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Sea lions are any of seven species in seven genera of modern pinnipeds including one extinct species (the Japanese sea lion). Sea lions are characterized by the presence of external ear pinnae (ear-flaps), long front flippers, and the ability to walk on all four flippers on land. Their range extends from the subarctic to tropical waters of the global ocean in both the northernmarker and southern hemispheresmarker with the notable exception of the Atlantic Oceanmarker.


Sea lions
Together with the fur seals, they comprise the Otariidae family, collectively known as eared seals. Until recently, sea lions were grouped under a single subfamily called Otariinae to distinguish them from the fur seals Arcocephalinae, based on the most prominent common feature between all species, namely the lack of the dense underfur characteristic of the latter. Recent genetic evidence, however, strongly suggests that Callorhinus, the genus of the Northern fur seal is more closely related to some sea lion species than to the other fur seal genus Arctocephalus. Therefore the fur seal/sealion subfamily distinction has been largely eliminated. Nonetheless, all sea lions have certain features in common, in particular their coarse, short fur, greater bulk and larger prey than fur seals.

Interactions with humans

Some species of sea lion are readily trainable and are often a popular attraction at zoos and aquariums. The archetypal circus seal performing behaviors such as throwing and catching balls on its nose and clapping is almost always a sea lion.

The government of Japan has set a quota of 116 kills per year in Hokkaido, as sea lions are seen as a threat to commercial fisheries. International environmentalists and local fishery advocates continue to debate the issue.

Sea lions have been trained by the U.S. Navy's Marine Mammal Program, based in San Diegomarker, to detain scuba divers.

Sea lion attacks on humans are rare. In a highly unusual attack in 2007 in Western Australiamarker a sea lion leapt from the water and seriously mauled a 13-year old girl surfing behind a speedboat. The sea lion appeared to be preparing for a second attack when the girl was rescued. An Australian marine biologist opinioned the sea lion may have viewed the girl "like a rag doll toy" to be played with. In San Franciscomarker where an increasingly large population of California sea lion crowds dock along San Francisco Bay, there have been incidents in recent years of swimmers being bitten on the leg by large aggressive males, possibly as a territorial act.

The Moche people of ancient Perumarker worshipped the sea and its animals. They often depicted sea lions in their art.



A probable hybrid sea lion from a cross between the California sea lion (Zalophus californianus) and the South American sea lion (Otaria byronia) was reported in a 2002 issue of the Journal of Mammology, according to the French National Center for Scientific Research.


Sea lions at Moss Landing, Californiamarker. Hundreds of California Sea Lions sunbathing on Pier 39marker in San Franciscomarker in the United States. GiGi, a sea lion trained by the U.S. Navy for underwater recovery, nuzzles merchant mariner Capt. Arne Willehag of the USNS Sioux during a 1983 training session. A sea lion at the Memphismarker zoo.

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