The Australian sea lion, also known by its scientific name Neophoca cinerea, is an eared seal belonging to the Otariidae family alongside other sea lions and fur seals. They are related to earless seals or true seals and walruses, with which they form the Pinnipedia suborder. This sea lion subspecies inhabits the western and southern parts of Australia.
This sea lion species presents sexual dimorphism. Males are much larger than males, with sizes of up to 2.2 meters and weighs of up to 250 kg. Females can grow to 1.85 meters and weigh up to 100 kg. Sea lions have bulky bodies with muscular chest and neck, and large foreflippers which are not only efficient at propelling them in water, but also for walking and running on land.
The hindflippers do not aid in swimming, but they can be turned to the front and help the sea lion propel itself on land with help from the front flippers, neck and body movements. The fur of these sea lions is shorter than in other species, with colors ranging from dark brown to light and cream, especially for pups before molting.
Just as the name suggests, this sea lion lives on islands and off the coast of Australia. Populations are distributed from the Houtman Abrolhos Islands,
in the western part of Australia, to the Pages Islands in the south of the continent.
These sea lions are opportunistic foragers, meaning that they do not have a specialized diet. They consume a wide range of marine animals, from squid and octopuses to crustaceans such as rock lobsters, fish, including cuttlefish, small sharks and even penguins.
Australian sea lion females have an abnormal breeding cycle which can range from 5 months to 17 or 18 months. Breeding is also not synchronized between colonies. Bulls do not have territories to defend, as is the case with other species. They fight from a young age in order to establish a dominance hierarchy. Once domination has been established, dominant males will guard females and prevent other males from mating. Females come into season within 7 to 10 days of giving birth to pups.
Females care for their newborn only, and the older pups are aggressively fought off. Alloparental care has been observed in Australian sea lion populations, where other adults can adopt pups which have lost their parents.