Difference between seal, sea lion and walrus

Both the sea lion and the seal or the walrus are carnivorous mammals belonging to the superfamily of pinnipeds, so they have many common characteristics. Even so, there are also many other characteristics that differentiate them. Within this superfamily, the three are divided into three families: sea lions, seals and walruses. As they can sometimes seem very similar in appearance.

Main differences between seal, sea lion and walrus

As we can see, these three families have common characteristics and others that differentiate them. These are the main differences between seals, sea lions and walruses:

  • Size : Walruses are the largest of the three, while the smallest are seals.
  • Behavior : Sea lions are the most social of the three.
  • Tusks: Walruses have large tusks that neither seals nor sea lions have.
  • Fur: Sea lions have more fur on their bodies, while seals may or may not have fur. Walruses’ fur changes color depending on the temperature of the water where they are found.
  • Habitat : Sea lions can live seasonally on land. Although seals can too, it is usually for shorter periods. On the other hand, walruses only inhabit waters.
  • Ears: Sea lions are the only ones that have ears. Seals and walruses do not have ears, but instead have small visible holes that are the entrance to their ears.

Seals are marine mammals, called pinnipeds, that belong to the Phocid family. They are highly adapted to aquatic life, although they can also live for short periods on the land surface. The characteristics of the seals are as follows:

  • They do not have ears or pinna.
  • They have rear-facing hind limbs that are used for swimming: it is precisely these limbs that differentiate them from sea lions.
  • They have a very elongated body and short, flattened forelimbs that they use as fins.
  • They are carnivorous animals : they feed on many kinds of fish, but also squid, shellfish or octopus.
  • They have very good eyesight : they detect their prey well and catch them with their large teeth.
  • They have predators: whales and sharks are their biggest predators, although their biggest threat is humans.

The range of seals is also extensive, although they generally prefer colder areas to warmer ones. Seals in cold areas feed more (to maintain their body fat) than those in warmer areas. They usually live in areas near the coast and seals in warm climates are the most threatened.

Some differences between seals and sea lions is that their fur is shorter (and sometimes absent), but it is usually denser when they are adults. On the other hand, sea lions or lions have a layer of fat under their skin , which in the case of the seal is so thick that it can constitute up to a quarter of their weight.

Characteristics of sea lions or sea lions

As we have mentioned, the sea lion is also a pinniped mammal. Some of the more general characteristics of sea lions are:

  • They have a body adapted to conserve heat : it lives submerged at very low temperatures and therefore has a thick layer of fat under the skin and it serves to store energy, but also for swimming.
  • They have a more divided tail than their relatives: for this reason they use it better on land to move around.
  • They have small ears : while seals and walruses do not.
  • They can reach up to 40 km / h swimming, although on land they are much slower and spend hours lying in the sun.
  • They are capable of diving 200 meters deep and staying up to 40 minutes without having to go out to breathe, as they are mammals and need to breathe air and not under water.
  • They are carnivorous animals : they feed on squid, penguins, fish, baby seals or birds and their main predators are killer whales and large sharks.
  • Females give birth after 11 months of gestation.

As for the lifestyle of sea lions, this is based on living in colonies, although they can fight each other for mating reasons or because they are very territorial animals . Its distribution territory is very varied, but always very close to the coast, and can be found in New Zealand, Canada and Japan, among other areas. Although there are also species that live in less cold waters, so they have a lower percentage of fat than their relatives and inhabit coastal waters of Mexico, San Francisco and the Galapagos Islands, among other places.

Walrus characteristics

Walruses are pinniped marine mammals of the odobenidae family. The characteristics of the most notable walruses are the following:

  • They have large and long fangs : they are longer in males and they use them to defend themselves, fight in mating season and move in wooded and icy areas.
  • Their skin is tan or brown in color: it is usually this color, but in colder waters they turn white. In warm waters, they have a pinkish color. The longest-lived walruses progressively lose their color, until they become whiter.
  • They have a layer of fat under the skin.
  • They have up to 700 whiskers : they are also known as vibrissae and are distributed around the snout.
  • They are carnivorous animals : they feed on shrimp, mollusks , crustaceans , gastropods, sea cucumbers, clams and other soft animals. In addition, they can feed on seal carcasses.
  • They have a good sense of sight : they use their vibrissae to detect their prey.
  • They have predators: polar bears and killer whales are among their greatest predators, although man is one of their greatest threats.
  • They reproduce under water and their gestation lasts between 15 and 16 months.
  • They are the second largest pinnipeds.

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