Popular Science

Otters are too small, whales are too big, and seals are just right

Why size matters in the ocean.


This seal knows she's the perfect size.


Conventional wisdom holds that whales got so big simply because they could. Water makes you buoyant and oceans are big, and that lack of constraint seems to have allowed mammals to grow to spectacular sizes.

But new research suggests there might actually be more constraints on aquatic mammal size—not less. To figure it out, researchers looked at 3,859 living mammals and 2,999 fossil species, noting how body size had changed as the mammalian lineage evolved. They published their results on Monday.

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