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The Galapagos Sea Lion

The endemic Galapagos Sea Lion (Zalophus californianus wollebacki, lobo marino) is found all throughout the islands and is absolutely fearless of humans. You will definitely have the chance to watch some of the 50,000 inquisitive juvenile sea lions, playful adult sea lions, protective mother sea lions and competitive male sea lions found in the archipelago from both land (some resting on dinghies and landing points) and sea vantage points.


Males, or bulls, can be distinguished from the females, or cows, by their thick necks, bumped foreheads, and immense size (full-grown males can weigh up to 250 kg). They jealously guard and protect their territory, a finite area covering land and water space, a harem of approximately 20 cows and any number of pups. When bulls lose land battles to other, more aggressive dominant males, they conglomerate in specific island sites, or bachelor pads, to heal and rest until the next challenge.


The mating season varies from island to island, but it generally occurs from June to November. Females give birth to four or five pups over their lifetimes, one every two years. Copulation usually takes place in the water four weeks after a birth, but due to “delayed implantation,” the egg is not implanted into the womb for another two months. Gestation takes another nine months, thus finalizing the annual birth cycle.


Nine out of ten sea lion pups are females and one-tenth males, and all stay together in “kindergartens,” swimming and playing in the shallow water. After five months, the pups can start fishing for themselves, although they still depend on their mothers; after three years, cows have reached sexual maturity and begin to reproduce; and after five years, the slow-blooming males reach their adulthood. Most sea lions live for fourteen or fifteen years.


Sea lions feed mostly on sardines (the cause of their bad breath), for which they may travel ten to fifteen kilometers out from the coast over the span of days to hunt. It is in deep water that sea lions encounter and must defend themselves from their only predators, sharks.


Sea lions are common on most islands (even the populated ones). You can see surfing sea lions at Punta Suarez (Española) and North Seymour, and you can see one of the bulls’ bachelor pads at South Plaza.

Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to The Galápagos Islands: Swallow-Tailed Gull, Herons and Egrets in the Galapagos, Spotted Eagle Ray, Galápagos Wildlife Guide, Galápagos Giant Tortoise, Marine Life - Galápagos, Yellow-Crowned Night Heron, Tourism in Mainland Ecuador, Lava Lizard and Stone Scorpionfish.

21 Dec 2009

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