Two of the three seal families are represented in New Zealand: otariid or eared seals (top), and phocid or ‘earless’ seals (bottom).
Otariid seals (fur seals and sea lions) can bring their hind flippers or feet under the body, pointing forward. This means that on land they can walk and run on all fours rather like a dog, and are agile on rocky terrain. Phocid seals have rear-facing hind flippers that are less efficient on land. Elephant seals and leopard seals (both phocids) move like caterpillars, with most of their weight on the ground. They don’t travel very far on land.
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Diagram by Bozena Jantulik
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