Aquatic animals have evolved many different adaptations for living in a watery environment. One of the most interesting of them is the flipper.
The flipper itself is a type of extremity that has developed in some sea creatures throughout the evolution to provide propulsion underwater.
There are many types of animals with flippers. Killer whales, elephant seals, porpoises, walrus, and penguins are some of the most known. These physical characteristics allow marine animals to swim and steer through the water with high efficiency.
List of Animals With Flippers
Scientific Name: Trichechus
Swimming Speed: 15 mph
Manatees are marine mammals and they usually live in the shallow waters of rivers, bays, and estuaries.
They are large, slow-moving animals that graze on seagrasses vegetation.
The manatee’s body is shaped like a barrel and has two flippers. The flippers of this animal have a distinctive. Paddle-shaped form and serve for steering and eating.
It is interesting to note that adults have shorter stubbier flippers than juveniles.
Manatees are so gentle and calm that they make excellent therapists for people who need a little emotional support.
Read Also: Omnivores in the Ocean
Scientific Name: Otariinae
Swimming Speed: 25 mph
Like aquatic animals, sea lions spend most of their time in the water, coming onto land to sleep or rest.
However, they can swim much quicker than they can walk. So they spend most of their lives in the water.
Sea lions possess a set of flippers that help them swim, navigate and balance. In addition, these animals can rotate their hind paws to act like a rudder, which aids in steering. They also use them to move and on land.
These animal flippers are shorter and more rounded than other seals. In addition, they have flexible flippers which allow them to swim smoothly through the water.
It is not uncommon for them to reach out their flippers to grab pieces of food, like a fish, from the water.
Scientific Name: Odobenus rosmarus
Swimming Speed: 22 mph
Walrus are large flippered aquatic animals that populate the Arctic ocean. They are amiable animals known for their high intelligence.
They are large, flat, and webbed. Both the fore and hind flippers have five bony digits. The limbs of this animal have a layer of very thick and rough skin.
The flippers are used as support on land, and the front two limbs carry their weight. But they are used to stabilize their body in the water and propel them forward.
Flippers also play a role in feeding, as the walrus can use them to scoop up clams and mussels from the ocean floor.
Leatherback Sea Turtles
Scientific Name: Dermochelyidae
Swimming Speed: 22 mph
Leatherback turtles are one of the most fascinating creatures in the world. These armored guys can weigh up to 900 kilograms, with a length of more than 2 meters.
Most sea turtles species can dive to depths of up to 1.2 kilometers and stay submerged for more than two hours.
The leatherback uses its long, powerful flippers to swim and explore the oceans. But, aside from the waters, these animals also use their flippers to help themselves to walk across the beaches where they spend some sun-basking.
The front flippers of these turtles can grow up to 2.7 meters long, and they are the largest flippers of any sea turtle.
Scientific Name: Orcinus orca
Swimming Speed: 35 mph
Killer whales are powerful ocean carnivores that can catch large prey. That includes sharks and other whales.
They belong to the group of mammals called cetaceans. And more precisely to the Delphinidae family. So that makes them cousins with the dolphins.
However, orcas have a distinguishing characteristic that separates them from other dolphin species.
Unlike their cousins, killer whales are animals with large flippers. And a powerful fluke befitting their size.
Sometimes seen as the dalmatians of the seas, the orcas are in black and white, which makes them easily distinguishable. Their dorsal part and flippers are black while around the eyes and parts of their lower body are white.
Scientific Name: Mirounga
Swimming Speed: 10 mph
Speaking of animals with flippers, we must not forget elephant seals. These sea animals with trunks live in coastal waters.
They spend most of their time at sea but come to shore to give birth and breed. You can see them in New Zealand and Macquarie Island in Antarctica.
These big boys have some of the most powerful hind flippers from the Seal family. They allow them to propel through the water like a real champion.
While their hinder flippers are perfect for the water, they hinder their land movement. That is because they can’t rotate them and use them to move.
Instead, they drag them after themself relying only on their short front flippers.
Scientific Name: Delphinapterus leucas
Swimming Speed: 17 mph
Beluga whales are small whale species that live in the Arctic Ocean. They are one of the two members of their family (Monodontidae).
They have an average length of 3.5-5 meters and weigh about 1.5 tonnes.
The animal’s flippers are small but mighty, enabling them to swim at speeds of up to 17 miles per hour. In addition, they are good at quickly turning and stopping because they have strong tail muscles.
