Marine mammals are a diverse group of roughly 120 species of mammal that are primarily ocean-dwelling or depend on the ocean for food. They include the cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises), the sirenians (manatees and dugong), the pinnipeds (true seals, eared seals and walrus), and several otters (the sea otter and marine otter). The polar bear, while not aquatic, is also usually considered a marine mammal because it lives on sea ice for most or all of the year.
Marine mammals evolved from land dwelling ancestors and share several adaptive features for life at sea such as generally large size, hydrodynamic body shapes, modified appendages and various thermoregulatory adaptations. Different species are, however, adapted to marine life to varying degrees. The most fully adapted are the cetaceans and the sirenians, which cannot live on land.
Despite the fact that marine mammals are highly recognizable charismatic megafauna, many populations are vulnerable or endangered due to a history of commercial exploitation for blubber, meat, ivory and fur. Most species are currently protected from commercial exploitation.
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