9 things you should know about Galapagos sea lions

Discover more about the most inquisitive mammal of the Galápagos Islands, the Galápagos sea lion.

9 things you should know about Galapagos sea lions

Galápagos sea lions are not shy about where they take a nap! © Frances Eyre / Getty


Galápagos sea lions delight every visitor to the Galápagos Islands with their playful antics, especially underwater. However many people are unaware about the intricate lives that these charismatic, endangered creatures lead.


1. They have a different name in spanish

While in English they are Galápagos sea lions, in Spanish they are called ‘lobos marinos’ or sea wolves.


2. They're not just found on the Galapagos

As their name suggests, Galápagos sea lions primarily breed in the Galápagos Islands, though breeding colonies can also be found on Isla de la Plata just off mainland Ecuador.


3. They are deceptively common

Galápagos sea lions are the most commonly seen marine mammal in Galápagos due to their playfulness and curiosity. Whilst usually seen on beaches or swimming close to shore, they can also be found on benches in the middle of town! Despite seeming common, they are actually endangered.


4. They are actually pretty small

Galápagos sea lions are the smallest of the sea lion species – adult females weigh around 80kg compared to California sea lions, the next smallest species, whose females weigh around 95kg.


Thanks to their streamlined bodies, Galápagos sea lions are fast and nimble underwater © Tracey Jennings


5. They are sexually 'dimorphic'

Sexes are easy to distinguish – males have a prominent bump on their forehead and can weigh up to four times more than females.


6. More land means more ladies

Males hold territories on beaches where females are found, rather than direct harems. The more dominant the male, the more land he has and therefore the more females he has access to. Bulls that fail to secure land tend to form bachelor colonies away from the areas that females frequent. 


7. Pups are born in August and September

Females give birth to a single pup, which has a unique call to help its mother know where it is. It will feed on its mother’s milk until it is five weeks old and then will start to forage with its mother close to the shore. Pups are dependent on their mothers until they are 11 or 12 months old.


Each Galápagos sea lion pup has a unique call in order to stand out from the crowd © Paul Hamer


8. They are very successful hunters 

Their smooth and streamlined bodies make sea lions efficient hunters of fish (especially sardines) and other prey. Research has revealed that Galápagos sea lions can make the longest, deepest dives of all the sea lion species – they can dive for over 10 minutes and reach depths of almost 600m! It is thought that their extreme diving ability, along with other traits, have enabled the sea lions to survive better in an environment where productivity is low and unpredictable.


9. They are vulnerable to extreme weather

The main threat to Galápagos sea lions is El Niño, which causes extreme weather patterns. In El Niño years, the marine life on which sea lions depend can collapse, in turn affecting the survival and breeding success of the sea lions.


Find out more about the Galápagos sea lion on the Galápagaos Conservation Trust website

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