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Location: Water Life

Steller Sea Lion (Eumetopias jubatus)



Steller Sea Lion (Eumetopias jubatus)
Order: Carnivora , Family: Otariidae

The Steller sea lion is the largest of five species of seals belonging to the family Otariidae (eared seals). Its yellowish-buff fur is made up of short coarse hair lacking a distinct undercoat. The sea lion's flippers are longer than those of true or earless seals. Sea lions can rotate their hind flippers forward in order to have full use of all four limbs on land. Male Steller sea lions are much larger than females, with males averaging 9 1/4 feet long and females 7 1/2 feet. The average male weighs 1,250 pounds, while the average female is only 580 pounds. Males have a mane of coarse, long hair and thick muscular necks. Pups are born about 3 feet long, weigh 35 to 50 pounds, and have a thick, dark brown coat that molts to lighter after six months. At 2 or 3 years of age, their pelage changes again, this time to the adult color.



I. DESCRIPTION:
  • The Steller sea lion is the largest of five species of seals belonging to the family Otariidae (eared seals).
  • Its yellowish-buff fur is made up of short coarse hair lacking a distinct undercoat.
  • The sea lion's flippers are longer than those of true or earless seals. Sea lions can rotate their hind flippers forward in order to have full use of all four limbs on land.
  • Male Steller sea lions are much larger than females, with males averaging 9 1/4 feet long and females 7 1/2 feet. The average male weighs 1,250 pounds, while the average female is only 580 pounds.
  • Males have a mane of coarse, long hair and thick muscular necks.
  • Pups are born about 3 feet long, weigh 35 to 50 pounds, and have a thick, dark brown coat that molts to lighter after six months. At 2 or 3 years of age, their pelage changes again, this time to the adult color.
II. GEOGRAPHICAL RANGE AND HABITAT:
  • Steller sea lions inhabit palearctic and nearctic regions, including parts of Russia, Japan, Canada and the United States. More specifically, they range from the sea of Japan at 43N, north to the Pacific Rim at 66N, and then south down to the North American Pacific coast to San Miguel Island at 34N.
  • There are approximately 43,000 Stellar sea lions in southeast Alaska and the Gulf of Alaska. The species is listed as endangered.
III. DIET:
  • Carnivorous, Steller sea lions feed on both commercial and noncommercial fish, as well as cephalopods, such as octopus and squid.
  • Commercially exploited walleye pollock is an important staple in the Steller sea lion's diet. However, this affinity for pollock contributes to the diminishing Steller population, as sea lions must compete with humans for this favorite food.
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IV. LIFE CYCLE/SOCIAL STRUCTURE:
  • Steller sea lions breed from mid-May to mid-July, in rookeries off the central coast of the Gulf of Alaska, along the Alaskan peninsula, and throughout the Aleutian and Pribilof islands.
  • Females give birth in late June.
  • Gestation lasts for one year with delayed implantation (fetuses develop in nine months).
  • About 60 to 67 percent of all females are impregnated every year.
  • About two weeks after giving birth, females start to feed at sea at night, returning to the rookery to suckle their young during the day. Mothers usually wean pups before they're 1 year old.
  • Steller sea lions become sexually mature around 3 years of age.
V. SPECIAL NOTES/ADAPTIONS:
  • Male Steller sea lions are highly territorial and aggressive. They often fight for mates.
  • Sea lions are also known for their "sunbathing" habits.
  • Scientists are now studying vocal communication among Steller sea lions, which are believed to make certain clicking noises when hunting and swimming.
  • The species is named after 18th-century German naturalist George Steller, who was the first European to observe and write about these sea lions while on an expedition to Alaska in 1741.



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