What’s not to love about Sea Lions? They’re adorable, noisy, quirky, and they’re just a big bunch of fluffy sleepy heads, who love sunbathing! Don’t be fooled though, they might look like cute aquatic teddy bears, but underneath all that blubber and fur is a fearsome predator! Care to know more about these “fin-footed” creatures? Keep on reading to learn about Sea Lions.
Fact 1: Sea Lions are pinnipeds that have external ear flaps and long fore flippers.
- They also have the ability to walk on all fours and have short, thick hair, and have a big chest and belly area.
Fact 2: Together with fur seals, they make up the family ‘Otariidae’.
- There are currently 7 known species of Sea Lions, 6 living and 1 extinct (the Japanese Sea Lion being extinct).
Fact 3: Their range extends from the subarctic to tropical waters of the global ocean in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.
- But you won’t find any of these furry Sea Lions in the northern Atlantic Ocean.
Fact 4: They have an average lifespan of 20–30 years.
- You can determine their age by counting the growth layers in their teeth, just like the rings in a tree trunk.
Fact 5: A male California Sea Lion weighs about 300 kg on average and is about 8 feet long.
- Female Sea Lions, on the other hand, weigh around 100 kg and measure up to 6 feet long.
Fact 6: The largest Sea Lion is the ‘Steller Sea Lion’.
- It can weigh up to 1,000 kg and can grow to a length of 10 feet.
Fact 7: Sea Lions need to gobble up huge amounts of food to stay alive and to be healthy.
- Sea Lions consume large quantities of food at a time, and are known to eat about 5–8% of their body weight, which is around 6.8- 15.6 kg, in a single feeding.
Fact 8: Sea Lions are extremely fast swimmers and can move around at 16 knots, or 30 km/hour, in water.
- At their fastest speed of about 30 knots, they are doing about 56 km/ hour.
Fact 9: Sea Lions and seals are two different animals.
- Sea Lions have external ear flaps, can walk on land using all four flippers and use their front flippers to swim. Seals, on the other hand, move on land by bouncing on their bellies, and use their hind flippers to swim.
Fact 10: There are a lot of threats to Sea Lions.
- Great White, Hammerhead and Blue sharks, as well as orcas, occasionally hunt Sea Lions. Water pollution, marine debris, and competition for food, and habitat, created by people also endanger Sea Lions.
Fact 11: Sea Lions have 34-38 teeth which they use to catch their food.
- They like to consume lots of different fish, including anchovies, herring salmon, sardines, squid and octopus, meaning they need plenty of teeth to chew the food up into smaller pieces to avoid choking.
Fact 12: Baby Sea Lions, or pups, weigh around 13- 20 pounds and can measure up to 2.5 feet long when they are born.
- Their mothers can weigh between 200 and 400 pounds and can be up to 6.5 feet long.
Fact 13: Sea Lions are quite social, and are party animals.
- In fact, Sea Lions are rarely found alone. They live much of their lives in a big group that may have thousands of members.
Fact 14: Male Sea Lions are called “bulls” while female Sea Lions are referred to as “cows”.
- Their little ones are called pups.
Fact 15: These aquatic animals can go down as far as 600 feet underwater during their hunting dives.
- Sea Lions are natural-born swimmers and can swim swiftly through darker ocean waters while hunting for food!
Fact 16: Female Sea Lions carry their young for up to 12 months before giving birth.
- They usually give birth between the months of May and July.
Fact 17: Many Sea Lion pups will nurse with their mothers for 4-8 months.
- Pups know their mother’s distinctive bark and can pick it out among all the other noisy, barking Sea Lions in the group.
Fact 18: Sea Lions can get lost quickly if they don’t have whiskers.
- A Sea Lion’s whiskers are called ‘vibrissas,’ and they function as a navigation system for the Sea Lions while they are in the ocean.
Fact 19: They have very strong front flippers that help them walk around on land.
- Sea Lion flippers also act like a built-in heating and cooling system for the furry animals too.
Fact 20: When it’s cold, blood vessels in a Sea lion’s flippers constrict and prevent heat from escaping.
- And when it’s hot outside, blood circulates to the flippers to help keep the Sea Lion cool.
Fact 21: Size matters when it comes to mating.
- Female Sea Lions tend to look for the largest males to mate with, so in this case, bigger really is better.
Fact 22: You won’t find any Sea Lions in the Northern Atlantic Ocean.
- This is strange since the temperatures at this location are certainly compatible with the Sea Lion’s typical environment, and there’s plenty of food there.
Fact 23: Sea Lions also develop age-related health issues.
