The California Sea Lion (Zalophus californianus) is an aquatic marine (saltwater) mammal in the Pinnipedia Clade and Otariidae family of sea lions and fur seals. It is an otariid or otary – a seal with external ear flaps – and a pinniped – fin footed.
The California Sea Lion has light to brown or black fur, although the female can have light grey or silver fur after moulting. It does not have a mane of hair on its back, like other sea lions. It has a sleek, slender build with a thick neck, broad chest, broad shoulders, and a long, protruding face and nose. It has white whiskers on its chin called vibrissae. It has small external ears on the sides of its face.
It has flippers for swimming. Its movement in water is called aquatic locomotion. Its body is streamlined with oily fur for swimming fast underwater. It has a flexible spine (backbone). On land, it walks on its foreflippers (front flippers). Its fatty body, which keeps it warm and buoyant, is called blubber.
It grows to 180-240 centimetres (71-94 inches) long. The male has a thicker neck and is larger than the female.
It is native to western North America. It prefers the coastal areas from Alaska to central Mexico, including the Gulf of California. It spends most of its time at sea, but it comes to land to breed and to shed its fur. It prefers sandy or rocky beaches.
It feeds on fish and squid, as well as clams. Its predators include the Killer Whale and the Great White Shark.
The California Sea Lion is territorial when it is on land. The male protects his territory, called a rookery, but females can move freely between different males’ territories.
The female is pregnant for 270 days, or 9 months, which is about the same time as a female human pregnancy. The female California Sea Lion gives birth to one live young, called a pup. The pup is born with dark brown fur. It sheds its juvenile fur and grows adult fur after 4-6 months of age.
[Location of photographs: Berlin Zoo, Germany]
Photographer: Martina Nicolls
Martina Nicolls: SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT IN THE ANIMAL KINGDOM