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A sea lion in Monterey, California

Sea lions are any of seven species in seven genera of modern pinnipeds including one extinct species (the Japanese sea lion). Sea lions are characterized by the presence of external ear pinnae (ear-flaps), long front flippers, the ability to walk on all four flippers on land, and the lack of dense underfur. Their range extends from the subarctic to tropical waters of the global ocean in both the northern and southern hemispheres with the notable exception of the Atlantic Ocean.[1]



Sea lions haul out on a rock off the coast of Raspberry Island (Alaska).
Sea lions

Together with the fur seals, they comprise the Otariidae family, collectively known as eared seals. Until recently, sea lions were grouped under a single subfamily called Otariinae to distinguish them from the fur seals Arcocephalinae, based on the most prominent common feature between all species, namely the lack of the dense underfur characteristic of the latter. Recent genetic evidence, however, strongly suggests that Callorhinus, the genus of the Northern fur seal is more closely related to some sea lion species than to the other fur seal genus Arctocephalus.[2] Therefore the fur seal/sealion subfamily distinction has been largely eliminated. Nonetheless, all sea lions have certain features in common, in particular their coarse, short fur, greater bulk and larger prey than fur seals.

Interactions with humans

Some species of sea lion are readily trainable and are often a popular attraction at zoos and aquariums. The archetypal circus "seal" performing behaviors such as throwing and catching balls on its nose and clapping is almost always a sea lion.

Sea lions have been trained by the U.S. Navy's Marine Mammal Program, based in San Diego, to detain scuba divers.[3]

Sea lion attacks on humans are rare. In a highly unusual attack in 2007 in Western Australia a sea lion leapt from the water and seriously mauled a 13-year old girl surfing behind a speedboat. The sea lion appeared to be preparing for a second attack when the girl was rescued. An Australian marine biologist opined the sea lion may have viewed the girl "like a rag doll toy" to be played with.[4][5][6] In San Francisco where an increasingly large population of California sea lion crowds dock along San Francisco Bay, there have been incidents in recent years of swimmers being bitten on the leg by large aggressive males, possibly as a territorial act.[7][8][9]

The Moche people of ancient Peru worshipped the sea and its animals. They often depicted sea lions in their art.[10]

Sea lions have also been reported to assist or save humans who show signs of distress in the open waters. In June of 2000, Kevin Hines leaped into the San Fransisco bay and it was reported that he was saved by a sea lion that kept him afloat and breathing till the paramedics arrived.[11]



A probable hybrid sea lion from a cross between the California sea lion (Zalophus californianus) and the South American sea lion (Otaria byronia) was reported in a 2002 issue of the Journal of Mammology, according to the French National Center for Scientific Research.[12]


Zalophus californianus at Moss Landing 3.jpg Cal Sea Lions on Pier 39.JPG GiGi sea lion 1984.jpg Sea lion head.jpg
Sea lions at Moss Landing, California. Hundreds of California Sea Lions sunbathing on Pier 39 in San Francisco in the United States. GiGi, a sea lion trained by the U.S. Navy for underwater recovery, nuzzles merchant mariner Capt. Arne Willehag of the USNS Sioux during a 1983 training session. A sea lion at the Memphis zoo.

See also


External links


Simple English


Sea Lion
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Pinnipedia
Family: Otariidae


Sea lion are several pinniped from the family Otariidae (Eared seals). Sea lions live all around the world, except in the Atlantic Ocean.

Sea Lions and land lions

Male sea lions have thick fur around the face and neck, which sometimes looks like a lion's mane. That's how they got the name "Sea lion". Some, like the Steller sea lion, can actually roar! Of course, these pinnipeds are not really lions at all, but, like lions, they have fur, breathe air, give birth to live young, and feed milk to their young. They also both eat meat, though sea lions eat the meat of fishes, squids, and sea birds instead of land animals. Sea lions are also fierce fighters, just like lions.


The pinniped species called "Sea lion" are:

  • Steller Sea Lion or Northern Sea Lion (Eumetopias jubatus)
  • Australian Sea Lion (Neophoca cinerea)
  • South American Sea Lion or Southern Sea Lion (Otaria flavescens)
  • New Zealand Sea Lion (Phocarctos hookeri)
  • California Sea Lion (Zalophus californianus)


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