- When they grow older, Sea Lions become prone to pneumonia, epilepsy, and cancer.
Fact 24: Sea Lions are now endangered.
- Humans have hunted sea Lions for many years, nearly wiping out all Sea Lion populations. Fortunately, international laws now prohibit the hunting of Sea Lions in an effort to protect and save them.
Fact 25: For unknown reasons, Sea Lions returned to the ocean about 20 million years ago.
- They have since become the most successful and widely distributed family of carnivores in the world.
Fact 26: Sea Lions will stalk their prey and ambush schools of fish with jaws agape, spearing their prey with impressively sharp teeth.
- They also forage through reefs using their long, stiff whiskers, to draw out assorted invertebrates, crabs, and their favourite food, squid.
Fact 27: Sea Lions stay warm through their thick fur and layers of blubber.
- This is quite a useful adaptation given that Sea Lions prefer cold climates.
Fact 28: Species of Sea Lions and Fur Seals can be found on the Bering strait, in Australia, in New Zealand, in South America and in California.
- Fur Seals, are related more to Sea Lions than true Seals because they also have external ears, relatively long and muscular foreflippers, and the ability to walk on all fours.
Fact 29: Like most mammals, Sea Lions are also remarkably intelligent.
- They also have an excellent sense of sight, hearing and smell.
Fact 30: It’s been noted that captive Sea Lions learn very quickly and have been exhibited in shows and circuses for centuries.
- The typical performing seal is most likely to be a California Sea Lion, one of the most common and familiar of the 7 Sea Lion species.
Fact 31: Sea Lions display extreme sexual dimorphism, or apparent physical differences between males and females of the same species.
- Adult males are generally 2-4 times the size of an adult female Sea Lion.
Fact 32: In addition to just overall size, mature males, over 10 years old, are recognized by their impressive, crested foreheads and massive necks.
- Another interesting fact is that male Sea Lions may fast for up to 40 days during mating season.
Fact 33: A group of Sea Lions is called a “colony” on land.
- But when in water, they are called a “raft”.
Fact 34: A Sea Lion’s breeding ground is known as a “rookery” which is often found on a quiet island with sandy beaches.
- Much of a males dominance is related to size, with smaller animals almost always giving way to larger ones.
Fact 35: Sea Lions are also known as the “angels of the sea”.
- Mainly because of their front flippers looking like an angel’s wings when they are swimming.
Fact 36: Male Sea Lions are quite territorial and fights do break out and happen between group members.
- Injuries can be serious and/ or fatal, but most disagreements are settled by ritualized, sumo-style shoving matches.
Fact 37: Smaller and weaker male Sea Lions are often chased away by larger bulls.
- When all of the beach is claimed, the younger, weaker, or smaller males, are unable to gain a territory form bachelor groups of males on the outskirts of the beach.
Fact 38: Sea Lions love harems.
- When the females arrive, the males try to attract them to their territory and gather a harem of as many as 15 females.
Fact 39: Larger, stronger and male Sea Lions with beach-front properties attract the most mates.
- This is a vitally important time in the life of a mature male Sea Lion, and he actually may not eat for the entire length of the mating season.
Fact 40: Females Sea Lions, or cows, usually arrive already pregnant to the mating ground.
- The single pup that she delivers will not be the offspring of her current mate.
Fact 41: Females will give birth within a few days of arriving at the rookery, and will be ready to mate 10 to 14 days later.
- The fertilized embryo develops in the womb for only a few weeks and then becomes dormant. It will not begin to grow again for another 4 months or so, this is when it will become implanted in the wall of the uterus and start to fully develop.
Fact 42: ‘Embryonic diapause’ is the name given to the Sea Lion’s pregnancy process.
- This process actually happens during lots of mammals’ pregnancies, bears, mice and badgers can also do this.
Fact 43: When a female Sea Lion heads back to sea to hunt and feed, she will have to leave her pup in a little playgroup with several other pups, who will play and sleep together while they wait for their mothers to return.
- A mother Sea Lion may be gone for days at a time, but when she comes back, she will call out to her pup and they will go running towards each other, because both Mother and pup know the sounds that each other makes.
Fact 44: The neck and head structure of adult Sea Lions are leonine (lion-like).
- But in the case of the South American Sea Lion their necks and heads have long hair.
Fact 45: Sea Lions are one of the most vocal mammals on the planet.
- It is not uncommon to hear them grunt and bark! Particularly males during the mating season!
Fact 46: It’s common for male Sea Lions to migrate back to the mainland where they have been known to take over beaches, and private boats.
- Pier 39 in San Francisco is a famous hangout for these aquatic creatures.