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THE GALÁPAGOS SEA LION (Zalophus wollebaeki)



Today I would like to write to you about the Galápagos Sea lions. The most abundant marine mammal in the Archipelago. They are widespread along the coastline and can be seen all year round (as rarely migrating)  on the beaches or swimming close to shore. What a beautiful creature ! It is unique to The Galapagos Island,  its endemic however endangered ! It can’t be found nowhere else in the world. There are several different species of Sea lions in the world and there are also other species called Seals.  Both are marine mammals called “pinniped” >  or in other words “fin footed” that differ in physical characteristic and adaptations.  But we can called theme easily a cousins ! There are one of two types of seal found in Galapagos and are part of the eared seal family- having external ear pinnae.

The story is that Seal and the Sea lion will differ from the place where they live, even if both they come from the same ancestor. Sealions are not “true” seals, as they are able to rotate their hind flipper under their pelvic girdle and lack the characteristic long, finger-like claws of trues seals.  The configuration of their pelvic girdle allows them to “gallop” across land, reaching speeds exceeding that of a running person on rocky terrain. Sea lions has less hair (mini external hair also called” furry”) than Seals, which are more hairy. Because Seals usually are living on much colder places versus Sea lions which happens to have a better living on much warmer places around the world, in other word in the tropical areas like on the Galapagos Islands. So in general we  know for sure that both of them, they have similar ways of living: so having a family, and very often one male has more females. Seals are living rather on rocks meanwhile the Sea lions prefer sandy beaches. Sealions are brown, bark loudly, “walk” on land using their large flippers and have visible ear flaps. Seals have small flippers, wriggle on their bellies on land, are quieter, vocalizing via soft grunts and lack visible ear flaps. Both specie spend time in and out of the water, seals are better adapted to live in the water than on land. This makes them fast in the water but basic belly crawlers on terra firma. Finally, Sea lions are more social than Seals as these ones often leas solidary lives in the wild , coming ashore together only once a year to meet and mate. Sea lions live in gregarious groups called herds or rafts that can reach upwards of 1,500 individuals. its common for scores of them to haul out together and loll about in the sand, comprising and amorphous pile in the noonday sun.

Sea lions they have only one baby at the time. It’s very interesting that its takes about only 6 Months to a year for a baby to stay with the mother and then they become very independent right away. They have whiskers, very interesting moustache which happens to be very important to them to direct movements. And these very sensitive whiskers are connected to the brain. These animals can dive around 1500 feet when they go for fish. But they love to eat a squid. Anything that can provide them a good oil to their body is really good for them ! These animals have a little problem with parasites , they like to live in colonies , in the groups , females always living with males. Males are in charge for protection of the main groups of the colony, because they are larger and bigger this means these animals are trying to go fight something bigger. Which usually is going to be a larger sharks. That’s why the male are often so bumpy  with big muscles as they will be confronted in faith with big creatures. Females are smaller and they have beautiful hair as they don’t need to face any bigger animals. Sharks and killer whales are the main predators of the sea lion. Although adult sea lions have less to worry about, pups are easy targets. 

We need to think of the Sea lions as a colony. The name “colony” refers to many members which as in any other family , most have- individually speaking very unique characteristics. The whole idea is that everything is made in order to create a better colony. And all members can make it strength when they are very strong or by making their typical nice sounds. The idea that there is one or rather 2 problems in common. First problem: SHARKS,  Second problem: FOOD. The colony has to keep very important discipline but also very interesting behaviour with different needs. Number one: baby Sea lion is calling mama and mama is calling baby – first important need. The Mum has to educate the baby by 100% on every single intension that she will be with him. Because her time will be very limited to be with the child. Its only 1 to 3 years that she is going to be able to train her baby. After this period of time mother will leave the baby on its own. Because reproduction here plays an important role which has to be respected, as the sea lion baby can continue its own life and mother needs to keep reproducing by having new babies and new choices. So the more babies will be able to reproduce the more effective she will be for her species. If we talk about the males sea lions, they are very big and very strong. They have to be that way because normally they are going to have to pretend to control more members – and it’s not pretending only because the more members they control, the more stronger they are going to be. That’s important to be well fat. In order to be well fat, males Sea lions have to dive very deep. So it means that in order to go diving deeper , the Sea lions has to be with smooth hair and also they must have huge masses of fat  as well as masses of muscles and they need to use big flippers. They are able to transform into 400 kg living “ Torpedoes” directing its diving to the depth of 350 or even 700 meters, capable of moving with the elegance and agility of a ballet dancer. They can stay submerged for almost ten minutes thanks to so called the mammalian dive reflex (supported by bradycardia, by peripheral vasoconstriction and by splenic contraction –typical marine mammals inner reflexes) 

Feeding primarily on sardines, Galapagos Sealions are experts at manoeuvring and hunting underwater where they could be able to look for giant squids. Which is something fat enough to provide them enough oils and energy, please remember in order to control , to protect and to guide their colonies when they will have their babies. So all these members need to be under the care of male Sea lions which is the only one giving “ his chest to the bullets” like with sharks coming approaching the coast line and targeting baby sea lions. That’s why the males in such dangerous situation they make a very distinctive sound. Male Sea lions have a large teeth and need to eat about 100 pound of fish every single day. The Galapagos Sea lion is the smallest sea lion species but their loud bark, playful nature, and graceful agility in water make them the “welcoming party” of the islands !







To avoid overheating during the day , sea lions will take refuge from the sun under vegetation, rocks, cliffs or even under a park bench like here in Puerto Ayora or in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno !