California Sea Lions
The sleek California sea lion is the fastest sea lion, with top speeds of up to 25 miles per hour. Unlike other sea lions, California sea lions do not have lionlike manes. The males are distinguishable by their chocolate brown colouring and at around five years of age, males develop a bony bump on top of their skull called a sagittal crest. As well, the top of the male’s head often gets considerably lighter with age. Females can be identified by their golden-brown colouring and MUCH smaller size. Males can reach about seven feet long, weighing in at 850 pounds, while females grow to a petite 220 pounds and up to six feet long.
Massive colonies of sea lions can be seen on rocky outcroppings and man-made structures for breeding, birthing, and laying out in the sun. Males gather harems of females to their sides in competition to sire young pups, which are born on land. California sea lions are found from Vancouver Island, British Columbia to the southern tip of Baja California in Mexico. They breed mainly on offshore islands, ranging from southern California's Channel Islands south to Mexico. Breeding season is a loud affair, males will patrol territories and bark almost continuously during this time.
California sea lions are opportunistic eaters, feeding on squid, octopus, herring, rockfish, mackerel, and small sharks. In turn, sea lions are preyed upon by Orcas (killer whales) and great white sharks. When diving deep, California sea lions slow their heart rates to allow them to remain underwater for nearly ten minutes before surfacing to breathe. This ability gives them an edge in the pursuit of the fish, squid, and shellfish that make up their primary diet.