California Sea Lion California Sea Lion
California Sea Lion

Scientific Classification

Common Name
California sea lion, Galapagos sea lion
Genus Species
Zalophus (lophus translates into crest) californianus

Fast Facts

Like other "eared" seals, California sea lions have prominent external ear flaps and long foreflippers covered in fur past the wrist and tiny claws. The hind flippers are shorter and also have short claws at the ends of the digits.
Male:  Adult male California sea lions have a prominent sagittal (cranial) crest, making them easy to distinguish from females and immature males. Mature males also tend to be a much darker brown color and are substantially larger than adult females. Unlike many other species of sea lion, California sea lion males lack a well-defined mane.
Female:  Mature females and immature males are light yellowish to tan in color and lack the prominent sagittal crest of the adult male.
Newborns are about 75 cm (30 in.) long
Male:  Up to 2 to 2.5 m (6.5 to 8 ft.) long
Female: Up to 1.5 to 2 m (5 to 6.6 ft.) long
At birth, sea lion pups weigh about 6 kg (13 lbs.)
Male: 200 to 400 kg (441 to 882 lbs.)
Female:  50 to 110 kg (110 to 243 lbs.)
Fishes, squid and octopus
Gestational period 11 months; possibly up to 3 months of delayed implantation
Estral Period
About 3 weeks after giving birth in June and July
Nursing Duration
6 months to a year (wean)
Sexual Maturity
4 to 5 years for both males and females
Life Span
15 to 25 years
British Columbia to northern Mexico
Inhabit rocky and sandy beaches of coastal islands and mainland shorelines along the coasts
Global: About 200,000 for the California subspecies; the Japanese subspecies is considered extinct
IUCN: Not listed
CITES: Not listed
USFWS: Not listed

Fun Facts

  1. Sea lions are adapted for movement on land as well as in the water. Wing-like front flippers have a bone structure similar to that in our arms and hands. Swimming with these flippers propels the sea lion forward, while the hind flippers steer. Both pairs of flippers enable a sea lion to walk on land.
  2. Sea lions produce loud roars help explain why they're named after lions. Males of some sea lion species even grow thick manes around their necks.
  3. Most sea lion pups are born in late June. Pups are well developed at birth. Their eyes are open, they can vocalize, and even swim a little. Several days after the pup's birth, the mother leaves the pup in the crowded rookery as she searches for food in the ocean. When she returns, the mother emits a loud trumpeting vocalization, which elicits a bleating response from her pup. This exchange continues until the mother and pup find each other. She makes her final identification by smelling her pup.
  4. California sea lions are among the most gregarious marine mammals, forming dense aggregations of a thousand or more animals on land. They also may travel, socialize or rest at the surface in groups of ten or more near haul out areas.
  5. For more information about California sea lions, explore the California Sea Lion Info Book.

Ecology and Conservation

As for other marine mammals, the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 protects California sea lions.


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