Skeleton of the Oldest Known Pinniped, Enaliarctos mealsi

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Science  07 Apr 1989:
Vol. 244, Issue 4900, pp. 60-62
DOI: 10.1126/science.244.4900.60


A nearly complete skeleton of the archaic pinniped Enaliarctos, found in late Oligocene or early Miocene rocks (approximately 23 million years old) of California, provides new evidence on the origin of pinnipeds. Enaliarctos retains many primitive features expected in the hypothesized common ancestor of pinnipeds. Skeletal modifications seen in Enaliarctos document swimming adaptations and indicate that pinnipeds primitively used the axial skeleton and both fore and hindflippers as sources of propulsion. Elongate hindlimbs with prominent bony processes (reflecting powerful musculature) suggest that Enaliarctos was more active on land than modern pinnipeds.

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