The Differences Between Seals and Sea Lions

     Seals and sea lions. These wonderful creatures are easily mistaken for each other, but there are a few ways to tell them apart. Next time you hit the beach, you’re sure to look smart if you remember these fun facts!

First off, what exactly are they? Well, seals and sea lions both belong to the order Pinnipedia, so they’re often called pinnipeds. Pinnipeds are defined as “fin footed, carnivorous, semi-aquatic marine mammals.” These adorable creatures hunt at sea and travel to land for mating and molting.

Although seals and sea lions look very similar, there are many differences between these two pinnipeds.  Sea lions have the ability to “walk” using their rotating hind flippers, but seals’ hind flippers cannot gyrate and they simply must wiggle around on land. Even though both of these mammals come to shore for mating, seals stay in the water much more than sea lions do. Sea lions have visible ear flaps like this:189327-131-A62707BA.jpg

True seals do not. Seals spend the majority of their lives alone, interacting with other seals only to mate. On the other hand, sea lions live in herds sometimes upwards of 1,500 individuals! Now test your knowledge and see if you can tell which image below is a seal and which is a sea lion:


(The first is a sea lion and the second is a seal)

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