What’s the Difference Between Seals and Sea Lions?


© Oleg Znamenskiy/Fotolia

What’s the Difference Between Seals and Sea Lions?

Are seals andِ sea lions theِ sameِ animal? Technically, theyِ areِ in theِ sameِ taxonomical suborder ofِ pinnipeds (Pinnipedia), whichِ comprises seals, sea lions, andِ walruses.
But seals andِ sea lions areِ in differentِ taxonomical families owing toِ someِ key anatomical differences.
The mostِ notable anatomical differences areِ the ears andِ the flippers.
Also, sea lions areِ just plain noisy, whereasِ seals areِ a bit quieter.

The pinniped suborder hasِ 33 species inِ three families.
Sea lions andِ fur seals (seals withِ thick fur thatِ areِ more similar toِ sea lions thanِ to true seals) areِ lumped togetherِ inِ the family Otariidae.
True seals, onِ the otherِ hand, areِ in theِ family Phocidae.

How canِ sea lions andِ fur seals beِ told apartِ from theseِ true seals? First, check forِ ears.
Sea lions andِ fur seals haveِ external ears thatِ protrude fromِ their heads.
Seals, onِ the otherِ hand, haveِ no external ear flap butِ instead haveِ ear holes.
This isِ why scientists refer toِ species inِ the family Otariidae asِ eared seals.
Phocidae species canِ beِ called earless seals.

Sea lions andِ fur seals haveِ long flippers.
Most importantly, theyِ areِ able toِ rotate theirِ backِ flippers underِ theirِ body, whichِ allows themِ to walk onِ land.
So, seals areِ forced toِ flop aroundِ on theirِ bellies whenِ onshore, similar toِ theِ motion ofِ a caterpillar.

Finally, sea lions andِ fur seals areِ really noisy.
This isِ partly becauseِ they congregate inِ groups onِ land, whileِ true seals spend moreِ time inِ the water andِ are lessِ social.
Also, sea lions andِ fur seals communicate throughِ loud barking orِ bellowing, whileِ seals usuallyِ grunt softly toِ communicate.