Earless Seals (Phocids)

Earless Seals, (also known as True Seals) make up the family Phocidae. Phocids are also sometimes referred to as “crawling seals” as their locomotive ability on land is restricted to a sort of shuffle, using their abdominal muscles to propel themselves forward.

Phocids are more streamlined than otariids (fur seals and sea lions) They have internal testicles and retractable nipples and are able to cover much greater distances in water. Unlike their fur seal cousins, the fore flippers are used primarily for steering while their hind flippers are bound to the pelvis in such a way that they are unable to turn them downwards to walk on.

Phocids also have fewer teeth than land based members of carnivora with certain species lacking molars all together. They can be further distinguished from otariids by their method of communication which involves no barkings but more slapping of the water and grunting.

In general, Phocids will spend much more time in the water than otariids with feeding grounds usually hundreds of km away. Phocids only haul out to mate and give birth. The pups are fed on a diet of high fat content milk. This enables them to grow rapidly with some species even able to treble birth weight in less than a month. Weaning ranges between 28 days for Elephant Seals to a mere 5 days for Hooded Seals (the shortest weaning period of any mammal)

Phocids are spit into two main groupings. These are

Northern Seals

  • Family: Phocidae
  • Subfamily: Phocinae

Antarctic, Monk and Elephant Seals

  • Family: Phocidae
  • Subfamily: Monachinae