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Aquatic carnivore with webbed flippers and a streamlined body. Earless (true, or hair) seals (of the family Phocidae, with 18 species) lack external ears. In water, they propel themselves by side-to-side strokes of the hind limbs and maneuver with their forelimbs. On land, they wriggle on their belly or pull themselves with their forelimbs. Earless species include the elephant seal, harbour seal, harp seal, and leopard seal. The eared seals (family Otariidae, with five species of sea lion and nine of fur seal) have external ears and longer flippers. In water, they propel themselves by a rowing motion of their forelimbs; on land, they use all four limbs to move about.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on seal, visit Britannica.com.