California Sea Lion

Scientific Classification

Order - Pinnipedia

Pinnipeds are seals, sea lions, and walruses. Some scientists classify pinnipeds as a suborder of the order Carnivora.

Family - Otariidae

Otariids, also referred to as "eared seals", include all sea lions and fur seals. Otariids are characterized by having external ear pinnae (ear flaps) and long flippers.

Genus, Species - Zalophus Californianus

The genus name Zalophus comes from the Greek za, a prefix expressing emphasis, and lophos, meaning "crest." It refers to the large crest on the skull of an adult male.

Most scientists recognize three geographically separated subspecies of the California sea lion: Z.c. californianus, Z.c. wollebaeki, and Z.c. japonicus. This information booklet concerns Z.c. californianus unless otherwise noted.

Fossil Record

The earliest otariids appear in the fossil record about 12 million years ago. The first Zalophus fossils date back to the late Pleistocene, about 120,000 to 220,000 years ago.