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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 05, 2021

Sea Lion Facts You’ll Never Forget

Sea Lion facts often talk about the mammal's special feet.

If you want to read about interesting aquatic animals, then you will love to read about Sea Lions. Sea Lions are close relatives of the seals and generally fall under the category of the pinnipeds, which is basically another name for mammals that fall underseals. However, these mammals differ to some extent from the seal. However, these Sea Lions are usually clubbed together in one class with the fur seals, and both of them are not considered true seals. Yet, one must know that Sea Lion is a broad term that defines the Otariidae family and that there different genera and mammals that fall under this family. These different mammals are the California Sea Lions (Zalophus californianus), the Stellar Sea Lions (Eumetopias jubatus), the South American Sea Lions (Otaria flavescens), the Galapagos Sea Lions (Zalophus wollebaeki), the Australian Sea Lions (Neophoca cinerea), and the New Zealand Sea Lions (Phocarctos hookeri). The Japanese Sea Lions (Zalophus japonicus) were the seventh member of this family, but they became extinct in the 1970s.

If you want to know more Sea Lion facts, then read on. For more facts and information, take a look at leopard seal and fennec fox.

Sea Lion Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a Sea Lion?

The sea lion is a species of the eared seals that are distinct from other species of seals due to the differences in their appearances, even though the species of sea lions are closely related to walruses and seals.

What class of animal does a Sea Lion belong to?

Sea Lions are a species of marine mammals that belongs to the family of Otariidae and the class of Mammalia. These marine mammals, along with fur seals, are classed in this family called Otariidae. Interestingly, Sea Lions were initially grouped in their own family of Otariidae, while the fur seals had their own family called the Arcocephalinae. However, in recent years, after detailed scientific observations, both the different marine mammals were clubbed together under the family of the Otariidae.

How many Sea Lions are there in the world?

As there are six sea lion species, the different sea lion species have different populations. California Sea Lions (Zalophus californianus) is one of the sea lions whose populations are on the rise. It can be estimated that there are around 238,000 California Sea Lions in the world. The South American Sea Lion (Otaria flavescens) also enjoys a healthy population of around 265,000. Stellar Sea Lions, on the other hand, are almost one-third of the population of California and South America variants of these marine mammals and has an estimated population of 98,000 to 100,000. Australian Sea Lions and the New Zealand Sea Lions do not, however, share the fate of the others in the group in regards to their population. The Australian Sea Lion is thought to be around 6,500 in population, while the New Zealand Sea Lion population is thought to be around 10,000. However, the Galapagos Sea Lion species have their population hovering around the 50,000 mark.

Where does a Sea Lion live?

The Sea Lion, be it the California Sea Lion, live in the coastal areas and in water bodies. Sea Lions live a major part of their lives in the ocean and are known to go almost two years without returning to the coastal land. They are found all over the world in coastal areas, especially in the Pacific Ocean coasts of South America and North America, and in the coasts of Southern Australasia.

What is a Sea Lion's habitat?

The six variant species of Sea Lions can be found having slightly different habitats. They are often found living near rocky beaches, sandy shores, buoys, and marinas. These Sea Lions have adapted and conditioned themselves well to live within the harsher conditions of the Pacific ocean. These marine animals are comfortable living both in the water and on the land.

Who do Sea Lions live with?

Sea Lions or eared seals like the California Sea Lions are known to be extremely social creatures. They tend to live within large groups called colonies with the other Sea Lions. This behavior is observed in all six Sea Lion species, including the Stellar Sea Lions, California Sea Lions, and the other species of Sea Lions. A great way to observe the colonies in action is to take a look at Sea Lions when they come out to sunbathe on the beaches. One can notice thousands of Sea Lions on these beaches. However, there can be changes to this trait of the marine mammal when the breeding season starts.

How long does a Sea Lion live?

Sea Lions are known to live for a range between 15 to 30 years. This is true for all six different sea lions. However, it is reported by scientists that male sea lions are not known to live past the age of 18 when they are left in the wild. The oldest Stellar Sea Lion was 27 years old, while the oldest California Sea Lion was recorded to live until the age of 30. However, it should be noticed that both these old eared seals spent their days in captivity and not in the wild.

