Seals and sea- lions are abundant in cold polar waters, but they also occur on most of the world’s coasts. Although primarily marine animals, some live in fresh water- there are flourishing populations of seals in Lake Baikal and the landlocked Caspian Sea.
Land- dwelling carnivores are to be found in a huge variety of habitats, from subarctic tundra to tropical forest and the most arid deserts. In some cases individual species are able to exist in a wide range of different conditions; these animals are often very widespread geographically, while more specialised species occupy more restricted areas. The leopard, for example, can live in a wide range of habitats and is found in Africa and throughout Asia to China, whereas the more highly adapted snow leopard is found only in a restricted of mountainous country in central Asia.
Many of an animal’s characteristics are determined by where it lives. In arctic regions and the tundra, where the weather can be incredibly cold, carnivores have thick, dense coats, small eyes and short tails to cut heat loss to a minimum. The coloration is often different in winter and summer: the stoat, for example, becomes white in the winter to blend in with the snow.
Forest-dwelling carnivores, on the other hand, often have long tails which are used to balance the animal as it moves among the trees. In a few rare cases the tail is capable of gripping, and can be used to hold on to the branches. The coats of these skilled climbers are often spotted or striped to break up the outline of the animal and help it blend into its background. They also have retractile claws on their paws.