Pinniped Morphology and Locomotion
Locomotion enables animals to actively seek food, avoid predators, interact with conspecifics, and respond to diel and seasonal changes in the environment (e.g., seek shade, migrate). However, locomotion can be energetically expensive, so it must enhance survival and fitness. Although animals display a variety of locomotory modes, there is a convergent evolution toward minimizing the energetic cost of terrestrial, aerial, and aquatic locomotion. This is the dominate trend in the form and function of aquatic locomotion in marine mammals including pinnipeds.
Taxonomically, pinnipeds are a diverse clade of carnivorous, semiaquatic marine mammals whose fore and hind limbs are modified into flippers for efficient aquatic locomotion. There are 34 extant species divided into three Families: Phocidae (the earless seals or true seals), Otariidae (the eared seals: sea lions and fur seals), and Odobenidae (walrus). Fossils of the arctoid ancestors of pinnipeds can be traced to the Eocene (45...
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