An interesting fact about belugas is that their forelimbs are pectoral. That means they have skeletal elements similar to some inland mammals.
The flippers themselves are small and rounded. These whales mainly use their forelimbs to steer through the seas.
Read Also: Animals With Webbed Feet
Amazon River Dolphins
Scientific Name: Inia geoffrensis
Swimming Speed: 35 mph
The Amazon river dolphin or boto is one of the most endangered dolphins globally. It’s classified as vulnerable due to increased contamination of their habitat – the Amazon river.
These pink dolphins are the most famous freshwater representative of their family. Unfortunately, it is estimated that only 2,000 are left in the wild.
The mammals are also the largest species of river dolphin. They have a long, beak-like snout and a long, thin, round body.
Amazonian river dolphins have a set of flippers that have four digits and are also pink like the other parts of their bodies.
They use them to steer and swim across the Amazonian river at high speed. But, of course, the main reason they are such good swimmers is their powerful tails.
Scientific Name: Megaptera novaeangliae
Swimming Speed: 15 mph
Humpback whales are among the largest animals on Earth. They have two flippers on the front of their body, which are also the longest of any mammal. (source)
The flippers of the humpback whale are specialized for underwater maneuvering and propulsion. In addition, they are used for steering and for providing thrust to travel through water.
These large forelimbs have specialized structures on them. That structure is – known as tubercles or ‘bumps.’
They improve water flow by reducing the drag that would otherwise be caused by the whale when moving through the oceans.
Humpback whales have the longest flippers of all animals. They can reach almost 5 meters in length.
Scientific Name: Spheniscidae
Swimming Speed: 7.6 mph
Penguins are aquatic animals, and as a result, they are known to have webbed feet and flippers. A penguin’s flipper is an essential part of its anatomy because it aids in swimming and serves other crucial tasks like hunting fish.
Interestingly, penguins can move their flippers only from the shoulder. That is because the elbow and wrist are almost entirely fused, which further aids more power in the water but it limits its flexibility.
These animal flippers have feathers, but they are small, densely packed, and not for flying. They instead help them to streamline the wing and minimize the underwater drag.
In addition, these small feathers protect them from the cold weather.
Besides being essential for swimming, penguins also use flippers to communicate. For example, they will pat or tap each other’s fins as part of their courting behavior and show aggression.
Scientific Name: Phocoena phocoena
Swimming Speed: 9 mph
This creature resides in coastal areas of the subtropics and cold-temperate waters. Examples of these are the North Atlantic and North Pacific.
Harbor Porpoise is a marine mammal that can be found in oceans worldwide. They are a bit smaller than dolphins, weighing about 60-80 kilograms, with the female tending to be more significant.
These are animals with small flippers similar to their size. Both the flippers and fins are of dark color and round to oval shape.
Neverletness the size, the speed they can achieve with the help of their fins and tail can be up to 9 miles per hour.
They have small and rounded heads with no beak different from the dolphins. Their stocky bodies are mainly dark brown with a white underside, starting halfway up their sides.
One of the distinctive features of the creature is a small triangular fin set just past the center of the back.
Scientific Name: Dugong dugon
Swimming Speed: 6.5 mph
Another aquatic member of our list of animals with flippers is the dugong. These strange marine mammals are somehow related to manatees belonging to the same order (Sirenia).
This water animal lives in the coastal regions of the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
They have a round body, a tail, a long snout with a mouth, and whiskers—a single pair of nostrils on the top of the nose. And two flippers they use to walk on the bottom of the ocean.
The forelimbs are paddle-like flippers that help with turning and slowing down.
Dugongs are known for their beautiful swim strokes, which use the fluked tail and front flippers. These movements often appear slow and graceful to onlookers.
The flippers of dugongs resemble paddles, and they provide them with propulsion when swimming and stability when they are on land.
Scientific Name: Phocoena sinus
Swimming Speed: 9 mph
The Vaquita is the rarest representative of all animals with flippers. It typically lives in the shallow waters of the Gulf of California.
Sadly, they are a critically endangered species, and there are less than 10 of them left in the world today.
They are known as the smallest and the most endangered of all cetaceans on Earth. This creature is a representative of the porpoise.
Vaquitas can grow as long as 1,5 meters while their weight is usually no more than 50 kilograms.
This cute animal has flippers of a small size. They are triangular. The female ones often have more giant flippers than their male counterparts.
But contrary to that, their triangular fin is more prominent than the males.