The group of maritime mammals dubbed pinnipeds is comprised of three carefully related families: Otariidae (eared seals), the family members to which California sea lions belong; Phocidae (true seals); and also Odobenidae (walrus). The hatchet pinniped is derived from the Latin pinna, definition winged, and ped, meaning foot, introduce to the figure of the flippers of these families.

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The genus name, Zalophus, is obtained from the Greek prefix za and also lophos for crest, introduce to the large sagittal comb on the skull the a mature male sea lion. There space three subspecies in the genus Zalopus based on geographic location and also some morphological differences: California sea lion, Zalopus californianus; Galapagos sea lion, Z. Wollebaeki; and the Japanese sea lion Z. Japonicus , i m sorry is presumed to be extinct.


Robin Riggs


California Sea Lion

Zalophus californianus

CONSERVATION STATUS: Species or populace Dependent

CLIMATE CHANGE: Not Applicable

At the Aquarium

Our sea lions room on check out in the Seals and Sea Lions Habitat.

Geographic Distribution

Eastern phibìc Pacific indigenous Vancouver Island, british Columbia south to Baja California, Mexico including the Gulf of California.


Sea lions inhabit warm or subtropical waters. Castle haul out on quiet sandy beaches, offshore rocks, and on man-made structures such together piers, boats, breakwaters, and buoys. They stay close to the water’s edge of beaches throughout warm weather, relocating inland or up seaside slopes during cool weather or at night.

Physical Characteristics

The adult male’s human body is durable at the neck, shoulders, and also chest through a rather slender hind end, when females and juveniles room slender-bodied and an ext streamlined. These sea lions have actually a long, straight, and also narrow snout and also distinct, small, external ears. Long paddle-like fore flippers that finish in small claws through hair top top the top surface prolonging past the wrist are used for propulsion v the water. Their hind flippers, offered as rudders for steering, are much shorter and have actually fleshy tips and short narrow claws in ~ the end of the digits. They have a small but distinctive tail. Mature males have actually a prominent protruding forehead with a large bump the bone called the sagittal crest. The comb is topped by a irradiate colored hair tuft. Unlike various other sea lions, California sea lions do not have a lion-like mane.

Adult males are mainly a dark chocolate-brown color, except for irradiate tan areas on the face. They appear black as soon as wet. Many males execute not fade to a lighter shade after molting. However, a small number execute remain light yellow to blond their entire lifetime. Adult females and juveniles room tan or blond except for a short period after molting once they room light gray come silver-gray. Molting begins at around puberty. Adult males seem come molt in January and February, v females and also juveniles molting from at an early stage autumn with the winter. Pups are dark brown come black once born, fading to irradiate brown within a few weeks. At around four to five months that age, pups molt come a light gray pelage, darkening to a dark cacao that fades to irradiate tan.


Adult masculine sea lions may reach a size of 2.4 m (7 ft 10 in) and a load of 390 kg (860 lb). Females room markedly smaller reaching a maximum size of 2 m (6 ft 7 in) and also a weight of 110 kg (240 lb).


These pinnipeds space opportunistic feeders commonly seeking food in cool, upwelling waters close to the coast, roughly seamounts, follow me the continent shelf, and also occasionally top top the sea bottom, Mackerel, market squid, anchovy, rockfish, and salmon room favorite food items. Food is swallowed whole without chewing. They contend with commercial and also sport fishermen, steal hooked prey, catch from nets, and also salmon migrating to spawning areas.


Females space mature at 3 years that age and males at five. This sea lions congregate in large colonies in breeding and also birthing areas—the Channel Islands turn off the coastline of central California, islands follow me the north Pacific coast of Baja California consisting of Guadalupe Island; islands along the east coastline of Baja California; and on beaches in the mid and also southern Gulf the California. Males come at breeding grounds prior to females and set up regions that will eventually include three to forty females.

Birthing the sea lions takes place on land. Soon after arrival, native late might through July, the pregnant females give birth come pups conceived in the past year’s reproduction season around 12 month ago. The pups sweet 6-9 kg (13-20 lb) in ~ birth. Within about three mainly after giving birth, females are ready to breed again. Males contend to mate through the females and also defend their territory with ritualized physical screens including vocalized threats, wild posturing, and also occasionally physics combat. Delayed implantation the the fertilized egg in the mother’s uterus ensures that her pup will be born in ~ the reproduction ground as soon as colonies kind again a year later.

