Time and again, you must have heard the name Sealion but do you know what is a sea lion? Most of the times people get confused between sea lions and seals. But don’t worry we’ll help you in differentiating between them.

Now comes the time to answer your question, what is a sea lion? Sea lions are one of the most amazing and cute-looking marine animals in the world. They belong to the Otariidae family which designate “little ears”. But you can also identify sea lions by their short, coarse hair coat.

They are equipped with four webbed flippers which help in the stability of their pivot-shaped body. The mechanism of their body helps them in functioning excellently in both air and water. Their body comprises thick hair, long whiskers along with a big chest and belly.

Along with seals and walruses, Sea lions are a part of the scientific group of mammals called “Pinnipeds” which means “feather foot” or “wing foot”. They often travel in a group of 12-15. You must also know that a group of sea lions is famously known as a raft.

Where Do Sea Lions Live?

Sea lions are found in specific climatic conditions such as the subarctic and tropics. Sea lions are spotted in a large company on both sea and land. Different species of sea lions are found across the globe and all of them have some differences. Therefore, their habitat depends on certain factors.


Sea lions have different breeds and their habitat depends upon various conditions.

  • California Sea lion

These species are found on the western coast of the North American continent. The region extends from the southern Alaskan region via Mexico and the Gulf of California. The sea lions which generally perform in the circuses are California Sea Lions.

  •  Galápagos Sea Lion

    They belong to the larger species of lion. The males can grow up to 1000 lbs. The Galápagos Sea Lion is solely found on the Galapagos Islands and the Isla de la Plata. They are known to be the playful ones and often bark like a dog.

  • Southern American Sea lion

    They are also known as the Patagonian sea lion. This species of sea lion resides in the coastal areas of South America predominantly in Chile, Peru, Uruguay, and Argentina. These sea lions appear different because of their muzzle, and dark brown skin colour. They have big bellies with gold and yellow.

  • Australian Sea Lion

    As the name denotes, this sea lion lives along the southern and western coasts of Australia. They mostly live in larger colonies but sometimes break into groups of 10-15.

  • Steller Sea Lion

     It is the largest species with its males weighing as much as 25000 lbs. These magnificent creatures live in central California through the Pacific Rim to the coast of Japan.

  • New Zealand Sea Lion

    It also belongs to the larger species of sea lions. Some of their males reach up to 1000 lbs. They live around the South Island of New Zealand as well as on the Auckland Islands.

What Does a Sea Lion Eat?

Sea lions are carnivorous animals. They usually eat almost 5 to 8 % every day of their total body weight which is approx. 15-35 pounds of food. They feed on different kinds of organisms including fishes (herring, anchovies, salmon, hake, and rockfish), octopuses, clams, and opaleye.

They use their intelligence in swimming and hunting. So, with 34 to 38 teeth, the mouth of a sea lion is capable of grabbing and ripping up its food. However, sea lions eat their food in large portions without chewing.

One of the most interesting facts that one should know about sea lions is that they don’t drink water. They fulfill their moisture needs from their food. Studies show that the male sea lion can drink some amount of water & adapt to fasting during the mating season. The fasting period can last up to a couple of weeks. They adopt fasting as a necessary option to defend their area.

List of Foods a Sea lion Eats

Below is the list of all food items sea lion eats

  • Hake
  • Squid
  • Crab
  • Clams
  • Octopus
  • Opaleye
  • Herring
  • Lamprey
  • Steelhead
  • Salmon
  • Northern Anchovy

How much does a Sea lion Weigh?

The weight of a sea lion depends on the gender and development stage. The females averagely weigh between 200 to 400 pounds (90-180 kg) in weight along with the length between 5 and 6.5 feet (1.5-2.0 m). A baby sea lion when born weighs around 13 pounds (6kg) and is approx. 2.5 feet (75 cm) long.

Males are usually larger and weigh around 600 to 800 pounds (270-360 kg), with 6.5 to 8 feet (2-2.4m) in length. Researchers, on behalf of their data, claim that a sea lion can reach up to 1000 pounds in weight.

How do Sea lions sleep?

Sea lions do not have a particular sleeping pattern. They have numerous sleeping positions mostly they sleep on top of each other. Sea lions can also communicate with other pinnipeds namely harbor seals and the northern fur seals. These species tend to dive to the bottom of the skin-deep area of the sea & only come to the surface for the air. Sea lions can swim upright in the deeper sea with only their nose out of the water.

How long do Sea lions live?

The layers of teeth in the mouth of a sea lion can easily tell its lifespan. On average the sea lion lives up to 20 to 30 years. Many studies show that the male sea lion lives a short life as compared to the female.

what is a sea lion?


What is the difference between Sea lions and Seals?

Both seals and sea lions are from the mammal family of pinnipeds. There are many visible differences between sea lions and seals. The sea lion has an external ear as compared to the seal.

The seal on the other hand has a small opening for the ear they do not have the external ear flap. Seals have thinly webbed flippers with a claw which is useful in hunting whereas the sea lion has full-skin-covered flippers which are very useful in walking on land as well as swimming underwater.

Seals are very quiet and only communicate through low-frequency grunts. The sea lions are loud and noisy as compared to seals. Although both seals and sea lions are capable of living underwater and on land. But the seals are more comfortable living underwater.

The difference of Flippers in Sea lion and Seal

Both these species are similar in chubby body appearance but only seals possess adaptive dynamics for living underwater.  The flippers on seals can only move backward & do not rotate which makes them quick swimmers in water but also is a disadvantage to moving on land. Seals live a very antisocial life as they mostly prefer to live underwater.

Behavior differences in Sea lion and Seals

They only come in groups onshore once a year for mating. Seals prefer to live an unaccompanied life without interference. On the other hand, the sea lion is a social species and is popular for moving in big herds. The total capacity of these herds can reach up to 1,500 sea lion members. These herds are visible in the coastal regions in which sea lions stop and lounge in the sand and lie in the shapeless form under the sunlight.

Sea lions have a pelvic girdle through which they can move with more ease on land. The pelvic girdle helps them in rotating flippers located under their body which makes them walk like other animals.

Difference in Walking Patterns between Sea lion and Seal

The walking pattern of the seal is similar to a caterpillar. Seals move their faired body to push forward this requires less time and effort. In water, both seals and sea lions are similar in swimming. Sea lions use their big front flipper to swim with ease in water whereas seals move in a side-by-side pattern which gives the speed and agility to swim underwater.


In this article, we have elaborated and explained the most common questions about what is a sea lion and the difference between sea lions and seals with other useful information. These unique species are very important for the antarctic and tropical regions. It is our responsibility to understand their importance and place in the ecosystem. Love and appreciate them!





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