With their expressive eyes, furry appearance and natural curiousity, seals have a wide appeal. Seals are divided into two families, the Phocidae, the earless or ‘true’ seals (e.g., harbor or common seals), and the Otariidae, the eared seals (e.g., fur seals and sea lions). This article contains facts about both earless and eared seals.
1. Seals are carnivores.
Seals are in the order Carnivora and suborder Pinnipedia, along with sea lions and walruses. “Pinnipedia” means “fin foot” or “winged foot” in Latin. Seals are divided into two families, the Phocidae, the earless or ‘true’ seals (e.g., harbor or common seals), and the Otariidae, the eared seals (e.g., fur seals and sea lions).
2. Seals evolved from land animals.Seals are thought to have evolved from bear- or otter-like ancestors who lived on land.
3. Seals are mammals.
Seals do spend lots of time in the water, but they breed, give birth to live young and nurse their young on shore.
4. There are many kinds of seals.There are 32 species of seals. The largest is the southern elephant seal, which can grow up to about 13 feet in length and more than 2 tons in weight. The smallest species is the Galapagos fur seal, which grows to up to about 4 feet long and 65 pounds.
5. Seals are distributed throughout the world.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
6. Seals insulate themselves using a thick fur coat and layer of blubber.
NOAA Photo Library
Seals are insulated from cold water by their fur coat and by a thick layer of blubber. In polar environments, seals restrict blood flow to their skin surface to keep from releasing internal body heat to the ice. In warm environments, the reverse is true. Blood is sent toward the extremities, allowing heat to release into the environment and letting the seal cool its internal temperature.