How do they reproduce?

There are various ways that Sea Lions can reproduce and breed. The most common method is through the assertion of dominance in the mating grounds by males, which are known as 'rookeries'. These rookeries are usually quiet islands with sandy beaches. Male Sea Lions arrive from the water at the start of the breeding season and start to assert territorial dominance over the other males. The males live alone at this time and are constantly fighting with other males to gain the most land to breed when the females arrive. After weeks of fighting and territorial dominance by the males, the females arrive. This is the time for the males to attract as many females to their territory. These males with the most land and the one who is most dominant can attract as many as 15 female sea lions. The size difference between the males and females is quite significant, with the male sea lion being significantly larger than females, and females are attracted to the bigger male specimen.

Interestingly, females, after they become part of the male's new group of mates, give birth to small-eared seal pups from the previous breeding season. This is because the pregnancy of these female marine mammals lasts for almost 8-12 months. Once they give birth to the new pup, they are now ready for mating with their new partner, whose pup they will give birth to the next year. Each litter of  the female usually consists of one pup. Almost all the species of the Sea Lion, like the California Sea Lion, Stellar Sea Lion, and others, follow this way of breeding.

What is their conservation status?

According to the International Union For Conservation Of Nature (IUPC), there are different conservation statuses for the different sea lions. The California Sea Lion, with its increasing population, is classified as Least Concern. This status of Least Concern is also true for South American Sea Lions. The Stellar Sea Lions, on the other hand, have been classified as Near Threatened. However, unfortunately, the remaining three species, that is namely the Australian Sea Lions, New Zealand Sea Lions, and the Galapagos Sea Lions, are listed as Endangered animals by the IUCN.

Sea Lion Fun Facts

What do Sea Lions look like?

The various species of Sea Lion have been differentiated by traits in their physical appearance. In general, a Sea Lion vs Seal discussion can be settled by the fact that Sea Lions are known as eared seals because of their distinct external ear flaps, which distinguish them from seals. These ear flaps, which are turned downwards, stop the water from entering the ears. The Seal vs Sea Lion debate can also be understood through their legs. Sea Lions are different from true Seals because they have the unique ability to lift their body and run on all their four legs when required. This is possible due to the structure of the hind flippers and front flippers of Sea Lions. Sea Lions have the ability to rotate their powerful hind flippers, which make them easily move along rocky or sandy beaches or coastal land areas. The equally powerful front flippers are the reason the natural body posture of Sea Lions is upright. With the use of bot their flippers, Sea Lions can propel themselves to move very easily in the water, in a manner that is similar to dolphins.

The fur and the coat are usually smooth, but the color differs with the separate sea lion species. California Sea Lions may be anywhere between tawny brown to dark brown. Stellar Sea Lions, the biggest amongst the Sea Lions, generally have much lighter colors ranging from pale yellow, tawny to sometimes even reddish. For Australian Sea Lions, females have a cream underbelly with silver or fawn colors, while the males have yellows manes highlighting the deeper shade of chocolate brown. Galapagos Sea Lions have been observed to have a dark brown coat, but their fur color changes significantly once they are out of the water and dry. New Zealand Sea Lions are between the color range of blackish-brown to creamy grey, while the South American Sea Lion may be either brown or orange in color.

Sea Lions have their own breeding grounds called rookeries.

How smart are they?

Sea Lions are one of those marine animals that are extremely intelligent, smart, and playful. Training them while in captivity is quite easy compared to other marine animals. They are quick to learn and can react to commands very well. Their smartness and great interactive equation with humans are one of the reasons why they have exhibited in marine shows and circuses for the last few centuries.

How do they communicate?

Sea Lions are known to have distinct vocal cords, and their primary method of communicating with one another is through the process of vocalization. When they are in large groups, Sea Lions may find can generate unique vocalizations aimed at another particular Sea Lion. These unique vocalizations comprise growls, barks, and grunts. You can hear these vocalization techniques even more during the Sea Lion's mating season, where they are trying to assert their dominance over territories. Believe it or not, Sea Lions are generally very vocal animals.

