26 Interesting Facts About Sea Lions

Often confused with seals and walruses, these enormous animals can be found in oceans all over the world.

In this post, You’ll discover the ultimate list of facts about sea lions.

1. They are known as Pinnipeds

Sea Lions are pinnipeds, which are commonly referred to as just seals. Even though they are in the same family of Seals and Walruses, they are different as they belong to the “eared seal” group (Otariidae).

facts about sea lions

2. True seals and walruses belong to another group

Seals belong to the Phocidae group (earless seals) and Walruses are the only extant members of the Odobenidae.

Even though walruses are the only extant species of its group, there used to live more than a dozen members of this type of animal in the world, which are now all extinct.

Walruses are easily recognized for having massive teeth with which they can cause severe damage during fights.

Walruses have massive teeth

3. The ears make the difference

The way seals are different is that they don’t have external earflaps, as opposed to the sea lions and fur seals who do have external earflaps.

Sea lion earflap

4. They are also better on land

Another big difference between sea lions and seals is that they have the ability to turn their hind limbs forward and walk on all fours.

This makes it much easier for them to “walk” on land compared to seals who don’t possess this ability. For this reason, they are found on land a lot more than true seals.

sea lion walking on the beach

5. There are a large number of extant pinnipeds

Pinnipeds are a carnivorous, fin-footed, sub-aquatic type of marine animal. Apart from seals, sea lions, walruses, and fur seals, there are 29 more types of extant pinnipeds in the world, making a total of 33 extant members of the pinniped family.

Grey Seal

6. There is only one extinct Otariidae

The Otarridae group which is also referred to as the eared seals contains 6 members and one extinct species. The extinct species is the Japanese sea lion that became extinct in the 1970s.

Japanese sea lions used to live in the coastal areas of Japan and the Korean peninsula. Since the early 1900s, they started being hunted commercially which is the main reason for their extinction.

How the Japanese sea lion looked like
The Japanese Sea Lion / Nkensei / http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

7. Japanese sea lions were reclassified

Before the year 2003, Japanese sea lions were considered to be a subspecies of the California sea lion. They were reclassified that year and considered to be their own species.

A DNA analysis done in 2007 concluded that the diversion point of the California sea lion and the Japanese sea lion took place around 2 million years ago in the early Pleistocene.

California sea lions in Sant Cruz, California
California sea lions in Sant Cruz, California / Calibas / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0

8. These are the other members of the Otariidae

The sea lion is one of the 6 remaining members of the Otarridae group, also referred to as the “eared seals.” Below you can find an overview of the other 5 members of this type of Pinniped.

9. The Steller sea lion

The Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus) can be found in the Northern Pacific and is therefore also referred to as the “Northern sea lion.” It is the largest of all Otarridae and amongst pinnipeds, only walruses and two types of elephant seals are larger.

This means that Steller sea lions are huge animals. Unfortunately, they have been classified as “near-threatened,” which means they could potentially become threatened shortly.

Male, female, and Steller sea lion pups / Source

10. The Australian sea lion

The only sea lion found in Australia is fittingly called the Australian sea lion. Better yet, it’s the only of all pinnipeds found in Australia and don’t have any congener other than the extinct Pleistocene New Zealand sea lion.

They can only be found in the Houtman Abrolhos Islands, an island group of 122 islands and a coral reef in Western Australia, and The Pages Islands, two islands and a reef in Southern Australia. There are less than 15,000 members left and they are listed as endangered.

Australian sea lion
Australian sea lions / Peterdownunder / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0

11. The South American sea lion

The South American sea lion is also referred to as simply the “southern sea lion” or “Patagonian sea lion.” The males of the South American sea lion can become twice as big as the females, and these animals have huge heads and well-developed upper bodies.

Another remarkable feature, apart from being the most “lionesque” of all sea lions, is that they have an upward turned snout giving them a rather peculiar look. Both the males and females have a brown/orange color.

