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
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.