Harbour seal Phoca vitulina, photographed by Kawika Chetron.

Belongs within: Carnivora.

The Phocidae contains the true seals, one of the two lineages within the Pinnipedia. In contrast to the eared seals of the Otarioidea, phocids lack external ear flaps, and are unable to bring the hind flippers underneath the body for walking on land.

See also: Taxon of the Week: Phocidae.

Synapomorphies (from Tedford 1976): Aquatic, swimming mainly by flexion of trunk; dentition reduced to homodonty; enlarged teres process for teres major muscle which occupies its lateral border.

<==Phocidae [Cystophorinae]
    |  i. s.: Palmidophoca callirhoe Ginsburg & Janvier 1975 BDR85
    |         Praepusa pannonica G76
    |--Semantorinae T76
    |    |--Potamotherium vallentoni T76
    |    `--Semantor T76
    `--+--Phocinae AG06
       |    |  i. s.: Leptophoca R76
       |    |           |--L. lenis True 1906 BDR85
       |    |           `--L. proxima [=Prophoca proxima] R76
       |    |         Platyphoca vulgaris R76
       |    |         Gryphoca similis R76
       |    |         Phocanella R76
       |    |           |--P. minor R76
       |    |           `--P. pumila R76
       |    |         Prophoca rousseaui R76
       |    |         Miophoca vetusta Zapfe 1937 R76, G76
       |    |--Erignathus [Erignathini] AG06
       |    |    `--E. barbatus G03
       |    `--+--Cystophora [Cystophorini] AG06
       |       |    `--C. cristata BP87
       |       `--Phocini AG06
       |            |--Histriophocina AG06
       |            |    |--*Histriophoca fasciata (Zimmermann 1780) [=Phoca fasciata] H48
       |            |    `--Pagophilus groenlandicus AG06
       |            `--Phoca AG06 [incl. Pontophoca Alekseev 1924 G76; Phocina]
       |                 |  i. s.: P. groenlandica G03
       |                 |         P. holitschensis G76
       |                 |         P. novorossica G76
       |                 |         P. richardi BP87
       |                 |         P. rugosidens R76
       |                 |         P. vindobonensis R76
       |                 |         P. vitulinoides R76
       |                 |--+--P. largha AG06
       |                 |  `--P. vitulina Linnaeus 1758 AG06, I92
       |                 |       |--P. v. vitulina I92
       |                 |       `--P. v. stejnegeri I92
       |                 `--P. (Pusa) AG06, G76
       |                      |--P. hispida AG06
       |                      |    |--P. h. hispida BP87
       |                      |    |--P. h. ladogensis BP87
       |                      |    `--P. h. saimensis BP87
       |                      `--+--P. sibirica AG06
       |                         `--+--P. grypa [=Halichoerus grypus] AG06
       |                            `--+--P. sarmatica [=Pontophoca sarmatica] G76
       |                               `--+--P. caspica AG06
       |                                  `--P. (Pusa) pontica (see below for synonymy) G76
       `--Monachinae [Lobodontinae] BR05
            |  i. s.: Monotherium R76
            |           |--M. aberratum R76
            |           |--M. affine R76
            |           |--M. delognii R76
            |           |--M. gaudini R76
            |           |--M. maeoticum [=Phoca maeotica] G76
            |           `--M. wymani R76
            |         Pliophoca etrusca R76
            |         ‘Phoca’ bessarabica G76
            |         Piscophoca pacifica de Muizon 1981 BDR85
            |         Callophoca BDR85
            |           |--C. ambigua [=Mesotaria ambigua] R76
            |           `--C. obscura BDR85
            |         0--+--Pristiphoca occitana BDR85, S78
            |         `--Properiptychus argentinus Ameghino 1893 BDR85
            |--+--Messiphoca mauretanica de Muizon 1981 BDR85
            |  `--Monachus Fleming 1822 AG06, BR05 [Monachini]
            |       |--*M. monachus S78
            |       |--M. schauinslandi BP87
            |       `--M. tropicalis BP87
            `--+--Mirounga Gray in Griffith 1827 AG06, C57 (see below for synonymy)
               |    |--M. leonina (Linnaeus 1758) (see below for synonymy) C57
               |    `--M. angustirostris MH96
               `--Lobodontini AG06
                    |--Ommatophoca Gray 1844 AG06, C57
                    |    `--*O. rossii Gray 1844 C57
                    `--+--+--Lobodon Gray 1844 BDR85, C57
                       |  |    `--*L. carcinophagus (Jacquinot & Pucheran 1842) (see below for synonymy) C57
                       |  `--Homiphoca de Muizon & Hendley 1980 BDR85
                       |       `--*H. capensis (Hendey & Repenning 1972) [=Prionodelphis capensis] BDR85
                       `--+--Leptonychotes Gill 1872 AG06, C57 [incl. Poecilophoca Flower & Lydekker 1891 C57]
                          |    `--*L. weddellii (Lesson 1826) (see below for synonymy) C57
                          `--+--Acrophoca longirostris de Muizon 1981 BDR85
                             `--Hydrurga Gistel 1848 AG06, C57 (see below for synonymy)
                                  `--*H. leptonyx (Blainville 1820) (see below for synonymy) C57

Inorganic: Mirounga leconina minilorientalis Okamura 1987 O87
           Monachus schauinslandi protominilorientalus Okamura 1987 O87
           Phoca vitulina protominilorientalis Okamura 1987 O87