A male and female South American sea lion / Source

12. The New Zealand sea lion

One of the rarest species of sea lions can be found in New Zealand, and more specifically on New Zealand’s subantarctic Auckland and Campbell Islands. They can also be spotted on the beaches of New Zealand’s South and Stewart Islands.

The New Zealand sea lion is also referred to as “Hooker’s sea lion” and there are only about 10,000 animals alive this day, which had their classification changed to an endangered species. They are severely philopatric, meaning they like to live in the same area at all times.

A male New Zeland sea lions / Hase / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0

13. The California sea lion

The California sea lion is native to the western part of North America. Their range is huge as it goes from southeastern Alaska to central Mexico.

They like to hang out and breed on sandy and rocky beaches, but they can also sometimes be found on manmade structures such as marinas, piers, or wharves. In contrast to some of their relatives such as the New Zealand sea lion, they are classified as “least endangered” as their population is abundant.

Sea lions on pier 39 in San Francisco
Sea lions on Pier 39 in San Francisco / jjron / http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html

14. The Galápagos sea lion

The Galápagos sea lion lives, as you would expect, on the Galápagos Island archipelago. In smaller numbers, they can also be found on Isla de la Plata, which is just like the Galápagos Islands, part of Ecuador.

This type of sea lion species is the smallest of them all and is known for its social and playful nature. They often lie on the sandy beaches or rocks of the Islands and you can see them playing with each other in the Ocean.

The Galapagos sea lion having fun on the beach
A Galápagos sea lion having fun / Diego Delso / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0

More interesting facts about sea lions

15. Even though the range of the sea lion species extends from the cold subarctic to the warm tropical waters of the world’s oceans, there is one ocean where you won’t find any of them.

Sea Lions can’t be found in the Northern part of the second-largest ocean in the world, The Atlantic Ocean.

16. The average lifespan of sea lions is about 20-30 years.

17. Sea lions are mammals, which means the females give birth to live pups and feed their pups with milk.

Mother sea lion and pup

18. The largest sea lion is the Steller sea lion and males can weigh up to 1,000 kilos (2,200 lbs) and grow to a length of over 3 meters (10 ft).

These are massive animals!

19. Sea lions can eat a lot. So much that they can consume 5 to 8% of their entire body weight in a single sitting, which is, dependant on the species, in between 6.8–15.9 kg (15–35 lb).

It’s fair to conclude that sea lions are quite greedy!

20. Sea lions are pretty fast in the water. They can easily reach speeds of up to 30 kilometers per hour (18mph), and when they need to do a sprint can easily reach speeds of over 50 kilometers per hour (35 mph).

You wouldn’t give them that when you see fat males laying around being lazy on the beach, right?

Sea lion laying on the beach

21. Three of the 6 extant sea lion species are listed as endangered. These are the Australian sea lion, the New Zealand sea lion, and the Galápagos sea lion.

22. All species of sea lions suffer from a condition called “sexual dimorphism,” which is characterized by both sexes exhibiting remarkable differences.

The main reason for this condition in sea lions (which is common in many types of animals) is that the males are usually twice the size and weight of the females.

23. Sea lions are polygynous when it comes to breeding. This means that the males mate with multiple females, while the females just stick to the one male.

That’s why you’ll sometimes see male sea lions having an entire harem with females following them!

facts about sea lions

24. Steller sea lions are the largest of the sea lion species and are named after the first person to ever describe them in 1741, the German naturalist Georg Wilhelm Steller.

25. California sea lions are very intelligent and can be trained basically the same way a dog is trained. That’s why they are popular attractions in zoos and parks as they love to entertain the audience with their tricks.

Oh yeah, and they also love to be amongst people once they are accustomed to them!

A California sea lion saying hi to the people
A California sea lion saying hi to the people / Source

26. Want to spot sea lions in the wild? Then you have to head over Down South as something called “Pinniped Tourism” has emerged in Australia and New Zealand which already attracts over 100,000 visitors every year.

The main site to view sea lions is the Carnac Island Nature Reserve near the Australian city of Perth in Western Australia.

sea lion facts

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