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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 06, 2021

21 Eared Seal Facts You'll Never Forget!

Discover exciting eared seal facts you've never heard about its habitat, appearance, diet, and much more!

Did you know that there are three aquatic families of seals and sea lions?  There indeed are three, namely, the Otariidae family of eared sea lions and fur seals; the Phocidae family of earless or true seals; and the Odobenidae family of walrus. All three families are called pinnipeds. Pinnipeds seals, sea lions, and walruses are all marine mammals. Eared seals, members of the family Otariidae, are one of the three pinniped groups that comprise species of seals and sea lions. This family comprises seven genera with 16 species of seals and sea lions, out of which 15 are extant species (still in existence). There are six species of sea lion and 10 species of fur seals.

Members of the Otariidae family are known as Otariids, and they enjoy a semi-aquatic lifestyle. These species migrate and feed in the sea but they rest and breed on the land. These unique mammals reside in subpolar, temperate, and equatorial waters across the southern oceans and the Pacific Ocean. However, they are not present in the Northern Atlantic Ocean. Four sea lion species of the Otarridae family have a threatened status, and one is extinct. Otariids faced overharvesting at a point that led to a significant drop in their numbers.

These animals have a whopping weight, ranging between 240-2200 lb (108.8-997.9 kg)! They possess white, black, brown, light tan, gray, and red coloration on their body. Keep reading to find an eared seal physical description and learn much more about these amazing animals!

If you enjoyed reading about the Eared sea lions and fur seals, you must check out our facts about reindeer and Lagotto Romagnolo dogs as well!

Eared Seal Interesting Facts

What type of animal is an eared seal?

The eared seal is a mammal that is a member of the Otariidae family.

What class of animal does an eared seal belong to?

Otariidae eared seals are sea mammals and thus belong to the class Mammalia.

How many eared seals are there in the world?

The population size of all Otariidae eared seals has not been evaluated yet. However, we do know that the Japanese sea lion, unfortunately, became extinct in the '70s due to overharvesting and habitat destruction. The population size of the northern fur seal includes approximately 1.1 million individuals throughout its range!

Where does an eared seal live?

These fur seals and sea lions forage in deep ocean or coastal areas. Their breeding site is mainly on islands, on rocky and sandy substrate. Eared seals and sea lions of the family Otariidae can be found in Peru, Japan, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, New Zealand, Mexico, Canada, Australia, and the United States. These fur seals and sea lions are also known to breed in Africa.

What is an eared seal's habitat?

These marine mammals are active during the day as well as at night. These mammals are excellent divers who forage in deep depths of the ocean. A few of the Otariidae species migrate to breeding colonies for annual breeding. Before coming back to their breeding site, these wonderful animals, like the northern fur seal and the Antarctic fur seal, can remain in the open ocean for two years! Otariids can feed and reside in the ocean, but they give birth to and nourish their pups on the land. Most Otariids prefer to inhabit islands instead of the mainland as an island gives them better access to food, as well as protection from their predators.

Who do eared seals live with?

Eared seals and sea lions of the family Otariidae prefer to reside in huge groups, known as colonies, of their own kind. These marine mammals, including the steller sea lion and the California sea lion, are very gregarious. These colonies are known to come out on the beach to sunbathe and a colony can comprise thousands of these mammals.

How long does an eared seal live?

The fur seals and sea lions have different life expectancies. Sea lions can live for 15-30 years whereas fur seals can live for 12-18 years on average, with the longest being 25 years. Females have been observed to have a longer life than most males. The oldest steller sea lion in captivity was 27 years old whereas the longest living California sea lion was 30 years old!

How do they reproduce?

These fur seals and sea lions have a similar breeding process. The breeding season, however, is early for sea lions, starting in late June and ending in August. The breeding period of fur seals begins in October and goes on until December. Their breeding sites are called rookeries. Males arrive at breeding sites (sandy beaches on islands), called rookeries, and then fight to establish dominance. Otiirads partake in polygamy, with one adult male breeding with 60-100 females! Females arrive at the rookeries whilst pregnant from the last breeding season, and are fought over by the males with each other. The dominant male who possesses the largest area of land will attract more than 15 females easily. After the females have given birth to their pup, they mate with the new dominant male, whose pup will be delivered eight to 12 months later. Many species of Otiirads breed this way including the Australian sea lion, the steller sea lion, and others.

What is their conservation status?

