Diving Response Mechanism of Seals and Sea Lions

Mammals re-entered the oceans less than 60 million years ago (Williams 1999).  This transition from a terrestrial to an aquatic lifestyle required extreme morphological and behavioral modifications.  Although diverse in size, appearance, and habitat, pinnipeds are a very unique group of marine vertebrates that face similar deep-sea diving challenges.  Overall, seals share five common characteristics with other mammals:

    • They are warm-blooded.
    • They give birth to live young.
    • They nurse their young.
    • They breathe air.
    • They have hair/fur.
Fun Seal Facts
Important Terms
Diving Mammal Basics
Adaptations and Physiological Control
Possible Future Studies or Areas of Exploration
Literature Cited
External Links

Photo Provided for Free and Public use by U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

However, because a seal’s environment requires them to stay beneath the ocean’s surface for sustained periods of time even though they are air breathers like all other mammals, this arrangement creates unique physiological issues.  In fact, pinnipeds have adapted a remarkable ability to reach ocean depths and stay submerged for long periods of time.  This website explores these physiological mechanisms adapted by seals and sea lions.  Please click on the links to your left if you would like to learn more.

Hot Topics in Animal Physiology

This website was created as a part of a class project in the
Animal Physiology Class at Davidson College.

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