California Sea Lion

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The California Sea Lion (Zalophus californianus) is a coastal sea lion of western North America. Their numbers are abundant (188,000 U.S. stock 1995 est.[2]), and the population continues to expand at a rate of approximately 5.0% annually.[3] They are quite intelligent, can adapt to man-made environments, and even adult males can be easily trained. Because of this, California sea lions are commonly found in public display in zoos and marine parks, used for entertainment in circuses, and trained by the US Navy for certain military operations. This is the classic circus "seal", despite that it is not a true seal.[4]

Contents

Description

California sea lion males grow to 850 lbs and 2.4 meters (8 ft) long, while females are significantly smaller, at 220 lbs and 2 meters (6.5 ft) long. They have pointed muzzles, making them rather dog-like. Males grow a large crest of bone on the top of their heads as they reach sexual maturity, and it is this that gives the animal its generic name (loph is "forehead" and za- is an emphatic; Zalophus californianus means "Californian big-head"). They also have manes, although they are not as well developed as the manes of adult male South American or Steller sea lions. Females are lighter in color than the males and pups are born dark, but lighten when they are several months old. When it is dry, the skin is a purple color. A sea lion's average lifespan is 17 years in the wild, and longer in captivity. By sealing their nose shut, they are able to stay underwater for up to 15 minutes.[5]

Ecology

Range and populations

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