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17 Examples of Animals With Flippers (Pictures)

Animals that live in the water have evolved with special adaptations for mobility and survival in an aquatic environment. Some have fins, some have flippers, and some have both.

Flippers are appendages that marine animals use for moving and steering through the water.  In this article, we are going to look at animals with flippers. We have compiled a list of 17 animals that have flippers.

17 Animals With Flippers

Fish have fins, but marine mammals, sea turtles, and penguins have flippers. Follow along as we learn more about animals with flippers.

1. Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin

Bottlenose Dolphin breaching
Bottlenose Dolphin breaching | image by caroline legg via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Tursiops truncatus

Atlantic bottlenose dolphins are one of the most common and best-known types of dolphins. These marine mammals have a prominent beak-like rostrum (snout), long front flippers, and large tail flukes.

Bottlenose dolphins are so well-known for their front flippers that a television show aired in the 1960s about a dolphin named Flipper.

2. Beluga Whale

Beluga Whale underwater
Beluga Whale underwater | image by Scott via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific Name: Delphinapterus leucas

Their name literally translates to “dolphin without a fin” but despite lacking a dorsal fin, beluga whales still have flippers. Their flippers are almost squared-shaped because they’re short and wide.

3. Amazon River Dolphin

Amazon river dolphin
Amazon river dolphin | image by Jorge Andrade via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name:  Inia geoffrensis

The Amazon river dolphin is also called a pink river dolphin. They are the largest river dolphins in the world.

Amazon river dolphins have long and tapered front flippers. They use their large flippers to help steer and navigate the difficult waters of the Amazon river systems.

4. California Sea Lion

California sea lion on rock
California sea lion on rock | image by Ruben Undheim via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific Name: Zalophus californianus

The California sea lion is a large pinniped closely related to seals and walruses. They are different from seals because they can turn their hind flippers around to “walk” on all fours.

Sea lions use their large front and rear flippers to walk and maneuver on dry land. They also use them for steering underwater

5. Walrus

Walrus floats in the ocean
Walrus floats in the ocean | Image by nightowl from Pixabay

Scientific Name: Odobenus rosmarus

The walrus is a close relative of sea lions and seals. They also have large front and rear flippers that are used to walk on all fours on land like sea lions. Seals are unable to do this.

Walruses also use their flippers underwater to stir up prey from the seafloor. Their whiskers are sensitive to the movements of small sea creatures.

6. Leatherback Sea Turtle

Leatherback sea turtle
Leatherback sea turtle | image: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region | Flickr | CC 2.0

Scientific Name: Dermochelys coriacea

The largest of all turtles, leatherback sea turtles can measure almost 6 feet long and weigh over 1,000 pounds. They have the largest flippers of any sea turtle.

Leatherback front flippers can measure up to almost 9 feet. They use their powerful flippers like wings to propel through the water

7. Fur Seal

Fur Seal
Credit: Bernard Spragg. NZ via Flickr

Scientific Name: Arctocephalus

Fur seals are semiaquatic mammals. They spend the majority of their time in the water. Their rear flippers don’t rotate like sea lions and walruses, so they scoot their bodies, using their front flippers to push themselves on land.

Fur seals flippers are long and flexible. They can use their flippers to scratch and groom their thick fur coats.

8. Emperor Penguin

Emperor Penguins
Emperor Penguins

Scientific Name: Aptenodytes forsteri

Emperor penguins are the largest of all penguins. They are flightless birds so their wings are actually flippers.

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The emperor penguin can use its long narrow flippers to fly through the water. They easily glide through water, flapping their flippers to gain speed to catch prey.

9. Dall’s Porpoise

Dall’s porpoise swims in the ocean
Dall’s porpoise swims in the ocean | image by Greg Schechter via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Phocoenoides dalli

Dall’s porpoise has a thick robust body with relatively small flippers. They look similar to orca with their black and white color pattern but are much smaller. Their flippers are short, round and pointed.

10. Dugong

Dugong snorkeling
Dugong snorkeling | Image by Hans Dietmann from Pixabay

Scientific Name: Dugong dugon

Dugong are in the same family as manatees. These large marine mammals can measure 10 feet long and weigh up to 2,000 pounds.

Their massive flippers look like paddles and keep the animal balanced in the water. Dugong calves learn to communicate with their mothers with their flippers.

11. Vaquita

Vaquita underwater
Vaquita underwater | image by Alfokrads via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

Scientific Name: Phocoena sinus

Vaquita are a small species of porpoise found in the Gulf of California. They are the rarest of all porpoises.

Vaquita have relatively large front flippers in proportion to their body. Their front flippers are positioned close to their small head.

12. Humpback Whale

Humpback Whale breaching
Humpback Whale breaching | image by National Marine Sanctuaries via Flickr

Scientific Name: Megaptera novaeangliae

Humpback whales live in all of the world’s oceans. They are massive, reaching over 50 feet in length and weighing in at over 40 metric tons.

These whales have the longest flippers of any creature on earth. They can use their long flippers to steer and the bumpy tubercles help with speed.

13. Orca

Orcas swimming in the ocean
Orcas swimming in the ocean | image by jc.winkler via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Orcinus orca

The orca, also known as the killer whale, is recognizable by its black-and-white coloration. They are incredibly intelligent and very social animals that live in family groups called pods.

Orcas’ large paddle-shaped flippers are not only used for agility and steering at fast speeds but also used to play. Orcas have been known to throw prey with their tails and flippers.

14. West Indian Manatee

West indian manatee underwater
West indian manatee underwater | image by Galen Rathbun via Wikimedia Commons

Scientific Name: Trichechus manatus

The West Indian manatee is also called the North American manatee. Manatees have broad paddle flippers that actually grow nails. Manatees have 3 to 4 nails that grow on each of their front flippers.

15. Galapagos Penguin

Galapagos penguins
Galapagos penguins | image by Sidney Bragg via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Spheniscus mendiculus

Galapagos penguins are the only penguin that lives north of the Equator. They are some of the smallest penguins in the world.

The Galapagos penguin’s flippers are long and narrow. They can easily glide through the water by flapping their front flippers. They also flap their flippers for mating rituals during mating season.

16. Elephant Seal

Yawning elephant seal
Yawning elephant seal | image by Jim Bahn via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Mirounga

Elephant seals are large, earless seals that have relatively small flippers compared to their large bodies. Their front flippers have claws on them.

They can’t “walk” on all fours because their hind flippers do not turn around like walruses or sea lions. Elephant seals sort of scoot their bodies outside of the water.

17. Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle

Kemp’s ridley sea turtle
Kemp’s ridley sea turtle | image by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Lepidochelys kempii

The smallest sea turtle in the world, Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle lives in the Gulf of Mexico. They are considered critically endangered.

Females return to the same beach they hatched to lay their eggs. They use their flippers to pull themselves onto shore and dig a hole for their eggs.