Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

California Sea Lion

Zalophus californianus


Fun Facts

    Sea lions use their long front flippers to steer and propel themselves through the water.

    Most of the iconic trained seals of marine parks and circuses are actually California sea lions.



  California sea lions range from British Columbia to Central Mexico. They belong to a group of pinnipeds called "eared seals" (Family Otariidae). This Family includes sea lions and fur seals, all having visible ear flaps; unlike "true seals", such as harbor seals, which only have a small hole where the ear opening is located. California sea lions have a warm, chocolate-brown colored fur coat. Males are slightly darker than females. When sea lions are dry, from "hauling out", their coats often appear lighter, and golden in color. Sea lions are sleek with long front flippers and hind flippers that rotate under their body. This allows them to walk on all four "limbs" when they are out of the water, giving them extra mobility, and the ability to climb very well.  
Sexual dimorphism, a difference in appearance between males and females, is especially apparent in the California sea lion. Males are over two times as big as females (males are up to 850 lbs and 7.5 ft long, females up to 240 lbs and 5.5 ft long). Males also have a larger head with a mound or bump on top, called a sagital crest.
An exhibit on the California sea lion can be found at the Aquarium in the Seabirds and Pinnipeds Room.