australian sea lions Click to enlarge image
sea lions Image: flickr
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Fast Facts

  • Classification
    Species
    cinerea
    Genus
    Neophoca
    Subfamily
    Otariinae
    Family
    Otariidae
    Suborder
    Pinnipedia
    Order
    Carnivora
    Class
    Mammalia
    Phylum
    Chordata
    Kingdom
    Animalia

Introduction

The Australian Sea Lion is a sexually dimorphic (two body forms) species, with the adult males up to twice the weight and length of the female.

Identification

Both sexes of the Australian Sea Lion have stocky bodies, a large head and short narrow flippers. Apart from size, the sexes are easily identified by coat colour. The male is dark brown with mane-like yellow areas on the neck and top of the head. The females are silver grey to fawn on the back and creamy coloured underneath. Pups are born with a chocolate brown fur, which is lost after the first moulting phase.

Habitat

Sea Lions prefer sandy beaches, usually in isolated bays and sheltered areas. One such site on Kangaroo Island off South Australia has become a popular tourist attraction.

Distribution

This species is endemic to Australian waters and breeds on at least 50 islands off the coast of Western Australia and South Australia.



Feeding and diet

The Australian Sea Lion's diet is poorly known but probably includes a variety of fish and invertebrates such as octopus and squid. There is some suggestion that they occasionally take penguins.

Life history cycle

Timing of the birth of pups is not the same at each site. Young can be born anytime from January to June after a gestation period of about 12 months. Despite the fact that females give birth to only one young and may not breed again for two to three years, pup mortality is high in the first six months after birth.

Breeding behaviours

Australian Sea Lions form loose associations within the breeding colonies. Males do not form harems but will guard and then mate with individual females in turn.

Conservation status

The Australian Sea Lion is protected by Australian State and Federal government legislation and listed as rare by the IUCN. Australian Sea Lion numbers are relatively small compared to other seals in the area and like most it suffered heavily during the 19th century sealing period with many colonies being wiped out.