How big is a Sea Lion?

The size of Sea Lions again differs with different species. However, the one thing that is proven is that males are much larger than females in regards to shape and size. The California Sea Lion is generally between 6.9 ft to 8.9 ft. The Stellar Sea Lion, on the other hand, has a size range of 7.5ft to 10.7ft. Galapagos Sea Lions are the smallest amongst the family and have a size of 4ft to 8ft. The South American Sea Lion can be anywhere in the range of 6 ft to 9 ft. The remaining two species of Australian Sea Lions and New Zealand Sea Lions, are between 4 ft to 8 ft and 6 ft to 11 ft, respectively. They are almost the same size as walruses and seals. However, these marine animals dwarf in front of the Blue Whale, which is almost ten times bigger than Sea Lions, Walruses, and Seals.

How fast can a Sea Lion move?

Due to their specialized front legs and hind legs, Sea Lions can move really fast in the water. On average, they are known to travel almost at a speed of 18 mph, while the top speed of many Sea Lions has been observed to be near about 35 mph.

How much does a Sea Lion weigh?

The average weight range of the six species ranges between 200 lb to around 2,200 lb. California Sea Lions weigh anywhere between 220 lb to 770 lb, while the range of the South American Sea Lion is between 330 lb and 770 lb. The Galapagos Sea Lion has a weight range of 110 lb to 550 lb as they are the smallest amongst Sea Lions. The biggest among the Sea Lions is Stellar Sea Lions which weigh in the range of 530 lb to 2470 lb. In comparison, the remaining two members of Otariidae: the Australian Sea Lion and the New Zealand Sea Lion, have an average of 100 lb to 800 lb and 200 lb to 1000 lb, respectively. This large range in weight is due to males being way bigger and heavier than females.

What are their male and female names of the species?

The male Sea Lion is generally known as a bull, while the female sea lions are fittingly called a cow.

What would you call a baby Sea Lion?

A baby Sea Lion can be called a pup.

What do they eat?

Sea Lions eat all kinds of food that they find in the ocean. Their usual food consists of squids, salmon, herring, clams, dogfish, lamprey, anchovy, and whiting. Sardines, octopuses, krills are often part of the food diet. It must be said that sometimes in the matter of looking for food and sharing the food, sea lions are known to cooperate with seabirds and dolphins.

Are they dangerous?

Although sea lions are not very dangerous, one must be wary of them. They do not kill or eat humans. It is generally recommended that one shouldn't venture anywhere between 8 ft of sea lions. Human attacks by sea lions are rare, but when they do it, violent bites are used as ways to regain territorial dominance and or to show annoyance.

Would they make a good pet?

Due to their violent nature and tendencies of territorial dominance, Sea Lions are not recommended as pets.

Did you know...

California Sea Lions are the ones that are generally used for marine shows and circuses. This because California Sea Lions are easy to train and are not under any threat of extinction.

After giving birth, mother sea lions leave their pups in large pup groups to get food for them. When the mother returns, she calls her to her own pup through a unique vocalization.

Sea Lion Caves, Oregon, is the largest sea cave in America and one of the only instances of inland rookeries of the Stellar Sea Lions and the California Sea Lions.

Sea Lions are called so because of their light furry mane, which is prominently visible when they are dry.

Is the Sea Lion endangered?

Out of the six variants of the eared seals, only three are endangered, Australian Sea Lions, Galapagos Sea Lions, and the New Zealand Sea Lions. The Stellar Sea Lions are nearly threatened animals, while the Califonia Sea Lions and the South American Sea Lions are found in abundance. Efforts have made for the last few decades to preserve and protect the endangered members of the Sea Lion's family.

Different types of Sea Lions

There are six different Sea Lions. The California Sea Lions and Steller Sea Lions are generally found in the continent of North America, while the South American Sea Lions are found mainly in Peru. As is evident from their names, the Galapagos, Australian, and New Zealand variants of this marine mammal are found in the Galapagos Island, the Western Coast of Australia, and New Zealand.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other mammals including Sumatran Orangutan, or plains zebra.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our Sea Lion coloring pages!

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