The South American sea lion, also known as the Patagonian sea lion or, by its scientific name, Otaria flavescens, is an eared seal that lives on the eastern and southern coasts and islands of South America. It is one of the larger species of sea lions, and by its general appearance, perhaps the archetypal representative.
These sea lions are sexually dimorphic, just like other similar species. Females may reach 2 meters in length and weigh 150 kg while males can grow to be 2.7 meters long and weigh 350 kg. Males of this sea lion species have a dominant mane, which rightfully earned them their name. Colors range from orange to dark brown, with pups being born more grayish only to turn to a chocolate color after molting.
Habitat of the South American sea lion
This sea lion inhabits the coasts and offshore islands of the southern part of South America, from Peru to Chile, Ecuador, Argentina, Brazil and
Uruguay. There are many breeding colonies on notable islands such as Lobos Island, Beagle Channel and Falkland Islands. The preferred habitat for breeding is sandy beaches, but these sea lions may also breed on gravel and even rocky groups.
The South American sea lion consumes a wide range of fish species, from anchovies to hake. They also feed on cephalopods such as squid and octopuses, and they have been seen attacking and preying on birds such as pelicans and penguins. There are reports of sea lions even feeding on fur seals. These sea lions either hunt slow prey alone, or they might group and hunt schools of fish in packs. They are also known to take advantage of the hunting strategies of other animals such as dusky dolphins, where the sea lions feed on fish which have been herded by the former. Sea lions are also preyed upon by large sharks and killer whales.
Behavior and reproduction
During the breeding season, which can occur from August to December, males establish a territory and defend it against other males. Any female that might enter their territory will be guarded, and the dominant male may also restrain access of females to the sea. Most males can keep up to 4 females, but some might be able to hold up to 18 females. Females give birth after around 12 months and, for the first 4 weeks, will look after their pups on land. South American sea lion pups will first enter the water after this period and will be weaned after 12 months.