Surf's Up Magazine

Seal vs Sea Lion

  • Date: February 13, 2024
  • Time to read: 6 min.

Seals and sea lions are both marine creatures with similar appearances. They’re both known as pinnipeds, but they differ in several ways. Sea lions are brown and have a barking reputation.

They propel themselves using their huge flippers and expose ear flaps when moving. Seals, on the other hand, have smaller flippers and move about on their bellies on land.

They also lack visible ear flaps. Both species are meat-eaters that consume fish, crabs, and a variety of different sea creatures.

seal vs sea lion

Seal vs Sea Lion: Main Differences

The seal vs sea lion are two distinct types of marine mammal, which have evolved over time. Although both animals feed on fish, they do not live in the same environment. The following are some of the most significant distinctions between a sea lion and a seal.


Seals are usually white, grey, brown/black, or black in color. Seals vary widely depending on the species, ranging from white to gray to brown/black.


Seal lions weigh in at 220-2,200 pounds depending on the type. Seals weigh between 99 -7,100 pounds, depending on the species.


Seals have smaller flippers and no external ear flaps or external ears, whereas sea lions have big flippers with tiny outer-ear flaps. Seals’ flippers are far smaller; they don’t even have external earflaps. This makes seals more streamlined in the water.


Seals are typically solitary and spend the bulk of their time in the water, coming onto land to mate. On coastlines, sea lions spend more time on land and congregate in large groups known as “herds” or “rafts.”


Sea lions can walk on land, using their huge flippers, whilst seals wiggle on their bellies to move about. Seal agility in the water, however, is greater than that of sea lions.

fur seal basking in the sun
Fur seal basking in the sun

What is a Sea Lion? 

Sea lions are Pinnipeds. They are part of the Otariidae family along with fur seals, meaning that they are also considered seals. Sea lions live throughout the world, in subarctic and tropical waters in the Northern and Southern Hemisphere. They are related to both seals and walruses.

The Australian sea lion, the Galápagos sea lion, and the New Zealand sea lion are all classified as endangered by the IUCN. Sea lions have a lifespan of 20 to 30 years.


The sea lion, which is often mistaken for a seal, is one of the largest fish in the ocean. They can reach lengths of up to 8 feet and weights of up to 660 pounds. The Steller’s sea lion, which is by far the biggest species, weighs up to 2,200 pounds.

Male sea lions are generally larger than female sea lions. The majority of the species are dark brown to black in hue. The pubs, on the other hand, tend to be somewhat darker. When they’re born, they weigh 16 pounds. Their coats change colors as they get older and become lighter. They might even acquire a silvery sheen.

There are a few differences between species. The California sea lion, for example, has a longer, narrower snout than the African sea lion.

Diet and Mating Practices 

Sea lions eat 5-8% of their body weight each feeding. This is usually around 15 to 35 pounds. They are effective hunters thanks in large part to the incredible speeds at which they can swim.

Sea lions have been clocked at speeds of up to 35 miles per hour. Sea lions tend to eat fish, herring salmon, and sardines, among other things. They’ve also been observed eating squid and octopus.

Sea lions may eat over 50 different kinds of animals. They have 34-38 teeth in their jaws, which they can quickly employ to capture their prey.

During their mating season, sea lions lose a lot of weight. They stay in their territories afraid that they will miss out on a mating opportunity.

Every summer, on the same stretch of beach, they breed. After giving birth, females enter heat three weeks later and begin courting. Sea lions adopt submissive postures indicating that they are ready to mate to the males.

They typically only breed once a year. Sea lions will bite the male’s neck after the female is finished mating. Another interesting fact is that some sea lions have been observed deliberately swallowing stones. It’s unclear why they would want to do so.

galapagos sea lion
Galapagos Sea Lion

What is a Seal? 

A seal, or pinniped, is a semiaquatic predatory aquatic mammal found all around the world. They are made up of numerous different families, including Odobenidae, Otariidae, and Phocidae.

The skates, or earless seals, make up the Phocidae family. There are thought to be over fifty extinct seal species. They all trace back to a common ancestor. The northern elephant seal, harbor seal, and leopard seal are some of the most famous types of seal.

Seals can be found in almost every ocean throughout the world, but they are most prevalent in the colder seas on both sides of the globe.

They come ashore to mate and give birth or avoid danger whenever it is time, otherwise, they spend the bulk of their lives in water. Larger predators such as killer whales and sharks hunt them.


The average length of a seal is between 3 and 16 feet long. They may weigh anything from 99 pounds to 7,100 pounds. The bull elephant seal is on the heavier end of the spectrum with a weight range of 99 to 7,100 pounds.

The Siberian seal is on the lower end of the spectrum, weighing in at around 100 pounds. To keep them warm, these animals have a thick covering of fat known as blubber on their bodies.

Seals have sleek, streamlined bodies that make traveling through water a pleasure. In contrast to walruses, who propel themselves using their back legs, seals propel themselves with their front limbs. The senses of dogs are quite sensitive, with good hearing and sight on land and at sea.

Diet and Mating Practices 

The Seal’s diet is primarily fish and other marine invertebrates. Penguins, among other smaller seals, are included in this category, although they usually consume fish and lesser creatures like clams and crabs. This is opposed to walruses, who prefer mollusks.

The males are the first to start courting – this is unlike sea lions, where the female initiates mating by submitting. The male chases the female, bites her flippers and neck, attempting to restrict her, and begins mating.

When the female’s back is turned, she may growl and flail her flippers. In water, copulation occurs. The male seal usually mates with many females in a season.

The male seal matures sexually between the ages of three and seven, weighing in at around 165 pounds. The female is usually about the same age as well, weighing in at around 110 pounds.

gray seal on ice
Grey seal on ice


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