Steller Sea Lion
Scientific Name: Eumetopias jubatus
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Steller Sea Lion Description
There are quite a few different species of sea lions out there. However, it is the Steller that is the largest of them all. The males can end up being more than twice the weight of the females which is why you may assume they are juveniles rather than fully mature upon seeing them. A full grown female is about 1,000 pounds with the males being about 2,500. The females grow about 9 feet in length with the males being about 11 feet so you can see there is definitely a substantial difference with them.
They can range in color quite a bit within a given colony. For example they may be dark brown, a reddish brown, or even a light tan color. It is really fascinating to take a close look at their colors. They have a neck that is very thick and that is different than what you see on other species of sea lions. They also have small external ears that are very peculiar on such a large sized animal.
If you are curious about the name, George Steller is the person that found them in 1741. He was very quick to tell others about the experience. He even drew lots of pictures of them before returning home so he could show people exactly what these creatures he had never heard of before looked like.
Steller Sea Lion Anatomy
Many people feel sorry for the Steller Sea Lion due to the very large size. They assume that they have a difficult time getting around. They do very well in the water though in spite of the size. In fact, their bodies are designed specifically for that purpose. However, they do have a harder time on land due to the amount of energy that it takes to get there. They move slower on land, but it isn’t an impossible feat for them to accomplish.
They are able to hear very well with those external ears. They do all they can to protect them too. For example when they dive into the water they will close the ear openings. As a result they don’t have to deal with water getting inside of them. It is believed that the ability to smell is better for the Steller Sea Lion than most other animals. That is quite an accomplishment when you consider what the competition out there happens to look like. The young immediate recognize the scent of their mother which allows them to find her in a very large colony.
The very large size of the body for the males is definitely a huge part of what makes them attractive to the females. The bigger they are the more likely it is that many of them will choose him to mate with. The males also start to develop a mane when they age, and this too allows them to have an enhanced feature that the females recognize and are more attracted to.
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Steller Sea Lion Behavior
As is the case with other species of sea lions, they are very social. They will live in very large groups referred to as colonies. They will stay close to each other both on land and when they are in the water. They do spend more of their time in the water though due to their ability to move around easier there. They also use less energy for movements in the water than on land.
For the most part everyone has an equal part in the colony. However, the males tend to become more aggressive when it comes to protecting territory as they get older. They also don’t seem to have the same zest for all that socializing as before. That is why they will start to spread themselves out further from the group over time. Some view this as them being outcast by the colony but it is by their own choosing.
Steller Sea Lion Habitat
You will find most of the Steller Sea Lions around the waters ranging from California on into Japan. It can be hard to find them on land as they do stick to the water for most of the time. The biggest event for them on land is mating and giving birth which I will cover in just a minute.
Steller Sea Lion Feeding Habits
These sea lions need access to large amounts of food. That could be as much as 6% of their overall body weight. They will consume fish, squid, octopus, other sea lions, and invertebrates. They are going to eat what they can find, never passing up a possible meal in the hopes that they will find something better later on.
They mostly hunt at night time – from the time the sun goes down until right before it goes up. They will hunt during the day though when they are finding it hard to find enough food at night. They have been known to travel as much as 250 miles from the heart of the colony in order to be able to get enough food. They hunt in groups that are sub groups of the overall colony.
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Steller Sea Lion Reproduction
For the Steller Sea Lion, mating season is one that they take very seriously. The males have to eat more than their share in the months prior to it taking place. That way they can remain on land for up to three months without food. They will have layers of fat on their bodies that allow them to survive. They need to go to the breeding grounds in order to secure their place for the females.
There isn’t enough area to go around for all the males though which is why they will fight for it. Only the biggest and the strongest of them will be able to successfully woe the females. As the females come to land later on, they will call out to them. They will be able to get many of the females, as many as 20 of them, to be able to join them.
The females have something very important to do first though before they consider mating with that male. You see, when they come to land they are ready to have their pups from the previous season. For a couple of weeks she will only care for them but then she will be ready to mate. Her body will delay the processing of the new pups. This means she won’t be pregnant for about three months and then she will carry them for the next 9 months.
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Steller Sea Lion Predators
As with most sea lions, both sharks and Killer Whales are predators of theirs. The risk that they have on their hands though really depends on where they reside at as well as where they travel for food.
There are only about 40,000 Steller Sea Lions remaining in the wild today, and that low number has to do with the actions of people all around. They continue to invade the waters where these animals live. As a result they have a harder time finding enough food for them to survive. They also are at risk of being hit by boats or other equipment out there.
Since they mate on land, when people invade those areas, the females have no place to give birth. It also prevents the males from having territory to attract females for the mating process to begin.