Otariinae translates from Latin as “small-eared,” and it’s a family of seals that the Sea Lions are a part of. There are six confirmed species of Sea Lion, although in the past, there were 7. Sea Lions and the other species of said family have flaps on their external ears, unlike real seals. 

They can walk on all four of their massive front flippers while they are on land because of how big they are. Sea Lions use their front flippers to paddle and their back flippers to guide them as they move through the water.


There are a few types of Sea lions that have some key features to differentiate. They’re known as Northern, Southern, Californian, Galapagos, Australian, and Auckland Sea Lions. The largest Sea Lions are the reddish-brown northern Sea Lions. Because of their intelligence, California Sea Lions are the ones with which you are probably most familiar because they appear in the media. 

Sea Lion close to a sandy shore, most likely from the southern species.
Sea Lion close to a sandy shore, most likely from the southern species

The Sea Lions of the Galapagos are somewhat smaller than those in California. The Southern Sea Lion has a darker brown, golden, or light gold belly and a shorter, broader nose. Australian Sea Lions have very dark brown bodies with a white to golden mane. The Auckland Sea Lion is somewhat smaller than the Australian Sea Lion and has a black or extremely dark brown coat.


Being carnivores, all Sea Lions consume fish, squid, crabs, and clams. However, most notable is the Northern Sea Lion which, since it is the largest, is known to consume other smaller seals as well. Sea Lions typically consume their prey as a whole, but in the case of crustaceans, they break down the shell. Before ingesting food with a hard shell, they smash it with their flat back teeth.

In order for the fish or squid to slip headfirst down the throat, Sea Lions frequently throw the prey up and about. This feeding technique is usually a showcase trick that the Californian Sea Lion is most famous for.


With the significant exception of the northern Atlantic Ocean, the range of Sea Lions encompasses both subarctic and tropical seas throughout the world’s oceans. As we mentioned above, the species of Sea Lions are differentiated by their location. Across the board, Sea Lions frequently inhabit small rocky patches and islands.

A couple of Sea Lions sleeping together on a beach.
A couple of Sea Lions sleeping together on a beach

Southern Sea Lions keep to the west coast of South America off the borders of Ecuador, Peru, Chile, the Falkland Islands, Argentina, and Uruguay. Northerner Sea Lions live in the North Pacific Ocean and may be found along the coasts of Russia and Alaska. Off New Zealand’s coast, you may find Auckland Sea Lions. Australian, Californian, and Galapagos Sea Lion origins are practically a given.


Sea Lions breed on either rocky or sandy shores, depending on the subspecies. The species’ females normally give birth to one pup at a time. Sea Lions have a gestation period of around a year. However, the breeding season varies according to the subspecies.

Swimming and hunting skills begin at three months old, and sea lions nurse their young for up to a year. To entice females, males work to establish the ideal mating location. Best breeding environments are those with secure access to adjacent water and are safe from predators.


Sea lions are naturally preyed upon by killer whales and great white sharks. Additionally, feral dog groups are a concern for the Galapagos subpopulation. Along with a lack of food and natural predators, diseases and human encroachment threaten sea lion numbers. 

Smaller Sea Lions secured on top of a rock.
Smaller Sea Lions secured on top of a rock

Fishing nets are particularly dangerous to sea lions because they become caught in their loops and struggle to escape. However, because the nets are immersed underwater for extended periods of time, the sea lions frequently are unable to flee in time and perish. Marine animals are also at risk from fishing hooks.

Facts about the Sea Lion

  1. Sea Lions are mammals, meaning the females can produce milk for their young.
  2. Sea Lions can go to a depth of 1000 ft and hold their breath for 30 minutes.
  3. Sea Lions are highly intelligent species that can understand basic sign language.
  4. The US Navy has explored the recon potential of Sea Lions.
  5. Old Sea Lions are prone to cancer, pneumonia, and epilepsy.


Are Seals and Sea Lions the same?

In the group of marine mammals known as “pinnipeds,” seals and sea lions have some similarities and differences. Brown in color with obvious ear flaps, sea lions have a loud bark and can “walk” on land with their enormous flippers. Seals move on their stomachs on land, have tiny flippers, and don’t have discernible ear flaps.

Do Sea Lions hurt humans?

Although sea lions are usually not harmful, they may attack if they are unwell, feel intimidated, are in the mating season, or have become habituated to people, or are being harassed. When wild animals attack, people are frequently to blame.

Why is it called a Sea Lion?

The term “Sea Lion” comes from the Sea Lion’s large size, broad neck, and lengthier hair that most notably would be compared to savannah lions.

Can I pet a Sea Lion?

Sea lions may appear nice and placid, but they are wild creatures that have been known to bite, lash, or rush humans if they feel frightened or anxious, which can cause significant harm. Always maintain a safe distance, and respect the Sea Lions’ habitat.

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