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Can You Tell the Difference Between a Male and Female Sea Lion?

When you’re looking at animals, it’s often very difficult to tell the difference between a male and a female. Coral World is home to a wide variety of animal species, and whether you’re looking at a turtle, a stingray, a shark, an iguana, or a lorikeet, it’s safe to say you have no idea if you’re looking at a boy or a girl.

The sea lions at Coral World are the exception to this rule. Sea lions are known as a sexually dimorphic species. This is a fancy way of saying that males and females look significantly different. You don’t need a detailed physical exam or to look underneath them. You just need to look at them – if you know what to look for.

Male sea lions grow much larger than females. South American sea lion males, like the boys at Coral World, will average somewhere between 500-600 pounds when they are fully grown. Females won’t reach anywhere close to this size. A female South American sea lion will average between 150-300 pounds. Omar is our smallest sea lion here at Coral World. He has a very small body frame and is not yet fully grown. At 330 pounds, however, he is still bigger than even the largest of females.

Male sea lions also will have observable physical characteristics that females lack. California sea lion males grow large bumps on their forehead. These bumps are called sagittal crests. Our sea lions think they look very silly, and they’re happy that their heads are very smooth. However, South American sea lion males will also develop a physical trait to differentiate them from females: a big, fluffy mane of hair around their necks. They’re not called sea lions for nothing. The manes on the males are very similar to the manes that true lion males grow.

The next time you visit Coral World or any other marine facility, take a look at the sea lions and see if you can tell; male or female? Now you know how to tell.