Fossil Record Life & Ecology Systematics Systematics

Carnivora: Systematics

Grizzly Bear
Grizzly Bear. Photo by Gerald and Buff Corsi, © 2002 California Academy of Sciences.

Traditionally, the Carnivora have been classified in two suborders: the Pinnipedia, which includes the seals and sea lions, and the Fissipedia, which includes all land-dwelling carnivores. Defined in this way, however, the Fissipedia is paraphyletic, since pinnipeds evolved from an arctoid (bear-like) land-living ancestor. Therefore the Fissipedia is not considered a valid taxon. Some scientists treat the Pinnipedia as a separate order from the Carnivora, while others include them in the Carnivora. This is the approach that will be used here.

Exactly how the various carnivores are interrelated is a problem that has not been solved to the satisfaction of all. A generally accepted classification of the Carnivora is as follows:


Otariidae — sea lions, eared seals, fur seals
Odobenidae — walrus
Phocidae — true (earless) seals, elephant seals
Canidae — dogs, wolves, foxes, coyotes, dingos
Ursidae — bears, panda
Procyonidae — raccoons, kinkajous, ringtails, coatis
Mustelidae — weasels, ferrets, skunks, badgers, otters, sea otter
Viverridae — mongooses, meercats, civets, linsangs
Hyaenidae — hyenas, aardwolf
Felidae — cats, lions, tigers, leopards, cheetah

For more information, check out these pages on different groups of carnivores and on efforts to conserve them.

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