Seals, sea lions, and walruses constitute the living Suborder Pinnipedia. Whether this is a subgroup of Carnivora or a full order on its own has long been the subject of debate, but recent molecular evidence indicates that all three groups emerged from bearlike carnivore ancestors in the Oligocene, 33-24 million years ago. All pinnipeds have four webbed limbs modified for use as flippers, torpedo-shaped bodies adapted for life and locomotion in the water, round heads tapering smoothly into the trunk, large canine teeth, and enlarged eyes modified for finding food under water in low-light conditions. They are swift swimmers and deep divers: The California sea lion (Zalophus californianus) can reach a speed of 25 miles an hour, and the Weddell seal (Leptonychotes weddellii) regularly reaches depths of 900-1,000 feet. Seals are not completely aquatic like the SlRENIANS because to breed and rear young, they must go on land, where they cannot move about as efficiently.
The three extant families of pinnipeds are the True seals (Family Phocidae), the Sea lions and Fur seals (Family Otariidae), and the Walrus (Family Odobenidae). True seals lack earflaps, and they move sinuously through the water like a fish, using their flippers only for steering; on land, they hunch like caterpillars or wriggle from side to side. Sea lions and fur seals have external earflaps, and they use their front flippers as underwater wings, allowing the hinder parts to follow passively; on land, they walk on their front flippers and either rotate their hind flippers forward to serve as hind feet or drag them passively. The walrus is intermediate; it has no earflaps, swims and walks on land like a sea lion, and has upper canines modified into highly specialized tusks. The different methods of locomotion are important to assess the argument that certain types of Sea MONSTERS are pinnipeds adapted to a purely aquatic existence.
The largest seal is the Southern elephant seal (Mirounga leonina). Adult bulls average 14-16 feet long, with outsize individuals growing to more than 21 feet.
Although seals primarily live in oceanic habitats, some have no difficulty traveling into freshwater in search of fish. The Baikal seal (Phoca sibirica) and the Caspian seal (Phoca caspica) have become completely isolated in freshwater lakes.
As cryptids, seals can pose as both FRESHWATER and SEA Monsters, and they have played an important role in the lore of Merbeings. Of the four listed here, one is a possible survival of a recently extinct species and the others could represent completely new species.
Caribbean Monk Seal; Lake Titicaca Seal; St. Helena Manatee; Steller's Sea Ape
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