Since 1988 morbilliviruses have been increasingly recognized and held responsible for mass mortality amongst harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) and other seal species. Virus isolations and characterization proved that morbilliviruses from seals in Northwest Europe were genetically distinct from other known members of this group including canine distemper virus (CDV), rinderpest virus, peste des petits ruminants virus and measles virus. An epidemic in Baikal seals in 1987 was apparently caused by a morbillivirus closely related to CDV so that two morbilliviruses have now been identified in two geographically distant seal populations, with only the group of isolates from Northwest Europe forming a new member of the genus morbillivirus: phocid distemper virus (PDV). Because of distemper-like disease, the Baikal seal morbillivirus was tentatively named PDV-2 in spite of its possible identity with CDV. The appearance of morbilliviruses in the Mediterranean Sea causing high mortality amongst dolphins should further increase the research activities on protection strategies for endangered species of marine mammals. © 1992.