Hydrurga Gistel 1848 AG06, C57 [incl. Ogmorhinus Peters 1875 C57, Stenorhynchotes Turner 1888 C57]

*Hydrurga leptonyx (Blainville 1820) [=Phoca leptonyx, Ogmorhinus leptonyx, Ogmorhynus leptonyx, Stenorhincus leptonyx, Stenorhynchus leptonyx; incl. Phoca homei Lesson 1828] C57

*Leptonychotes weddellii (Lesson 1826) [=Otaria weddellii, Leptonix weddelii, Leptonyx weddellii, Phoca weddelii, Phoca weddellii, Poecilophoca weddelli, Stenorhynchus weddellii; incl. Phoca leopardina Hamilton Smith 1839, Leptonyx leopardinus] C57

*Lobodon carcinophagus (Jacquinot & Pucheran 1842) [=Phoca carcinophaga, L. carcinophaga, Ogmorhinus carcinophagus, Stenorhynchus carcinophagus; incl. S. serridens Owen 1843] C57

Mirounga Gray in Griffith 1827 AG06, C57 [=Morunga Gray 1843 C57; incl. Macrorhinus Cuvier 1826 non Latreille 1825 C57, Macrorhyna (l. c.) C57, Physorhinus Gloger 1841 C57, Rhinophoca Wagler 1830 C57; Miroungini]

Mirounga leonina (Linnaeus 1758) [=Phoca leonina, Macrorhinus leoninus; incl. P. ansonii Desmarest 1820, Ma. ansonii, Mirounga ansonii, Phoca coxii Desmarest 1820, Macrorhinus coxii, Ma. leoninus crosetensis Lydekker 1909, Phoca dubia Fischer 1829, P. elephantina Molina 1782, Cystophora elephantina, Macrorhinus elefantinus, Morunga elephantina, Cystophora falklandica Peters 1875, Macrorhinus leoninus flaclandicus, C. kerguelensis Peters 1875, Ma. leoninus macquariensis Lydekker 1909, Mirounga patagonica Gray 1827, Phoca proboscidea Péron 1817, Cystophora proboscidea, Macrorhinus proboscideus, *Mirounga proboscidea, Phoca resima Péron 1817, Macrorhinus leoninus typicus Lydekker 1909] C57

Phoca (Pusa) pontica [=Monachus (Monachus) ponticus; incl. *Pontophoca simionescui Alekseev 1924] G76

*Type species of generic name indicated


[AG06] Arnason, U., A. Gullberg, A. Janke, M. Kullberg, N. Lehman, E. A. Petrov & R. Väinölä. 2006. Pinniped phylogeny and a new hypothesis for their origin and dispersal. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 41 (2): 345-354.

[BDR85] Barnes, L. G., D. P. Domning & C. E. Ray. 1985. Status of studies on fossil marine mammals. Marine Mammal Science 1 (1): 15-53.

[BR05] Bouchet, P., J.-P. Rocroi, J. Frýda, B. Hausdorf, W. Ponder, Á. Valdés & A. Warén. 2005. Classification and nomenclator of gastropod families. Malacologia 47 (1-2): 1-397.

[BP87] Burton, J. A., & B. Pearson. 1987. Collins Guide to the Rare Mammals of the World. Collins: London.

[C57] Cabrera, A. 1957. Catalogo de los mamiferos de America del Sur. I (Metatheria - Unguiculata - Carnivora). Revista del Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales “Bernardino Rivadavia” e Instituto Nacional de Investigacion de Las Ciencias Naturales, Ciencias Zoológicas 4 (1): 1-307.

[G03] Gingerich, P. D. 2003. Land-to-sea transition in early whales: Evolution of Eocene Archaeoceti (Cetacea) in relation to skeletal proportions and locomotion of living semiaquatic mammals. Paleobiology 29 (3): 429-454.

[G76] Grigorescu, D. 1976. Paratethyan seals. Systematic Zoology 25 (4): 407-419.

[H48] Hershkovitz, P. 1948. The technical name of the Virginia deer with a list of the South American forms. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 61: 41-45.

[I92] Iwahashi, J. (ed.) 1992. Reddo Deeta Animaruzu: a pictorial of Japanese fauna facing extinction. JICC: Tokyo.

[MH96] Miller, S. A., & J. P. Harley. 1996. Zoology (3rd ed.) Wm. C. Brown Publishers: Dubuque (Iowa).

[O87] Okamura, C. 1987. New facts: Homo and all Vertebrata were born simultaneously in the former Paleozoic in Japan. Original Report of the Okamura Fossil Laboratory 15: 347-573.

[R76] Ray, C. E. 1976. Geography of phocid evolution. Systematic Zoology 25 (4): 391-406.

[S78] Savage, R. J. G. 1978. Carnivora. In Evolution of African Mammals (V. J. Maglio & H. B. S. Cooke, eds) pp. 249-267. Harvard University Press: Cambridge (Massachusetts).

[T76] Tedford, R. H. 1976. Relationship of pinnipeds to other carnivores (Mammalia). Systematic Zoology 25 (4): 363-374.


  1. Surely "Aquatic" is plesiomorphic?

  2. Well, Tedford was one of those who supported a diphyletic Pinnipedia. I think a homodont dentition might also be characteristic of Pinnipedia as a whole, not just phocids.

    I could also try and weasel out of it by saying that I'd referred to 'synapomorphies', not 'autapomorphies' :-P


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