Seals and Sea Lions

Seals and Sea Lions

Lookalikes with Differences

From sea lion crowd control to baby seals waddling into homes, these creatures are regularly in the news. Recently, a rogue California population moved northward to consume salmon, followed by some strong tactics that included euthanasia. In another happier incident, a baby seal waddled into a New Zealander's home and promptly headed to the sofa for a snooze.

We've all enjoyed watching these creatures in the wild, on TV, and in zoos. Most of us probably don't think too much about differences between the two. Although they're similar in appearance, they sport some unique characteristics.

Seals and sea lions, along with walruses are in a group known as "pinnipeds." That translates into "fin foot."  Sea lions have larger front flippers and move about with greater agility on land by using all four limbs. Seals, on the other hand are swifter in water, but tend to drag themselves along on land using just their front flippers.

Sea lions are more social and are also more vocal. That's why you'll see these creatures performing in zoos and aquatic exhibits. They're trainable to commands (paired with food) and are quite comical in their behaviors. In the wild, seals tend to be loners while sea lions will congregate in herds that can become quite large.

Both seals and sea lions have inner flaps that close off their ears and throats when they're under water. However, sea lions have visible exterior flaps while seals are considered to be "earless," with only holes at the sides of their heads.

While it's common to use the term "seals" interchangeably, it will always be sea lions you're watching when it comes to performing.

Photo copyright Karen Kennedy