Have you ever thought of the difference between sea lions and seals? Sea lions and seals might look similar at a glance, however, they have a number of differences in their physical characteristics and behaviors. Sea lions is also considered one of the aquatic mammals.
Sea lions and seals are two different families of marine mammals. They are known as pinnipeds, originating from Latine terms “pinna” and “ped” which mean feather-footed.
Pinnipeds are semi-aquatic animals and split their time between the water and land habitats close to the shoreline. All seals and sea lions have short fur and whiskers, which are known as vibrissae. These whiskers are important as sensors while they’re hunting.
So, what makes them different? Let’s check the obvious differences between seals and sea lions.
Regarding to the body color, seals and sea lions have different coloring. All sea lions have plain brown fur, starting from tan to a dark chestnut brown. In contrast, sea lions come in various patterns and colors, depending on their species. They can be spotted, white to gray to a brownish-black.
Both seals and sea lions have front and back flippers. Each flipper for seals and sea lions is different. Seals typically have furry, stubby, short front feet. These feet are actually thin-webbed flippers with a claw on each toe. On the other hand, sea lions have long, skin covered front flippers.
Regarding to their back flippers, they are also different. Seals have hind flippers that extend directly behind their bodies. These hind flippers aren’t able to rotate.
On the contrary, sea lions have longer hind flippers along with the unique rotating hip bone. The rotating hip bones allow them to tuck the rear flippers under their body.
- Moving in Water
Both seals and sea lions have water as their home, however, due to their physical differences, they swim by using different techniques. In water, seals use the black flippers to generate powerful strokes side to side, similar to a fish tail.
Different with seals, sea lions swim by propelling themselves by using their long front flippers. Also read more about dangerous marine animals in Australia.
- Moving on Land
Seals have similar motion to caterpillars while they are moving on land. They shift their weight from front to bag and wiggle around on their bellies. Sea lions, however, due to size and strength of their flippers, they rotate their hind flippers toward the ground.
Sea lions are able to walk, even jog, on all the four flippers. The ability to move both on land and in water makes sea lion a favorite for water shows. That’s why we often see sea lions displayed at aquarium and marine parks.
Sea lions are considered as very noisy animals, as they communicate and mark their territory by using a combination of loud barks, roars, growls, bellows and bleats. On the other hand, seals are much quieter. They communicate with each other by using moans, hisses or soft grunts.
Seals are considered less social when they are compared with sea lions. Seals spend most of the time in water than sea lions. As a result, they tend to have predominantly solitary lives. They only come onshore in groups to mate once a year. A group of seals is called a herd.
Different with seals, sea lions are more sociable. They are often found in large groups both on land and in water. Interestingly, the group can consist upwards of 100,000 members. A group of sea lions in water is called a raft, while on land is called a colony.
Seal is listed as one of the animals in Antarctica, besides penguins.
Seals and sea lions also have different ears. Sea lions have external ears that protrude their heads. That’s why they are also called as the eared seals. The external ears covered the actual opening of the ears.
On the other hand, seals have no external ear flap. Instead, they have ear holes. They use these ear holes to hear, but they are barely visible unless with close inspection.
Apart from those differences, there are some interesting facts about these two creatures. Sea lions can swim at speed up to 25 to 30 miles per hour, while seals can swim a bit slower up to 23 miles per hour.
Besides, sea lion’s age can be told from the layers in his or her teeth, like a tree trunk. The average life span of a sea lion is about 20 years. Do you know that seals can sleep underwater. They can slow down their heartbeat and hold their breath for long periods of time to conserve oxygen!