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Pinniped Photos

Pinnipeds: Seals, Sea Lions and Walruses 

Have you ever wondered how to tell the difference between a seal and a sea lion?  Well here are a couple of easy ways to spot the difference. 

3ZconRock01.jpg (51468 bytes)1) Sea lions have external ear flaps.  The ears are located on the sides of their head.       [Sea lions are in the family, Otariidae. These three particular animals are California sea lions (Zalophus californianus).]  


PvMax188001.jpg (45747 bytes)Seals have ears in the same place, but do not have external ear flaps.  They hear through tiny, barely visible holes on the side of their heads.      [Seals are in the family, Phocidae.  This young animal is a Pacific harbor seal (Phoca vitulina).] 


2ZconRock01.jpg (44470 bytes)2) Sea lions have large front flippers. They  can rotate their rear flippers under their bodies and can walk very well on land using all four flippers.



PvMax288001.jpg (50760 bytes)Seals have small front flippers and can not rotate their rear flippers under their bodies.  They are rather awkward on land and generally move "inch worm" fashion. 


ZconPier92001.jpg (59833 bytes)California sea lions are very gregarious animals.  That is they usually like to hang out in groups.  This large group of animals are almost all males.  The two sexes generally don't mix as adults until the breeding season, usually around June.  


WildWalrus94001.jpg (38865 bytes)Walruses make up the third family of pinnipeds, Odobenidae.  These two animals are Pacific walruses (Odobenus rosmarus rosmarus).  Both males and females have tusks.  



SivuqaqBeach1.jpg (74715 bytes)Walruses are more closely related to sea lions than seals, but have physical characteristics of both.  1) They have large front flippers and can rotate their rear flippers under their bodies. They can walk very well on land using all four flippers like a sea lion. 


1Ord@Window001.jpg (51630 bytes)2) Walruses do not have external ear flaps. They hear through tiny, barely visible holes on the side of their heads, like seals. 



WildWalrus94002.jpg (33897 bytes)Walruses are pretty gregarious animals too.   The wild population of Pacific walruses seems to very healthy, numbering about 250,000 animals.  This is probably very close to their historically high population number.  They can often be seen in groups measuring in the hundreds of animals. 


4walrus94001.jpg (41277 bytes)These four walruses were hand raised and really like to interact with their trainers.  Perhaps because they are such gregarious animals, they now just considered people to be part of their social group. 



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Revised: August 27, 2011.