These seals haven’t lost their land ancestors’ hunting ways | Science News

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These seals haven’t lost their land ancestors’ hunting ways

Having claws instead of smooth flippers lets ‘true seals’ grasp prey

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7:09pm, April 17, 2018
harbor seal

SEAL MEAL  A harbor seal digs its claws into a salmon. Sea lions and some other seal species have sturdy flippers instead of paws, and so can’t grasp prey in this way.

Some seals still eat like landlubbers.

Just like lions, tigers and bears, certain kinds of seals have claws that help the animals grasp prey and tear it apart. X-rays show that the bones in these seals’ forelimbs look like those found in the earliest seals, a new study finds.

Ancestors of these ancient seals transitioned from land to sea at some point, preserving clawed limbs useful for hunting on land. But clawed paws in these northern “true seals,” which include harbor and harp seals, seem to be more than just a holdover from ancient times, says David Hocking, a marine zoologist at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. Instead, retaining the claws probably helps northern true seals catch a larger meal than they could with the stiff, slippery fins of other pinnipeds such as sea lions and fur seals, Hocking and his colleagues report April 18 in Royal Society

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