Holiday special: animal families part 3

The latest installment in our series of blog posts about animal families—click to read our first and second posts!

lingcod at the Seattle Aquarium

Family: Hexagrammidae

Species: Kelp greenling, painted greenling, lingcod, rock greenling

Characteristics: This family of fish is found only in the north Pacific. Interestingly, some greenlings have more than one lateral line (the sensory line down the side of a fish that detects vibrations in the water); some species have up to five! Similar to sculpins, male greenlings protect the egg masses that females lay.

Odd animal out: While most species in the hexagrammidae family are small, between seven and 20 inches, lingcod (Ophiodon elongatus) can grow to be five feet long. While that may seem large, there is an extinct species of even larger lingcod (Ophiodon ozymandias) that reached over six feet long.

Puffin at the Seattle Aquarium

Family: Alcidae

Species: Pigeon guillemot, tufted puffin, common murre, Cassin’s auklet, rhinoceros auklet

Characteristics: Diving birds with short wings, short legs, and webbed feet. All 22 species live in the Northern hemisphere.

Odd animal out: Though penguins and puffins look a lot alike, penguins belong to a different family. Penguins and puffins both belong to the scientific classification Aves (birds), but penguins are in the family Spheniscidae within the order Sphenisciformes. Puffins are in the family Alcidae within the order Charadriiformes, making them more closely related to gulls and shorebirds than they are to the penguin family.

Northern fur seal at the Seattle Aquarium

Family: Otariidae

Species: Northern fur seal, California sea lion, Stellar sea lion

Characteristics: This is the family known by many different names: “sea lions,” “eared seals” (because of their external earflaps), and also “walking seals” (for their ability to rotate their hind flippers and walk, climb, and run on land).

Odd animal out: Even though fur seals have the name “seal” in their title, they are more closely related to sea lions than to “true seals” like our harbor seals, which belong to the family Phocidae (also known as “earless seals” or “crawling seals”).

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