AskDefine | Define pinniped

Dictionary Definition

pinniped n : aquatic carnivorous mammal having a streamlined body specialized for swimming with limbs modified as flippers [syn: pinniped mammal, pinnatiped]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Any of various large marine mammals belonging to the former suborder Pinnipedia, such as walruses, sea lions or seals.


marine mammal


  1. Pertaining to such a mammal.

Derived terms

Extensive Definition

Pinnipeds ("fin-feet", lit. "winged feet") or fin-footed mammals are a widely distributed and diverse group of semi-aquatic marine mammals comprising the families Odobenidae (walruses), Otariidae (eared seals, including sea lions and fur seals), and Phocidae (true seals). Formerly classified as a separate biological suborder, Pinnipedia is now sometimes considered a superfamily within Caniformia, a suborder in the Carnivora order.


Recent molecular evidence suggests that pinnipeds evolved from a bearlike ancestor about 23 million years ago during the late Oligocene or early Miocene epochs, a transitional period between the warmer Paleogene and cooler Neogene period. The earliest fossil pinniped that had been found is Enaliarctos, which lived 24 – 22 million years ago. It is believed to have been a good swimmer, but to have been able to move on land as well as in water, more like an otter than like modern pinnipeds. There has been longstanding debate as to whether walruses diverged from a common otariid-phocid ancestor, or whether the phocids diverged before a common otariid-odobenid ancestor. The most recent evidence suggest that the latter hypothesis is more likely.


Oxygen conservation

Pinnipeds can conserve oxygen for long period of time underwater. When the animal starts diving its heart rate slows to about one-tenth of the normal rate. The arteries squeeze shut and the sense organs and nervous system are the only organs to continue to receive a normal flow of blood. Pinnipeds are able to resist more pain and fatigue caused by lactic acid accumulation than other mammals. However, once they return to the water surface, they need time to recover and bring their body chemistry back to normal.


To keep warm in cold waters, pinnipeds have a layer of blubber under their skin (which also provides buoyancy). The thickness depends on the species. Their blubber can also provide food for the animal. Newborn pinnipeds have no blubber.

In culture

Seals, sea lions, and walruses are popular animals in the media. They are often portrayed balancing beach balls on their noses and clapping with their flippers.
Notable fictional seals include:
Because of the creature's name being coincidentally spelled the same as the unrelated word "seal" for a stamp, the confusion of one with the other is an occasional comic gag, as in "Christmas seal", or the live seal produced by Harpo Marx in Horse Feathers when Groucho Marx tries to find the legal seal for a contract document.
Notable fictional walruses include:
At least three professional sports teams in the San Francisco, California, area have been known as the "Seals".


pinniped in Arabic: فقمة
pinniped in Czech: Ploutvonožci
pinniped in Welsh: Morlo
pinniped in Danish: Sæler
pinniped in German: Robben
pinniped in Spanish: Pinnipedia
pinniped in French: Pinnipède
pinniped in Korean: 기각류
pinniped in Croatian: Perajari
pinniped in Indonesian: Anjing laut
pinniped in Icelandic: Hreifadýr
pinniped in Italian: Pinnipedia
pinniped in Hebrew: טורפים ימיים
pinniped in Lithuanian: Ruoniniai
pinniped in Lojban: pinpedi
pinniped in Hungarian: Úszólábúak
pinniped in Malay (macrolanguage): Anjing laut
pinniped in Dutch: Zeeroofdieren
pinniped in Japanese: アシカ亜目
pinniped in Norwegian: Seler
pinniped in Norwegian Nynorsk: Sel
pinniped in Polish: Płetwonogie
pinniped in Portuguese: Pinípedes
pinniped in Romanian: Pinipede
pinniped in Quechua: Asuka
pinniped in Russian: Ластоногие
pinniped in Serbian: Перајари
pinniped in Finnish: Eväjalkaiset
pinniped in Swedish: Sälar
pinniped in Turkish: Yüzgeçayaklılar
pinniped in Contenese: 鰭足目
pinniped in Chinese: 鳍足亚目
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