A California sea lion rests on the rocks
(courtesy of Dan Costa,
There are 34 species of Pinnipeds,
the "wing" or "fin-footed" mammals, which include
14 species of eared seals. The California sea lion belongs to the
family Otariidae which means "little ears". There are two
geographically separate subspecies of California sea lion recognized: Zalophus californianus californianus, which is found off
the west coast of North America, and Zalophus californianus wollebaeki,
which lives in the Galapagos Islands in the Central Pacific Ocean.
A third subspecies, Zalophus californianus japonicus once
lived near Japan but is now thought to be extinct. In the scientific
community, there are many debates concerning the ancestry of eared
seals. It is believed that eared seals and walrus' descended from
a bear-like ancestor that returned to the sea 30 million years ago
in the North Pacific.
The California sea lion is the playful, noisy, exuberant, quick
learning,"trained seal" of the circus and zoo. It has
a streamlined body, a thick layer of blubber and short, thick fur with typical coloring ranges from tan to chocolate
brown and may appear black when wet. Males, bulls,
are darker and bigger than females. Males may reach 1,000 lbs. (more
often 850 lbs., or 390 kg) and 7 feet (2.1 m) in length. Females, cows, are considerably smaller and grow
to 220 lbs. (110 kg) and up to 6 feet (1.8 m) in length. Pups are
about 75 cm long and weigh 13-20 lbs. (6-9 kg). The head has a pointed
muzzle and the profile resembles that of a dog.