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Steller Sea Lion

Zalophus californianus [za' lO fuhs kal uh forn' uk kuhs] (aka California sea lion, Galapagos sea lion, Japanese sea lion)


Adult male Steller sea lions are mostly dark brown in color, with lighter belly and side coloring; adult females are generally dark brown. Both sexes have black flippers that are coated with short black stubble. A fully grown male may be up to 7.75 feet long and weigh 860 pounds; males are larger than females.

Steller Sea Lion

Newborn California sea lions have a blackish brown coat that is shed at the first month and replaced with a light brown coat. The adult coat appears at four to five months.

Distribution and Habitat

Steller sea lions are usually found along coastlines, but may be seen in rivers along the northern Pacific coast. They tend to inhabit areas which have undergone human intervention.

There are three distinct populations of Steller sea lions. The California sea lion (Z.c. californianus) is found from southern Mexico north to British Columbia. The Galapagos sea lion (Z.c. wollebaeki) inhabits the Galapagos Islands, and is occasionally seen in coastal Ecuador and Colombia. The Japanese sea lion (Z.c. japanoicus) once inhabited the Sea of Japan, but may now be extinct.


Breeding activity peaks in July. One pup is born after a gestation period of about eleven months, with most pups being born from mid-May through mid-June. Pups are weaned at six to twelve months, and are sexually mature at about 4.5 years.


Steller sea lions feed on a variety of fish, as well as squid and octopus, and cephalopods. They generally feed alone or in small groups, unless there is a large quanitity of food available. They have been known to feed have been known to feed coopertively with cetaceans, seabirds, and harbor porpoises.

Scientific Classification

phylum Chordata
subphylum Vertebrata
class Mammalia
order Carnivora
suborder Caniformia
family Otariidae
genus & species Zalophus californianus

Animal Diversity Web

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This page was last updated on June 20, 2018.