Pinniped Fossils | Darwin and Wallace: A Nature & Fossil Store

Pinniped Fossils: Seals, Walruses & Sea Lions

 

               Pinnipeds (Latin for "Wing Foot") are carnivorous, semi-aquatic marine mammals. Today they are represented by three extant families: the Otariids (sea lions and fur seals, which exhibit external ears), the Phocids (seals, which are the most diverse pinnipeds), and the Odobenids (which is represented by the last of its kind, the walrus). Pinnipeds use their sleek bodies and large webbed flippers to maneuver quickly through their aquatic realms, whether it be to escape from predators or to catch prey (which consists mostly of fish and shellfish as well as penguins and pinniped pups in larger species). Though sleek, pinnipeds also possess a thick layer of blubber to conserve body heat and to store energy. Today the earliest known pinnipeds from the fossil record are represented by Enaliarctos of the northwest United States, and Puijilia of Canada, both from the late Oligocene/early Miocene epochs of approximately 27-21 million years ago. Puijilia is especially noted for its very otter-like appearance, with its large limbs that were used to amble around on land as well as flattened digits that were certainly webbed but had not yet developed into flippers. From the Miocene forward, pinnipeds would evolve into many different forms and spread throughout the world's oceans (though are currently vacant from the Indian Ocean).

Click on the images below to see the incredible fossils we offer in our Pinniped selection:

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