Phocidae (seals; order Carnivora, suborder Pinnipedia (or Caniformia))
A family of marine carnivores in which there is no external ear, the tail is small, and the hind limbs cannot be turned forward to assist movement on land. Most feed on fish and marine invertebrates, but some feed on macroplankton, and one species feeds on penguins. Despite superficial similarities, the phocid and otariid seals are believed by some to have evolved independently and not to be closely related to one another. The phocid seals diverged from the otter branch of the Mustelidae
and can be traced back to the Miocene
. They are more completely adapted for aquatic life than the Otariidae
. Phocid seals are found in all oceans, mainly in high latitudes, and in the Caspian Sea
and Lake Baikal. There are 10 genera, and 19 species.
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