Skip to main content

Ancient Seal-Like Animal

Black shaded drawing of a ancient seal-like animal that split off from other carnivorous mammals 20-25 million years ago.

Fossils suggest that marine pinnipeds (seals and walruses) split off from other carnivorous mammals 20-25 million years ago. The oldest known pinniped fossil is an extinct seal, Puijila darwini, found in 2007 in Canada. Other sets of fossils, found in California and Oregon, may represent another stage in pinniped evolution. From the extinct genus Enaliarctos, they reveal an animal similar to modern pinnipeds in having webbed feet, a short tail, large eyes, and whiskers. Further research may sort out whether Puijila, Enaliarctos, or both are ancestors to modern pinnipeds. Depiction of Enaliarctos sp. by Mary Parrish, Smithsonian.

Topics: Extinction Over Time