I may have “seal” in my name, but I’m actually more closely related to sea lions! Although the term “seal” can technically apply to the 32 species we refer to as seals and as sea lions, the family Otariidae includes fur seals (that’s me!) and sea lions, whereas family Phicodae includes “true” seals. I have strong front flippers that help me move quickly through the water and on land, so I can escape quickly from a predator if I need to.
Curious about how to tell me apart from “true” seals? Seals have ear holes, while I have visible ear flaps. Also, I use my fore-flippers to propel me through the water and “walk” on land, while seals scoot along on their bellies on land.
Did You Know?
I spend almost half the year out at sea! To sleep, I’ll roll over to my back and stick my fins out to float.
It’s pretty easy to tell the difference between male and female fur seals: males are much bigger than females. A bull can reach up to almost 600 pounds, and has a very thick neck and mane. In breeding season, adult males won’t eat and can lose up to 20% of their body weight.
Breeding season gets pretty competitive around here. Most of the breeding activity is pretty centralized–almost 75% of the world’s population of fur seals breeds on the Pribilof Islands. Male fur seals will arrive at the breeding site about a month before the females and start fighting for territory. These fights can be brutal, and they use their sharp teeth and strong necks to slash at opponents. Only the biggest and most powerful males can land the coveted title of “beachmaster”, while the smaller males are relegated to the edge of the breeding zone. When the females arrive, they are attracted to the male’s territory, and choose a mate and become part of his “harem”. How is this not a reality TV show already?