Steller sea lions are similar in appearance to California sea lions and are sometimes confused with them. However, Steller sea lions are much larger and lighter in color. Males may grow to 11 feet in length and weigh almost 2,500 pounds. Females are much smaller and may grow to 9 feet in length and weigh 1,000 pounds.

Steller sea lions are light tan to reddish-brown in color. They have a blunt face and a boxy, bear-like head. Adult males do not have a visible sagittal crest (the bump on the top of their heads) as is seen in adult male California sea lions. Adult male Steller sea lions have a bulky build and a very thick neck with longer fur that resembles a lion’s mane, hence the name “sea lion.”

They can dive to deep depths, they can walk on all fours, and they love to frolic and play! They’re sea lions, an amphibious species of marine mammals. Sea lions can survive in disparate climates and have well-developed social structures that often mimic that of humans. In some locations, like New Zealand, sea lions make the list of largest regional animals.

Amazing Sea Lion Facts

  • Six Subspecies: Currently, there are six subspecies of sea lions: Australia sea lions, California sea lions, Galapagos sea lions, New Zealand sea lions, South American sea lions, and Steller sea lions.
  • Smart Sea Lions: Sea lions are smart. They understand rudimentary sign language, and some even serve in the United States Navy to help with counterespionage missions!
  • Subspecies Extinction: In the not too distant past, seven subspecies of sea lions glided through the world’s waters. Unfortunately, the Japanese sea lion went extinct in the 1950s due to overhunting and commercial fishing.
  • Big and Small Cousins: Sea lions are marine mammals and close cousins with walruses and seals.

Habitat & Population Status Of A Male Sea Lion

Steller sea lions are found in coastal waters in the northern Pacific Ocean, from Japan to Central California. Breeding occurs in areas ranging from Año Nuevo Island in Central California to the Kuril Islands north of Japan, with the greatest concentration of rookeries, or breeding grounds, in the Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian Islands.

Steller sea lions in U.S. waters are divided into two distinct population groups: the Western and Eastern populations. The differentiation is based primarily on genetic and physical differences, but also on differing population trends in the two regions

Sea Lion: Appearance And Behavior

Sea lions look a lot like seals. However, unlike seals, they have ear flaps. Though all sea lions are equipped with similar skeletal structures and four flippers, which double as feet when on land, their sizes and colors vary among subspecies. All sea lions have coarse, short fur, and the males of each subspecies have manes of varying lengths. Additionally, they’re equipped with five claws on each front flipper that they use for hunting and gripping when on land.

Sea lions have between 34 and 38 teeth, depending on the subspecies and sex. Incisors, canines, premolars, and molars make up sea lions teeth structures. Baby sea lions develop milk teeth in the womb but shed them before they’re born.

Sea lions are the second largest species of otariids, and some subspecies can reach 10 feet long, which is about as long as one-and-a-half king-sized beds. Walruses are the only other otariids that best sea lions in size.

Sea Lion Reproduction, Babies, And Lifespan

Breeding season for sea lions is subspecies dependent, but all have a gestation period of about 12 months. Below is a chart outlining the mating seasons, breeding habitats, and average lifespans for each type.

Note that all sea lions live longer in captivity. The age ranges listed below apply to wild animals. Additionally, all sea lions are polygynous, meaning one male will mate with many females, but females typically only mate with one male.

Arguably like humans, males make an effort to secure the best rookery — or mating spot — to attract females. The best breeding habitats have safe access to nearby water and a pupping area, where the young ones — or pups — can be safeguarded from predators. Males left empty-handed retreat to a “bachelor colony” where they beef up in the hopes of better luck in the future.

Are Sea Lion Dangerous?

You may be wondering: Are sea lions dangerous? While they are generally not a threat to humans, sea lions experience stress, just like us. And when they have panic attacks, they may lash out. So for their safety and yours, it’s best never to get closer than 15 meters (50 feet) to a sea lion. Things can become very dangerous within 2.5 meters (8 feet).

In 2007, an Australian sea lion leaped out of the water and mauled a 13-year-old girl who was surfing behind a speedboat. Experts believe the animal saw her as “a rag doll toy.” Increasingly, California sea lions are hanging out on the docks around San Francisco bay, which has led to several biting attacks. In 2015, a sea lion attacked a 62-year-old man who was boating off the coast of San Diego. And in 2017, a sea lion dragged a little girl into the water by her dress.

But not all wild sea lion interactions with humans end in tragedy. In 2016, a malnourished female sea-lion pup wandered into a seaside restaurant in California, crawled into a booth, and proceeded to take a nap. When she awoke, she sauntered over to the window and peered out like a scared, lost child looking for her mother. Thankfully, rescuers came and got her, rehabilitated her, and then set her back into the ocean to meet up with her family.

Seal Vs Sea Lion: Is A Seal A Sea Lion?

Seals and sea lions are different species, but they are both members of the Otariidae family. In the past, scientists classed the two animals under different subfamilies. Thanks to advances in genetic testing, researchers deemed the distinction incorrect and eliminated one from most taxonomies.

Physically, sea lions have longer flippers than seals. Moreover, sea lions have flapped ears, and seals do not.

Why Are Sea Lions Called Sea Lions?

Sea lions have manes and are very large. As such, people donned them “lions of the seas” or “sea lions.” Also, both species roar or bark loudly.

Are Sea Lions Herbivores, Carnivores, Or Omnivores?

Sea Lions are Omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and other animals.

What Kingdom Do Sea Lions Belong To?

Sea Lions belong to the Kingdom Animalia.

What Phylum Do Sea Lions Belong To?

Sea Lions belong to the phylum Chordata.

What Class Do Sea Lions Belong To?

Sea Lions belong to the class Mammalia.

What Family Do Sea Lions Belong To?

Sea Lions belong to the family Otariidae.

What Is The Average Litter Size For A Sea Lion?

The average litter size for a Sea Lion is 1.

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