20 million year old seal discovered

EU bans sale of all seal products: here.

From LiveScience:

Walking Seal Called Missing Link in Evolution

By Andrea Thompson, Senior Writer

posted: 22 April 2009

A fossil of a primitive “walking seal” with four legs and webbed feet has been found in the Canadian Arctic and dated to be at least 20 million years old.

The newfound species, dubbed Puijila darwini, might be the long-sought missing link in the evolution of pinnipeds — a group that includes modern seals, sea lions and walruses — explaining how the animal group moved from land-dwellers with legs to the semi-aquatic, flippered swimmers around today. …

The discovery is detailed in the April 23 issue of the journal Nature. …

Paleontologists have long thought that these specialized limbs evolved over time as terrestrial species began testing out life in the water. Charles Darwin himself (for whom the new species was named) predicted this land-to-sea transition in The Origin of Species: “A strictly terrestrial animal, by occasionally hunting for food in shallow water, then in streams or lakes, might at last be converted in an animal so thoroughly aquatic as to brace the open ocean.”

But until Puijila‘s discovery, the most primitive pinniped known to science (Enaliarctos) was already fully flippered. …

Its large teeth, short snout and jaw suggest it had a nasty bite. Puijila likely hunted on both land and in the water; possible preserved stomach contents suggest the animal’s last meal included a duck and some type of rodent.

Puijila itself was not an ancestor of modern seals, but the researchers think that both groups evolved from a common ancestor. Researchers are still working to figure out exactly where Puijila fits in on the pinniped family tree.

Arctic evolution

Other fossils of fish and pollen indicate that the Arctic location where Puijila was once had a cool, coastal temperature environment, similar to present-day New Jersey.

“Puijila is the first fossil evidence that early pinnipeds lived in the Arctic,” Rybczynski said. “This discovery supports the hypothesis that the Arctic may have been a geographic center in pinniped evolution.”

(The name Puijila means “young sea mammal” in Inuktitut, the language of the Inuit people in Nunavut, the territory of Canada where the fossil was found.)

See also here. And here.

Walruses: here.

Walruses Suffer Substantial Losses as Sea Ice Erodes: here.

2 thoughts on “20 million year old seal discovered

  1. Slump blamed for fewer seal deaths

    CANADA: Officials said on Thursday that the global recession and the prospect of a European ban on seal products dramatically lowered the number of seals killed in this year’s controversial hunt.

    Fisheries and Oceans Canada spokesman Scott Cantin reported that about 70,000 harp seals were hunted this year out of a commercial quota of 273,000 animals.

    The tally marks a significant drop from last year’s hunt, in which 217,857 harp seals were hunted.



  2. Pingback: Bee-eaters win photography prize | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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