California sea lions live along the shores of western North America and the Galapagos Islands. Their diet mainly includes fish, shellfish and squid. California sea lions have an average lifespan of fewer than 30 years in the wild.
California Sea Lion
Scientific & Common Names
Kingdom - Animalia
Phylum - Chordata
Class - Mammalia
Order - Carnivora
Suborder - Caniformia
Clade - Pinnepeda
Family - Otariidae
Genus - Zalophus
Species - Z. californianus
Common Names - California Sea Lion
California sea lions have dark brown fur. Males also have lighter fur on their sides and belly. They have ear flaps, strong front flippers, back flippers that rotate and a sleek body shape. Adults measure between 5.5 and 7.25 feet and weigh between 610 and 860 pounds.
California sea lions typically breed in early July, and females give birth to one pup after a gestation period of about 11 months. The pups are weaned when they are between six and 12 months old, and they reach reproductive maturity when they are four or five years old. Mothers care for their female pups for a longer period of time than male pups.
California sea lions gather in large groups on piers, docks and other manmade structures, as well as on rocks, during the breeding and birthing seasons. They communicate through vocalizations, including barks and growls. They are capable of hunting for up to 30 hours at a time, which they do by diving for up to five minutes at a time. At times, they are also able to slow their heart rate and remain submerged for up to 10 minutes. California sea lions are playful and intelligent, which is why they are among the most commonly trained species that perform in aquariums and zoos.
California sea lions are believed to have descended from bear-like mammals that adapted to the sea roughly 30 million years ago. Their populations have remained abundant for most of their history, although they did decline significantly during 1983 and 1984, when food shortages and a much lower birth rate occurred.
The California sea lion is listed as Least Concern because the species is considered abundant throughout its range. In some areas, populations are also increasing. There are a few threats to the species, which include poaching, entanglement in debris, pollutants, disease and conflicts with fisheries. California sea lions are protected legally under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972.