What is the difference between true and fur seals? - News - Gondwana Collection


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What is the difference between true and fur seals?

Avatar of inke inke - 06. March 2018 - Environment

The Cape fur seal or brown fur seal, which occurs on the Namibian coast in large numbers, is a member of the “eared” seal family. The ears are visible, and on land this type of seal is able to ‘walk’ in a waddling fashion on its hind and fore flippers. Under water it swims with its fore flippers.

Dirk Heinrich

Contrary to general assumptions there are two distinct seal families. True seals do not normally occur on the Namibian coast. The Cape fur seal, or brown fur seal, on the other hand is a member of the “eared” seal family and lives on our shores in large colonies. Fur seals and sea lions form one group.

Sea lions and fur seals have small outer ears – thus the term ‘eared seal’. Earless seals like the leopard seal, elephant seal or the grey seal do not have external ear flaps. The so-called true seal is an earless seal.

Fur seals and sea lions keep their flippers turned backwards when resting or swimming, but they rotate them forward for ‘walking’ or climbing on land and support their body with all four limbs. Earless seals are unable to do that. They are swift swimmers but because of their enormous weight they can barely move on land. They belly crawl without using their hind flippers. 

When swimming and diving, fur seals and sea lions propel themselves forward with their fore flippers while steering with the hind flippers. True seals, by contrast, keep their fore flippers tucked to the body and use their powerful hind flippers for propulsion. Another difference between the two seal families is that male true seals have an internal scrotum whereas male fur seals and sea lions have scrotal testes. 

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