difference between sea lion and seal

The Difference Between Sea Lion and Seal: Understanding Two Similar Mammals

When it comes to aquatic mammals, it can be easy to confuse a sea lion and a seal. Both are adorable creatures that spend most of their time in the water, and they may seem interchangeable because of that.

However, there are significant differences between the two, from their physical appearance and behavior to their habitat and natural history. In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at what sets them apart and why it matters.

Physical Appearance and Behavior

Although they belong to the same family (Otariidae), there are some noticeable differences in how seals and sea lions look and act.

Seals are generally smaller and more streamlined than sea lions. They have blubber, or fat, under their skin to keep them warm in cold waters, and their front flippers have a thin layer of skin, which they use to swim by undulating from side to side. Their hind flippers are pointed backward, which makes them better at propelling themselves through the water.

On the other hand, sea lions are bigger and more muscular. They have a thicker fur coat that helps them stay warm in water and on land. Their front flippers have long, flexible digits that allow them to “walk” on land, climb rocks, and even swim backward. Their hind flippers are broad and flat, which makes them excellent swimmers and divers.

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In terms of behavior, sea lions are more social and vocal than seals. They’re known for their distinctive barks and roars, which they use to communicate with one another. They also gather in large groups on rocky shores or man-made structures called rookeries, where they mate, give birth, and raise their young.

Seals, on the other hand, are more solitary and quiet. They tend to spend more time in the water and come ashore only to rest, molt, or give birth. When they do congregate, it’s usually in small groups, and they communicate with one another through body language and pheromones.

Habitat and Natural History

Seals and sea lions live in different parts of the world and face different environmental pressures.

Seals are found in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, from the Arctic Circle to Antarctica. There are 18 species of seals, including the famous harp seal, leopard seal, and elephant seal. They eat mostly fish, squid, and crustaceans and are preyed upon by polar bears, killer whales, and sharks.

Sea lions, on the other hand, are only found in the Pacific Ocean, from California to Peru, and around the Galápagos Islands. There are six species of sea lions, including the California sea lion, Steller sea lion, and Australian sea lion. They eat a variety of fish, squid, and octopuses and are sometimes targeted by human hunters for their meat, blubber, and fur.

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Both seals and sea lions face threats from climate change, pollution, overfishing, and habitat loss. Some populations have declined significantly in recent years, while others have been listed as endangered or threatened by conservation organizations.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, while seals and sea lions may seem similar at first glance, they have a lot of differences when it comes to their physical appearance, behavior, habitat, and natural history. Understanding these differences is essential for anyone who wants to appreciate these amazing creatures and help protect them for future generations to enjoy.

Table difference between sea lion and seal

Sea Lion Seal
Has external ear flaps No external ear flaps
Swims using front flippers and back flippers Swims using back flippers only
Can walk upright on land using all four flippers Can only drag themselves on their bellies on land
Larger in size and weight Smaller in size and weight
Vocalize using barks and growls Vocalize using grunts and hisses