Image Courtesy of Brigitte Baeuerle

From: Brigitte Baeuerle
Arica, October 28, 2008

Close encounter with a sea lion

Hola again,

On Sunday afternoon we took a stroll through town and ended up near the local harbor. Barking dogs, strange noises and a significant stench of old fish lead us to a group of humongous sea lions sunbathing on the rocks. Sea lions are commonly found along the South American coast and they are impressively large, ranging from 150 kg (330 pounds) to over 1000 kg (2200 pounds). As you can see in the picture, they have tiny external ears, relatively coarse hair and their fur is brown without any obvious markings.

Sea lions are quite social and form large herds during the breeding season. The big males maintain harems of females, which they defend aggressively against other males by showing their teeth, raising their upper bodies and making fierce noises.

Sea lions feed on different ocean creatures, including fish, cephalopods such as octopus and squid, and various crustaceans including crabs, lobsters, shrimp, and krill. As a result, they often get into trouble with local fishermen who claim that sea lions damage their nets or follow their trawl boats to steal fish. Some fishermen shoot them despite regulations that prohibit the killing of these marine giants.


Postcards from the Field: Climate Science from the Southeast Pacific

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