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A World Of Marine Mammals

Marine mammals are a diverse group of about 128 species of mammals. They are made up of whales, dolphins, sea lions, seals and walruses, plus the polar bear and two otters.

 

Some marine mammals are fully aquatic, but others need land for important activities such as mating, breeding and moulting. Marine mammals play important roles in maintaining marine ecosystems, especially through regulation of prey populations. Some 23% of all marine mammal species are currently threatened.

 

Marine mammals generally reproduce slowly and their populations are unable to withstand much additional non-natural mortality. The removal of just 1% of the population every year may be more than marine mammal species can sustain in the longer term. For this reason many nations are legislating to protect them from deliberate or accidental exploitation and killing.

 

Marine Mammal Taxonomy

Cetacea (baleen and toothed whales)

 

Mysticetes or baleen whales

  • Rorquals, Balaenopteridae

  • Right and bowhead whales, Balaenidae

  • Pygmy right whale,  Neobalaenidae

  • Grey whale, Eschrichtiidae

 

Odontocetes or toothed whales

  • Sperm whales, Physeteridae

  • Beaked whales, Ziphiidae

  • Oceanic dolphins, Delphinidae

  • River dolphins, Iniidae - Platanistidae

  • Porpoises, Phocoenidae

  • Narwal and beluga, Monodontidae

 

Sirenia 

  • Manatee

  • Dugong

 

Carnivora:

 

Pinnipedia (eared seals, true seals and walruses)

  • Odobenidae or walruses

  • Otariidae or eared seals

  • Phocidae or true seals

 

Fissipedia

  • Ursus maritimus (polar bear)

  •  Endydra lutris - Lontra feline (sea otter and marine otter)

Distribution

Most marine mammals are found in the oceans, but some are found in rivers, estuaries and freshwater lakes, like the River Dolphins. Several species of marine mammals can occur in multiple habitats. Some species shift from one habitat to another seasonally, while other species such as the Bottlenose Dolphin, occur in coastal, oceanic and occasionally river habitats.

 

Elsewhere, some species are found in all marine waters in the world, like Killer Whales. The distribution of marine mammals changes seasonally as marine mammals react to changes in the environment such as temperature, ice coverage and prey availability.

 

There are in total 85 species of whales and dolphins; 14 species of baleen whales and 71 species of toothed whales. There are 4 species of sea-cows and about 34 species of seals. 

Interested in learning more about  Marine Mammals?