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California Sea Lion - Zalophus californianus
Photo by Howard Hall

The California sea lion is known as one of the eared seals, having pinna, which are small furry ear flaps. The sea lion is a graceful and acrobatic swimmer that is also highly maneuverable on land. Sea lions will often jump high out of the water while they travel from one place to another. Their ability to race through the water is due to their streamlined bodies and large pectoral flippers. Sea lions use their speed and maneuverability to catch an assortment of small fish and squid. Once on the land, they are known to gather in large groups and make loud sounds, similar to dogs barking.

California Sea Lion
(Zalophus californianus)

Vancouver Island,to Mexico

Open water, kelp beds, offshore rocks and sandy beaches along coastal regions

Fish, squid and octopus


The status of this species is representative of the populations within the waters of this Sanctuary only, not global populations.

Quick Fact
The stomach of an average California sea lion may contain as many as 100 pieces of gravel sized rocks. No one is sure yet what they are used for but it is believed that they are used to ease hunger pains during their mating and fasting periods.

Learn More
- Office of Naval Research