Australian Animal Archive

Australian Sea-Lion.

Neophoca cinerea (sin'-eray'-ah: "ash-coloured new-seal")

Status: Abundant.

Australian Sea Lion

The Australian Sea-lion inhabits mostly the Western Australian and South Australian coasts and forms breeding colonies on the rocky shores. Males are distinguished by a cape of pale hair on the back of the head and shoulders.

The Sea-lions diet comprises mainly of cuttlefish and squid but fish, crayfish and penguins also become prey to the sea lions.

Younger Sea-lion pups are glossy black in colour until they first moult, they are often seen sprawled together on the sandy beaches, using each other as pillows, waiting for their mothers to return from foraging trips to nurse them.

Female sea lions gather in larger numbers on their popular pupping sites to give birth. These areas are usually well protected, rocky patches of sandy beaches. Soon after giving birth to their pups, females come into oestrus and the male sea-lions start to arrive to mate. The younger bulls arrive first in an attempt to gain a territory before the more mature, heavier bulls arrive. A fully matured sea-lion bull can weigh as much as 300kg.

Once the mature bulls arrive they stake out their territory around groups of cows and defend it fiercely against any rivals. Huge threats and gigantic battles are common during the mating season. During confrontation bull rear up, open mouthed displaying their sharp teeth, snapping, slapping and roaring as they chase of rival bulls.

The breeding season is especially dangerous for new born pubs as many are caught between the fighting bulls and are usually salvaged or trampled to death. Outside the breeding season bull bask placidly on the sandy beaches.

Short snout and very small ears. Older males are very bulky and can be up to 2m long with dark brown to black. Females grow to about 1.5m and are a silvery grey in colour.
Sandy beaches and rocky shores of mainland Australia and surrounding seas.
Visits land for 2 to 3 days between foraging. Sea feeding trips can be of several days duration. Colonies can be made up of dozens or hundreds of individuals.
Breeding season can last up to 5 months. A single pup is born after a 14 month gestation. Sea lion pups are nursed for a further 13 months.
Fish, squid, crayfish and small flightless sea birds such as penguins.
Usually silent. Males Bellow during the breeding season.

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