The Galapagos Sea Lions are playful and curious by nature. These sea animals have become very popular among visitors.
They are an endemic species and its scientific name is Zalophus wollebaeki. They are smaller than the Californian sea lions which are their closest relatives.
They can be seen everywhere in the Galapagos Islands either out in the sea when hunting for fish as well as on most Islands. They prefer sandy beaches and gentle rocky shores.
Sea lions are fin-footed mammals with incredible abilities in water. Their agility in the water makes it possible for them to maneuver safely in pounding surf and along jagged rocks.
The Galapagos sea lions are warm-blooded mammals that have adapted over the years to live in the water. Millions of years ago their ancestors were land creatures who hunted the coastline for food.
Their adaptation, unlike other marine mammals much as whales and dolphins, did not make sea lions completely independent of the land as they spend a portion of their life lazing along the coast.
Galapagos Sea Lions are one of the most noticeable marine mammals on the Galapagos Islands. They have a body length between 60 - 98 inches and they weight between 50 and 400 Kgs. Males are larger than females.
Males are brown and females tend to be a lighter. Their bodies are well suited for fast swimming and they have well developed fore flippers which they use to propel themselves through the water.
They can control their hind flippers independently which enables them to move around more effectively on land.
When males reach puberty they begin to develop a raised forehead and sometimes the color of their chests is lighter than the rest of their bodies.
Mating season is generally from July to December. A dominant male will reign over a territory. It will fight with other males for control of the territory and breeding colony.
There are multiple reproductive groups present in each breeding colony.
These include males, females, juveniles and pups. Females are known to move between territories if they find the dominant male unsuitable for breeding.
Each female in the harem has a single pup born a year after conception. The pups have a strong bond with their mother. The female will nurture a pup for up to three years.
In that time the sea lion female and the pup will recognize each other's bark from the rest of the colony.
The mother's will take the young pups with them into the water while nursing. When the pup is 2 - 3 weeks old the female will mate again.
With their adaptation and graceful ability in water it seems incredible that baby seals need to learn to swim.
Seals are born on land and are taught to swim by their mothers.
Within the colony sea lion pups live together in a rookery. Pups can be seen together napping, playing, and feeding.
It is common to see a Galapagos sea lion female baby sitting a group of pups while the other females in the colony go off to feed.
Galapagos sea lions spend a lot of their time swimming in the ocean but while on land they prefer sandy beaches and flat rocky areas that have plenty of shade and tidal pools.
While at sea they will rarely swim further than 10 miles from the coast.
Sea lions are curious and its social nature makes them more likely to approach areas inhabited by humans, this can cause them some negative effects when they come in contact with human waste and with fishing nets and hooks.
Their diet consists mainly on fish, squid, octopus and crustaceans.
Galapagos sea lions can be seen all over the Islands. Don't miss the opportunity to go snorkeling and kayaking with the playful pups surrounding you.
This is often one of the most impressive highlights that Galapagos will offer you during your trip.
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