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What is a Pinniped?

Pinnipeds Are a Group of Animals That Includes Seals, Sea Lions and Walruses


Australian Sea Lions (Neophoca cinerea)
Panoramic Images/Panoramic Images/Getty Images Harp Seal Pup - Phoca groenlandica Picture

Harp Seal Pup (Phoca groenlandica)

Joe Raedle / Getty Images Harbor Seal (Phoca vitulina) Picture

Harbor Seal (Phoca vitulina) in the Gulf of Maine

© Blue Ocean Society

Question: What is a Pinniped?

The word "pinniped" is Latin for wing- or fin-footed. Pinnipeds are found all over the world and are a diverse group of marine mammals.


The pinnipeds are animals in the infraorder Pinnipedia, which is under the the order Carnivora and suborder Caniformia. The pinnipeds include all the seals, sea lions and the walrus. There are three families of pinnipeds: the Phocidae, the earless or ‘true’ seals; the Otariidae, the eared seals, and the Odobenidae, the walrus. These three families contain 27 living species.

All pinnipeds give birth and nurse their young onshore. Pinnipeds are usually barrel-shaped, have fur and have wide flippers at the end of their short limbs. Their streamlined shape and adeptness at swimming makes them quick and agile in the water.


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