The use of corporate seals by towns and boroughs dates as Er back as the 12th con turf. The earlier corporate seals bear the town gates, city walls, or sonic similar device; the use of corporate arms did not begin till the latter half of the 14th century.
The principal use of seals in the present day is in closing letters, and even for this pur pose they hare of late years been less used than formerly; owing [tithe fashion of using stamped adhesive envelopes.
The study of mediaeval seals is of great importance and interest in connection with many branches of archaeology, including heraldic and genealogical investigations. Bee GREAT SEAL; PRIVY SEAL.
SEAL (ante), in law, is defined by Coke, as "wax with an impression," and such a seal wits required at common law. In many of the states, a scroll, i.e., a mark or flourish with the pen has the validity rf a seal. Courts take judicial notice of the seal of a notary public, and of superior courts, of foreign courts, except courts of mari time and admiralty jurisdiction. No proof need be made ofthe public seal of a foreign state, and all documents, decrees, etc., bearing such seal are presumed genuine. A con tract with a seal affixed is called a specialty. The seal of the United States was adopted by congress June 20, 1782.
SEAL, _Moen a Linn an genus of mammalia, now forming the family phoeidce, and Including all that fancily except the morse (q.v.), or walrus. The name seal is from the Anglo-Saxon scot. The Phoeidte constitute, in Cuvier's system, a section of carnivora (q. v .) designated anipkThia. Their structure is most perfectly adapted to an aquatic life, and they live chiefly in water,but spend part of their-time on shore, reposing and basking in the sunshine on rocks, saml-banks, ice-fields, or beaches; and they bring forth their young on shore. The body is elongated, and tapers' apers from the chest to the tail; the head somewhat resembles that of a dog, and in most of the species the brain is large; the feet are short, and little more than the paw projects beyond the skin of the body; all the feet are thoroughly webbed, and five-toed; the fore-feet are placed like those of other quadrupeds; but the hind-feet are directed backward, like a prolongation of the body, and between them is a short tail. The toes, particularly those of the hind-feet, are capable of being spread out very widely in swimming, so as to give great propulsive power. The movements of seals in the water are very rapid and graceful; on land, they are very peculiar; even the fore-feet being little used or not at all, but the body contracted by an upward bending of the spine, and so thrown forward by a succession of jerks; in which way, however, a seal makes its escape very rapidly from an assailant. The flexi
bility of the spine in seals is very remarkable, and depends on the very large intervertebral cartilages, formed of fibrous concentric rings. The muscles, which are connected with the spine on all.sides, are of great strength.
The teeth differ considerably in the different genera, but in all are adapted for the seizure of slippery prey, the chief food of seals being fishes, although they do not reject other animal food, and are said even to feed in part on vegetable substances. Their incisors are either six in the upper jaw and four in the lower, or four in the upper and two kit the lower; they all have large and strong canine teeth; and the molars, usually five or six on each side in each jaw, are either sharp-edged or conical, and beset with 'points. Seals have a remarkable habit' of swallowing large stones, for which no probable reason has yet been conjectured. Their stomachs are very often found to be impart filled with stones. The stomach is quite simple; the gullet (ceeophag us) enters it at the left extremity; the ccecum is short, the intestinal canal long.
The respiration of seals is extremly slow, about two minutes one breath and another, when the animal is on land and in full activity. A seal has been known to remain twenty-five minutes under water. Their slowness of respiration, and power of suspending it for a considerable time, is of great use, as enabling them to pursue their prey under water. The fur of seals is very smooth, and abundantlylubri' eated with an oily secretion. There is generally an inner coating of rich fur, through which grow Iong hairs,. forming an outer covering. Another adaptation to aquatic life and cold climates appears in a layer of fat immediately under the skin—from which seal oil is obtained—serving not only for support when food is scarce, but for protection from cold, and at the same time rendering the whole body lighter. The nostrils are capable of being readily and completely closed, and are so while the seal is. under 'water; and there is a similar provision for the ears; while the eye, which is large, exhibits remarkable peculiarities. supposed to be intended for its adaptation to use both in air and tracer. :11te face is provided with strong whiskers, connected at their base with large nerves.