavier than females.
Pinnipeds are carnivorous and eat a wide variety of food depending on their species and habitat. They typically eat krill, crustaceans, mollusks, fish, and squid. Most pinnipeds are general feeders but some specialize, like the leopard seal that specializes in penguins. Ross seals and southern elephant seals generally only eat squid and crabeater seals feed mostly on krill.
Blubber, layers of fat under their skin, is important for pinnipeds because it helps them protect themselves from the cold. The layers of blubber also aides in streamlining their form which allows pinnipeds to effectively chase after their prey. Blubber is also important for newborn pups as they live off their blubber while they develop both their diving and feeding skills.