Harbor Seal Skeleton


This skeleton is of a large male harbor seal found dead on a beach in San Juan County.

Probably the first thing you'll notice is that the skeleton looks sort of like a big fat basset hound. Seals share a common ancestor with dogs and bears and they have upper and lower arms and legs concealed within their skin. Only their hands and feet extend outside the body envelope.


Take a look at the huge eye sockets. A seal's eyes are large in order to see prey in dark deep water.

Harbor seals have long necks, but we usually see them with their necks scrunched. When hunting, or when trying to bite a marine biologist, a seal can shoot its neck out surprisingly quickly.

The structure of the front limbs is a lot like that of a human's arms. Note the supporting structure for the fingernails and the tip of each "finger." As with dogs and cats, the shoulder blade is attached only by muscle, not by bone.

Seals have very short femurs and not much mobility in the hip joint. They move through the water with the motion of their back and legs, using the front flippers for steering.

View our Harbor Seal Facts page to learn more.