GoPro: Galápagos Sea Lions
Florian Fischer and Patricio Garcés go diving with friendly Galápagos sea lions off the coasts of the Galápagos Islands.
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Sea lions are sea mammals characterized by external ear flaps, long foreflippers, the ability to walk on all fours, and short, thick hair. Together with the fur seals, they comprise the family Otariidae, eared seals, which contains six extant and one extinct species (theJapanese sea lion) in five genera. Their range extends from the subarctic to tropical waters of the global ocean in both the Northernand Southern Hemispheres, with the notable exception of the northern Atlantic Ocean. They have an average lifespan of 20–30 years. A male California sea lion weighs on average about 300 kg (660 lb) and is about 8 ft (2.4 m) long, while the female sea lion weighs 100 kg (220 lb) and is 6 ft (1.8 m) long. The largest sea lion is Steller’s sea lion, which can weigh 1,000 kg (2,200 lb) and grow to a length of 10 ft (3.0 m). Sea lions consume large quantities of food at a time and are known to eat about 5–8% of their body weight (about 15–35 lb (6.8–15.9 kg)) at a single feeding.
The name sea lion is somewhat misleading, as sea lions are only distantly related to lions and other felines. Sea lions evolved from the canines, splitting from the bear line after it split from other dogs. But still all sea lions make a roaring sound and the males of some species like the southern sea lion have a lionlike mane.
Sea lion attacks on humans are rare. In a highly unusual attack in 2007 in Western Australia, a sea lion leapt from the water and seriously mauled a 13-year-old girl surfing behind a speedboat. The sea lion appeared to be preparing for a second attack when the girl was rescued. An Australian marine biologist opined the sea lion may have viewed the girl “like a rag doll toy” to be played with. In San Francisco, where an increasingly large population of California sea lions crowds docks along San Francisco Bay, incidents have been reported in recent years of swimmers being bitten on the legs by large, aggressive males, possibly as territorial acts.