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Acrophoca longirostris is an extinct species of pinniped, the carnivore group that includes all seals, sea lions and walruses. It was discovered in Peru and Chile and lived during the early Pliocene (~15.5 mya) (Fordyce, 1989). It is thought to be the ancestor of the modern leopard seal (Hydrurga leptonyx).

A. longirostris fossils remains were found in rich fossil deposits and have been found alongside those of the marine sloth, Thalassocnus, and the aberrant, tusked, walrus-like cetacean, Odobenocetops (de Muizon et al., 2002; Walsh & Naish, 2002). In addition to extinct marine mammals, many modern animals were found to share the environment with Acrophoca longirostris, including bottlenose dolphins, gannets and cormorants (Stucchi & Urbina, 2004).

Acrophoca was roughly 1.5 metres (5 ft) in length, and was not as an efficient swimmer as its descendants, due to the less developed flippers and a bulky, less hydrodynamic neck. These anatomical conditions signal that it was probably a coastal organism.

Acrophoca was highly predatory. Its diet consisted primarily of fish and supplemented with the opportunistic predation of krill and terrestrial vertebrates.


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© Joseph Villari

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