Pittsburgh Zoo Sea Lion

California Sea Lion

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Quick Facts

  • Size: Adult males are often between 6.5 and 8 feet in length and weigh anywhere between 400 to 900 pounds. Adult females are more slender-bodied, ranging between 5 and 6.5 feet in length and between 110 and 250 pounds.
  • Lifespan: Between 15 and 25 years in the wild, and over 30 years in human care.
  • Color: When wet, sea lions are sleek and appear black in color. When dry, their coarse hairs take on a velvety feel, and they range in color from a light tan or golden blonde in females to a chocolate or dark brown in males.
  • Range: The western shores of British Columbia, Canada, the U.S., and Northern Mexico.
  • Habitat: Rocky and sandy coasts. Large groups of sea lions on land are called colonies. In water, small groups are called rafts.

Sea lions are often mistaken for seals, but they are different in many ways. Sea lions have small external ears, while seals have pinhole ear openings. Sea lions use their powerful forelimbs to propel themselves, while seals use their hind flippers for propulsion.

California sea lions are pinnipeds, which is derived from the Latin words "pinna" meaning wing or feather, and "pedis" meaning foot. There are 30 species of pinnipeds and sea lions are the fastest, swimming up to 25 miles per hour. Sea lions get their name from a thick mane that grows along their necks, a feature California sea lions do not have.

Sea lions are opportunistic feeders, eating what is abundant and available including squid, octopus, hake, northern anchovy, opaleye, herring, Pacific whiting, rockfish, and when available salmon, lamprey, and benthic fishes. A sea lion needs to eat about 5-10 percemt of its body weight each day.

Mating season is primarily May and June and gestation is 11 months. But sea lions have delayed implantation of 2 to 3 months, which allows pups to be born during the summer when food is more abundant. Males become sexually mature between 5-9 years; females at four to six years. Litter size is normally one pup, but twins are born occasionally. Newborn pups are usually about 30 inches long and weigh between 11 and 19 lbs. They are born with their eyes open and can swim (though awkwardly) right after birth. They can vocalize, too, which helps mothers and pups recognize one another.
  • Location in the Zoo: Kids Kingdom