Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior

Living Edition
| Editors: Jennifer Vonk, Todd Shackelford

Pinniped Morphology and Locomotion

  • Randall Davis
  • Lauren Highfill
Living reference work entry

Later version available View entry history

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-47829-6_961-1

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...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Feldkamp, S. D. (1987). Swimming in the California Sea lion: Morphometrics, drag and energetics. The Journal of Experimental Biology, 131, 117–135.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Fish, F. E. (1996). Transitions from drag-based to lift-based propulsion in mammalian swimming. American Zoologist, 36, 628–641.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Fish, F. E. (1998). Comparative kinematics and hydrodynamics of odontocete cetaceans: Morphological and ecological correlates with swimming performance. The Journal of Experimental Biology, 201, 2867–2877.Google Scholar
  4. Fish, F. E. (2000). Biomechanics and energetics in aquatic and semiaquatic mammals: Platypus to whale. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology, 73, 683–698.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Fish, F. E., Innes, S., & Ronald, K. (1988). Kinematics and estimated thrust production of swimming harp and ringed seals. The Journal of Experimental Biology, 137, 157–173.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Schmidt-Nielsen, K. (1997). Animal physiology. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge. 617 pp.Google Scholar
  7. Taylor, C. R., Schmidt-Nielsen, K., & Raab, J. L. (1970). Scaling of energetic cost of running to body size in mammals. American Journal of Physiology, 219, 1104–1107.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Vogel, S. (1994). Life in moving fluids. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. 488 pp.Google Scholar
  9. Weihs D (1974) Energetic advantages of burst swimming of fish. J Theor Biol 48:215–229.Google Scholar
  10. Williams, T. M., Friedl, A. W., Fong, M. L., Yamada, R. M., Sedivy, P., & Haun, J. E. (1992). Travel at low energetic cost by swimming and wave-riding bottlenose dolphins. Nature, 355, 821–823.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Texas A&M University200 Seawolf Parkway, OCSBGalvestonUSA
  2. 2.Eckerd CollegeSt. PetersburgUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Lauren Highfill
    • 1
  1. 1.Eckerd CollegeSt. PetersburgUSA