Females stay with your pups for the an initial seven come ten days and also then begin to forage at sea for one to 3 days in ~ a time. Returning to shore, lock quickly find their pup through smell and also vocalization. They invest a day on coast after each foraging duration nursing the pup. An older pup might accompany its mommy on some foraging trips. Younger pups congregate in huge groups to play and also socialize. Pups are weaned abruptly and also abandoned by their mothers usually when six month old.


California sea lions space social animals. As soon as hauled the end they rest close to and often on optimal of every other. The noise level in the colonies is extreme as a an outcome of their according to vocalizing that part have contrasted to a lion’s roar or dog’s bark. They may forms rafts or travel and also play in groups of twelve or more.

These pinnipeds may spend numerous days to number of weeks at sea foraging. Throughout this time they dive practically continuously, taking brief surface rests. In the summer, females dive for up to 4 minutes to 75 m (245 ft). In winter, your dives are deeper and also longer. The maximum dive time recorded is 12 minutes and the best diving depth is 536 m (1,760 ft).

They use their flippers to aid regulate your body temperature. They remainder on the surface ar of the water on your backs through heads and flippers over the water. They wave their flippers in the air to absorb heat from the sun and to lose warmth to the water.


California sea lions room well adapted to their marine environment. Limbs that developed into flippers and also body shape enables efficient movement through the water. Their thick blubber great aids in temperature control. Vision is crawl and much better in the water 보다 out. Very sensitive vibrissae or whiskers are an essential sensory component when the animal is searching for food or swim in a dark or constricted area. Muscle organization myoglobin shop relatively large quantities that oxygen, help the pet during long periods under water and also during deep dives. The myoglobin can supply oxygen as soon as other oxygen resources are exhausted. Sea lions have actually the capacity to straight oxygen-rich blood to critical organs wherein it is many needed.


Female California sea lions have a lifespan of 18-25 years. The of males is contempt less.


Although hunted in the past, the current sea lion populace has enhanced substantially follow me the United states west coast because the i of the marine Mammal protection Act that 1972. Of the five types of sea lions, the California sea lion is the just one in i beg your pardon the populace has increased. This rise in numbers has resulted in conflicts with marina owners, fishermen, and also local federal governments as the sea lions have damaged boats and docks, ‘stolen’ fish native fishing gear and also salmon runs, and also hauled the end in number on popular beaches. The disputes have escalated in ~ the Bonneville Dam ~ above the Columbia river in Washington State wherein the sea lions target salmon congregating at fish ladders to go upstream come spawn. NOAA’s Office that Fisheries issued permits to Washington , Oregon, and also Idaho to catch or death as many as 85 sea lions at the basic of the dam for five years. The allow was tested in court and a decision to be made that only catch in trap is permitted. Captured animals are one of two people relocated in the wild or sent to the safeguarded environments the zoos or aquariums. There have been reports that trapped pets being illegally shot and killed through unknown persons.

Sea lions are affected by transforms in water temperature connected with climate changes such as El Niño. Together the water warms, many of their food sources relocate to cooler waters, making it an overwhelming for the sea lions to find food close to their reproduction areas. Education females forage for food further and further away from your land-bound pups, regularly resulting in abandonment that the pups.

Nonpoint polluting runoff, (for example, agricultural runoff; pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers supplied in home gardening), boosts the nutrient load of seawater frequently resulting in harmful algae blooms, a red birds that to produce domoic mountain poisoning in sea lions and also other naval mammals and seabirds.

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Marine mammal care centers each year treat sea lions affected by these climatic changes, parasitic and also bacterial infections, and also human-caused injuries. The goal is come rehabilitate the pets so they deserve to be returned to the wild. If a decision is made the the pet could not endure in the wild, such as is often the case with abandoned pups, they space released to protected environments. Odin, among the Aquarium of the Pacific’s former sea lions, came from the marine Mammal care Center at fort McArthur in san Pedro, California.