Polymers from Seals and Sea lions
Our aquatic mammal show also includes these fun creatures called seals.
The many natural polymers found in
whales and walruses are
also found in seals. Nowadays, though, we just watch them rather than hunt them
down to harvest raw materials.
The blubber of seals was used much the same way as the blubber of whales, walruses, turtles and sharks. To be
exact, it was boiled down for its oil. Some of the oil is still used today as fuel for lamps
by native Alaskans. The rest of us use candles, natural gas or light bulbs.
The skin of seals is made of a polymer called collagen, which is a
type of protein. This protein can be made
into leather by
a process called tanning where the skin is crosslinked. Crosslinking
makes the leather very strong. Leather is used to make wallets, belts and
Protein looks like this but with hundreds or thousands of these units
all strung together in a long chain:
Seals have escaped the hunting that has almost led to the extinction of some
whale species, plus they have adapted to the presence of man on the coastal areas
of most countries. We've learned to live with seals without conflict. Perhaps
we could learn to do that with the rest of the earth we inhabit.
Return to the Mammal Show
Return to the Polyquarium