About the Steller sea lion
In the Dolfinarium you will meet two types of sea lions: the California sea lion and the Steller sea lion. The Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus) is a lot bigger than its California cousin – and also a lot more dangerous. The name comes from the biologist Steller, and just like ‘real’ lions, the males of Steller sea lions also have manes!
Rob, seal, sea lion?
What’s up? It’s actually quite simple: rob is just another name for seal. Seals and sea lions are both called “pinnipeds,” meaning they are mammals with fins instead of legs. But the fins of seals are not the same as those of sea lions. If you would see them walking side by side, you immediately see the difference: the sea lion can ‘walk’ on its front fins, while seals are more bumpy.
Are you lucky enough to spot an animal up close and unsure whether it is a sea lion or seal? Then find the ears. See those on the outside? Then you face a sea lion. No ears in sight? Then it’s a seal!
Steller sea lions in the wild
In the wild, Steller sea lions can be found in the Northern Pacific, near Russia, Alaska, Canada, and near California – where the California sea lion comes from. Steller sea lions live in rocky coastal areas and on the beaches. They are more in the water than other sea lion species, making them difficult to study in nature.
Steller sea lions are predators and they prey on various types of fish, squid, octopus and sometimes even seals. They themselves have to watch out for killer whales and large shark species.
Steller sea lions live in large colonies, within which there are separate groups. Such a group consists of a dominant male and a lot of females and is also called a harem. The dominant male is in charge of his harem and fights with invading males to defend his females and territory.
Especially in the mating season, early in the summer, he is busy defending. In fact, he has so little interest in food that he loses hundreds of kilos. Luckily he can do that, because a male easily weighs more than a thousand kilos – that’s about as heavy as a car!
The females in a group often stay together for years and help each other in raising and defending the young. A newborn puppy continues to drink milk with its mother for about a year, but is also raised by a lot of aunts. Funny right? Males are harem bosses until a stronger male takes over the group. They therefore change groups more often.
The body of the Steller’s sea lion is well adapted to life on land and in the water. They have a streamlined body that allows them to glide smoothly through the water. They have strong fins that allow them to swim quickly, their hind fins have small nails at the end. And they can even climb rocks and climb stairs with their fins! Do you want to see them swimming, climbing and walking for yourself? Then come and see the performance Sterk Werk (Impressive Stuff).
Sea lions also have very sensitive whiskers. This allows them to feel the vibrations in the water that fish leave behind, so they can hunt prey even in murky water! They then catch them with their 34 sharp, brown to black teeth.
The fur of Steller sea lions is lighter in color than that of other sea lion species. Look at the California sea lions in the Dolfinarium – they are a lot darker.
You can also see the difference between males and females very well with Steller sea lions. The male can be three times the size of the female!
The Steller sea lion is unfortunately near threatened in the wild (IUCN red list status: sensitive). Like other marine animals, they are at risk from various factors such as plastic waste, climate change and commercial fishing.