Different species have different statuses as per the IUCN (International Union For Conservation Of Nature). The Japanese sea lion has an Extinct status. Galapagos sea lions, New Zealand's sea lion (also known as Hooker's sea lion), and Australian sea lions are Endangered. The California sea lion's population has been observed to be increasing and is classified as Least Concern along with that of South American sea lions. Steller sea lions have a Near Threatened status. Fur seals also need protection from human activities, as they also have a Near Threatened status. The Antarctic fur seal has a Least Concern status, but northern fur seals and Galapagos fur seals are classified as Threatened.

Eared Seal Fun Facts

What do eared seals look like?

Every Otariid species has fur present on its body. The sea lion possesses coarse fur whereas the fur seal has thick underfur. All Otariids exhibit sexual dimorphism, with males being two to four times larger than females. Male Otariids possess proportionately larger heads, necks, and chests and weigh four times more than a female. Males can also be found in more colors than females. The heads of these marine mammals are similar to those of a dog, with both males and females possessing dog-like sharp teeth. They have large brown colored eyes that adjust according to the brightness. The large bodies of Otariids are smooth and streamlined, aiding them to swim easily. Their blubber (a fat layer) offers them insulation and they also have ear flaps similar to a dog. Their whiskers act as sensors when foraging and also alert these mammals if predators are near. The male sea lion Zalophus californianus (California sea lion) has black or brown fur with a dense mane over its shoulders. The female has a tan coloration.

A male eared seal can be four times larger than a female eared seal!

How cute are they?

Most Otariids are very adorable and cute. They are playful, smart, and can also be trained! The fur seal, especially, is extremely adorable as it looks like an innocent dog. Most of these mammals are quick at grasping commands as well!

How do they communicate?

These mammals communicate with each other through loud sounds. Fur seals have the ability to produce low sounds that can be heard from a long distance. The sea lion makes distinct vocalizations that consist of grunts, barks, and growls. They are extremely vocal animals and can be heard producing loud sounds, especially during the mating period.

How big is an eared seal?

Otariids range between 4-8 ft (1.2-2.4 m) in length. These mammals are 10 times smaller than the blue whale!

How fast can an eared seal run?

These mammals have impressive speed, with the fur seal being able to swim at a speed of 15 mph (24.1 kph) and sea lions having an astonishing ability to swim at a fast speed of 35 mph (56.3 kph)! Steller sea lions are known to be the largest and fastest sea lions, even faster than California sea lions! Fur seals and sea lions can walk by twisting their hind feet.

How much does an eared seal weigh?

An eared seal weighs between the range 240-2200 lb (108.8-997.9 kg) with the male being significantly larger and heavier than the female.

What are their male and female names of the species?

A  male Otariid is referred to as a bull whereas a female Otariid is known as a cow. A group of seals together are collectively referred to as a colony.

What would you call a baby eared seal?

Baby eared seals and sea lions of the family Otariidae are known as pups.

What do they eat?

These marine mammals are carnivores and feed upon fish, eel, squid, octopus, and lobster. Small fur seals tend to go on long trips to forage, whereas sea lions forage near the shores. Otariids are preyed upon by killer whales, sharks, leopards, tigers, and humans.

Are they dangerous?

These mammals are not dangerous and are not known to kill people. However, they may bite to show dominance or annoyance, so it is always safest to maintain your distance.

Would they make a good pet?

No, these animals are not recommended to be kept as pets.

Did you know...

One fun fact about eared seals is that California sea lions can stay beneath the surface of the water for a 10 minute time period!

What is the difference between true seals and eared seals?

Pinnipeds (seals, sea lions, and walruses) all have certain distinctions that differentiate them from each other. 'True seal' is another name for earless seals, and a true seal distinct from an eared seal mainly by their ears. As their names suggest, earless seals do not possess the external ear flaps that eared seals have. Earless seals also have rear flippers that point backward and move up and down in a smoothly rising and falling motion. Eared seals come out of the water more often than true seals too. Finally, a group of true seals is larger than that of Otariids.

How many species of eared seals are there?

This family comprises six sea lion species and 10 fur seal species namely Eumetopias jubatus (the northern sea lion or steller sea lion), Arctocephalus (southern fur seals), Callorhinus ursinus (the northern fur seal), Phocarctos hookeri (the New Zealand sea lion), Otaria flavescens (the South American sea lion), Neophoca cinerea (the Australian sea lion), and the Zalophus (three species of California sea lions). The family comprises plenty of genera: Eumetopias, Eotaria, Callorhinus, Pithanotaria, Phocarctos, Arctocephalus, Proterozetes,  Neophoca, Zalophus, Thalassoleon, and Otaria.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other mammals from our saiga antelope interesting facts or Kenai Peninsula wolf facts pages!

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable seal facts coloring pages!

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