Physical characteristics

Phocid seals range from moderate to large size. Most are fusiform in shape, but the leopard seal is almost tubular looking, being longer and more slender. All phocids are charac terized by having relatively short hair that lies smooth along the body, thick skin and a thick subcutaneous layer of blubber that can be 5-6 in (11-13 cm) thick to insulate the animal and provide energy stores when not foraging. The foreflippers are small while the rear flippers are large and contain webbing between the digits that expands them into paddles, which provide thrust for swimming. All phocids appear to have no neck; the head blends into the trunk of the body. They have no external pinnae (ear), minimizing structures that would produce drag during swimming. Males of some species such as elephant seals (Mirounga spp.), hooded seals (Cystophora cristata), and gray seals (Halichoerus grypus) have enhanced (elongated or inflatable) snouts that are used in competitive social contexts.

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