Order - Pinnipedia
Pinnipeds are seals, sea lions, and walruses. Some scientists classify Pinnipedia as a suborder of Order Carnivora.
Family - Phocidae
Phocidae includes all "true" seals. True seals lack external ear flaps; have a stout, round body; and are unable to rotate their hind flippers forward.
Genus, Species - Phoca Vitulina
Most scientists recognize five subspecies of harbor seals: P.v. richardsi, P.v.vitulina, P.v. concolor, P.v. mellonae, and P.v. stejnegeri. Each subspecies is separated geographically, and so is reproductively isolated. Historically, scientists classified P. largha (the largha seal) as a harbor seal subspecies. Currently, P. largha is widely recognized as a separate species. The harbor seal also is known as the common seal.
- The earliest phocid fossils date back 12 to 15 million years.
- Ancestral phocids gave rise to modern harbor seals, which appeared in the North Pacific two to three million years ago when the Bering Strait formed.
- The skeleton and limb structure of pinnipeds shows that the ancestors of harbor seals once were able to walk on land. Scientists, however, have not found fossil evidence to identify a common ancestor with living land mammals.