© 2017 MOm/Hellenic Society for the Study and Protection of the Monk Seal

Background - ©Frédéric Larrey/Thomas Roger

THE MEDITERRANEAN MONK SEAL

Monk seals are part of the mammalian group of carnivores named Pinnipedia, which includes all the species of seals, sea lions and walrus. The first seals appeared on the face of the earth approximately 20 million years ago. But, before evolving into top marine predators, the ancestors of seals used to live on land and were carnivores. Seals are therefore considered to be closely related to some terrestrial carnivores, such as bears! As indicated by the name Pinnipedia, these animals have flippers instead of legs which are well adapted to the needs of their aquatic life. The 33 extant species of this taxonomic group are grouped in three Families:

• The Odobenidae, which are the only seals that have tusks. This
Family
includes only one species, the walrus.

• The Otaridae, are the only seals that have an external ear

lobe and are therefore also known as the “eared” seals.

Otariids have big and strong front flippers that enable them

to move swiftly both, on land and in the sea. The Otaridae 

include the fur seals and the sea lions.

 

 

 

 

• The Phocidae, also known as the “true” seals, include

species such as the Mediterranean monk seal and the

elephant seal. These seals do not have an external ear

lobe and their hind flippers are bound to their hips

in such a way that they cannot bring them under their

body to walk on them, whichmakes them less mobile

on land.

Most seals prefer cold climates and live in areas close to the Poles. Some species however have adapted to more temperate and warm climates, such as the California sea lion, the Hawaiian monk seal and the Mediterranean monk seal Monachus monachus, which is the rarest seal on Earth.