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Fur Seals Eared Seals and Sea Lions: Otariidae

GalÁpagos Sea Lion (zalophus Wollebaeki): Species Accounts

Physical characteristics: Male Galápagos sea lions are dark brown to black, weigh up to 550 pounds (250 kilograms), and have a bump on the forehead. Females are lighter, weighing as much as 176 pounds (80 kilograms) and are tan or blonde in color.

Geographic range: Galápagos sea lions inhabit the Galápagos Islands, a group of islands considered a province of Ecuador.

Habitat: Galápagos sea lions favor gently sloping sandy and rocky beaches for breeding.

Galápagos sea lion pups nurse for up to a year, or until a sibling is born. (Tui De Roy/Bruce Coleman Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

Diet: Galápagos sea lions feed on squid and fish, including sardines, anchovies, mackerel, and rockfish in the upwelling waters, nutrient-rich waters rising from the ocean depths, along the coasts. During El Niño events, when fish populations either die or migrate, sea lions dive down deeper into the ocean to feed on lantern fish.

Behavior and reproduction: Galápagos sea lions stay on the islands year round. During the day, they forage in waters close to the islands. The breeding season is long, lasting from May to January. The cow nurses her pup for about a week, then feeds at sea, returning periodically to nurse. Three weeks after giving birth, cows are ready to mate. A bull may have as many as thirty cows in his territory. Some cows ignore boundaries, seeking males in other territories. Mating occurs in shallow water or on land. Bulls may help guard pups from sharks by a warning call or by moving them away from the water. Pups nurse for up to a year or until a sibling is born. Some cows nurse both the yearling and the newborn for another year.

Galápagos sea lions and people: Galápagos sea lions are popular tourist attractions on the islands. They are illegally hunted for their teeth for adornment, and the male genitals are believed to be aphrodisiacs, items that intensify or arouse sexual desires, in some Asian cultures.

Conservation status: The IUCN lists the Galápagos sea lion as Vulnerable due to El Niño events, tangling in fishing gear, and illegal hunting for body parts. ∎



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Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceMammalsFur Seals Eared Seals and Sea Lions: Otariidae - Physical Characteristics, Conservation Status, Antarctic Fur Seal (arctocephalus Gazella:): Species Accounts, California Sea Lion (zalophus Californianus): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET