Sea Lion Facts

South American Sea Lion Fun Facts


  1. Did you know that South American sea lions and other pinnipeds (seals, sea lions and walruses) are descendent from a land-based carnivore that lived 27-25 million years ago? Pretty cool right!
  2. Do you know the difference between seals and sea lions? Although closely related, these animals are quite different from one another. Unlike seals, sea lions have an upright posture, small external ears and hind flippers that can rotate forward allowing for them to walk and run on land. Unlike seals, sea lions are also extremely social animals that gather in large groups on land called herds or rafts.
  3. Although South American sea lions are marine mammals, they spend a lot of time on land. Adult South American Sea lions must return to land to sleep, reproduce and take care of their young!
  4. South American sea lions can see really well underwater, but did you know that they can also see fairly well on land?
  5. South American sea lions have whiskers on their mouths and eyelashes called vibrissae that can feel sounds and movements! These vibrissae are 10 times as sensitive as dog and cat whiskers. South American sea lions use vibrissae to find food, to avoid predators, to navigate in dark or muddy waters and to interact with other sea lions on land!
  6. Did you know that South American sea lions swallow their food whole? They do this because they don’t have molars!
  7. Every year, South American sea lions shed their fur a process called molting!
  8. Like other marine animals, South American sea lions have a layer of fat called blubber that keeps them warm in the water. Blubber also functions as a nutrient source during times when food is scarce.
  9. Males and females look very different from one another. Males are much larger and have a broader body shape than females do. In addition, males have a thick coat of fur around their neck called a mane.
  10. Like other marine mammals, South American sea lions must conserve oxygen when diving for food. How do they do this? During a dive, sea lions conserve oxygen by reducing their heart rate from 120 bpm to 4-6 beats per minute! In addition, oxygen is limited to essential organs such as the brain and heart and is significantly reduced in other parts of the body such as their muscular system. This process called bradycardia enables sea lions to hold their breath up to 4 minutes and to dive 50 to 80 feet!
  11. Did you know that the deepest recorded dive for a South American sea lion is approximately 325 feet? That is really deep!
  12. Did you know that South American sea lions have a maximum swimming speed of 20 miles per hour? That is really fast!
  13. Not only can they swim really fast, but South American sea lions can also reach a maximum running speed of 15 miles per hour!
  14. Did you know that male South American sea lions travel up to 200 miles off the coast? They do this to ensure that there is enough genetic diversity within their breeding rookeries. Rookeries are areas that sea lions head to for breeding purposes.
  15. Unlike other sea lions species, South American sea lions have a mellow demeanor and are more comfortable working with people.
  16. Did you know that four of the South American sea lions at Coral World Ocean are rescues? It’s true! Our South American Sea Lions are originally from Uruguay. At the time, the government of Uruguay was in the process of culling or killing South American sea lions due to pressure from the local fisherman. Four of these South American sea lions were rescued and sent to the International Sea Lion Search and Rescue facility in Koh Samui, Thailand. After two years at the facility, Romulo, Remo, Omar and Franco were sent to Coral World Ocean Park, where they have been cared for since 2007.