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Zalophus Californianus - California Sea Lion | Riverhead, New York

© Sophie W. Smith

Joined October 2012

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Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Pinnipedia
Family: Otariidae
Subfamily: Otariinae
Genus: Zalophus
Gill, 1866
Species: Z. californianus
Binomial name
Zalophus californianus

The California sea lion (Zalophus californianus) is a coastal eared seal native to western North America. It is one of five species of sea lion. Its natural habitat ranges from southeast Alaska to central Mexico, including the Gulf of California. Sea lions are sexually dimorphic, males are larger than females, and have a thicker neck and protruding crest. They mainly haul-out on sandy or rocky beaches, but they also frequent manmade environments such as marinas and wharves. Sea lions feed on a number of species of fish and squid, and are preyed on by Orcas and white sharks.

California sea lions have a polygynous breeding pattern. From May to August, males establish territories and try to attract females to mate with. Females are free to move in between territories, and are not coerced by males. Mothers nurse their pups in between foraging trips. Sea lions communicate with numerous vocalizations, notably with barks and mother-pup contact calls. Outside of their breeding season, sea lions spend much of their time at sea, but they come to shore to molt.

Sea lions are particularly intelligent, can be trained to perform various tasks and display limited fear of humans if accustomed to them. Because of this, California sea lions are a popular choice for public display in zoos, circuses and oceanariums, and are trained by the United States Navy for certain military operations. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the species as Least Concern due to its abundance. Predation by California sea lions on threatened or endangered salmon species at Bonneville Dam has resulted in more than 50 of them being killed by state officials. Read more

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