ALL ABOUT OUR MAMMALS

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CALIFORNIA SEA LION

(Zalophus californianus) Sea lions are eared seals. They are extremely intelligent, well-coordinated and very playful.
ORDER: SUBORDER: FAMILY: GENUS: SPECIES: SUB-SPECIES: Carnivora Pinnipedia Otariidae Zalophus californianus californicus
Adult (Average) Size: Male: 6’6″ to 8’2″, 440 to 800 lbs.; Female: 5′ to 6′, 100 to 250 lbs.
Habitat: Sandy or rocky island beaches; sometimes on mainland shorelines, coastal islands, or in caves protected by steep cliffs
Range: Vancouver to Baja California; Gulf of California; Preferred breeding grounds are islands from California’s Channel Islands south through the Gulf
Migratory Patterns: Long distance seasonal migrations. Adult and sub-adult males tend to travel north for winter; females stay in range of breeding areas.
Social Organization During Breeding: Colonial; moderate sized to large groups
Mating Behavior: Polygynous
Sexual Maturity: Male: 4 to 7 years; Female: 4 to 5 years
Mating Season: Early July
Gestation Period: 11 months (3 months delayed implantation)
Pupping Season: Mid-May to late June (peak pupping season: Mid‑June)
Size at Birth: 2 ft. (10 lbs. to 15 lbs.)
Lactation (Nursing) Period: 6 to 12 months (Length of lactation period is known to vary)
Usual Diet: Squid, octopus, herring and anchovies
Amount of Food per Day: Juvenile: 5 lbs. to 8 lbs.; Adults: l0 lbs. to 40 lbs.
Predators: Orcas, great white sharks and bull sharks
Diving Depth: California Sea Lions generally do not need to dive very deeply, since most of their food is in shallow waters. They can dive to depths of 450 ft.
Submersion Times: They can remain submerged for 10 to 15 minutes
Longevity: Average lifespan for most pinnipeds is estimated to be from 15 to 25 years

GUADALUPE FUR SEAL

(Arctocephalustownsendi) Guadalupe Fur seals, like Northern Fur seals, are eared seals. They are classified as “Threatened” in terms of their conservation status and are seen less frequently than Northern Fur seals in California waters.
ORDER: SUBORDER: FAMILY: GENUS: SPECIES: Carnivora Pinnipedia Otariidae Arctocephalustownsendi
Adult (Average) Size: Male: 5’10” to 7’9”, 350 to 485 lbs.; Female: 4’6” to 5’6”, 88 to 120 lbs.
Habitat: Coastal, preferring rocky areas and caves/rookeries on land.
Range: Southern Gulf of California, Western Mexico, California (south of Farallon Islands) to Channel Islands. Breed on Guadalupe Island and possibly beyond. True range may be underestimated due to rarity of sightings.
Migratory Patterns: Long‑distance seasonal migrations
Social Organization During Breeding: Colonial; similar to sea lions
Mating Behavior: Polygynous
Sexual Maturity: Unknown
Mating Season: Late June ‑ late July
Gestation Period: 11 ‑ 12 months (with delayed implantation)
Pupping Season: June ‑ July (peak pupping season: June)
Size at Birth: About 2 ft.
Lactation (Nursing) Period: 8 to 9 months
Usual Diet: Squid, lantern fish, mackerel, rockfish
Amount of Food per Day: Thought to be 10-20% of body weight
Predators: Possibly great white sharks
Diving Depth: Appear to feed at a depth of about 65 ft.
Submersion Times: Average about 2-3 minutes
Longevity: Average lifespan for most pinnipeds is estimated to be from 15 to 25 years

HARBOR SEAL

(Phoca Vitulina) Harbor seals are earless seals (true seals). They are the most readily observed earless seal in American waters and are widespread on both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts.
ORDER: SUBORDER: FAMILY: GENUS: SPECIES: SUB-SPECIES: Carnivora Pinnipedia Phocidae Phoca vitulina richardsi
Adult (Average) Size: Male: 4’7″ to 5’7″ , up to 300 lbs.; Female: 4’7″ to 5’7″, up to 300 lbs.
Habitat: Coastal waters and mouths of rivers; may occur in some northern inland freshwater lakes
Range: Hudson Bay to Carolinas (Atlantic); Northern Alaska to Calif. Coastline (Pacific)
Migratory Patterns: Non‑migratory
Social Organization During Breeding: Small to large groups
Mating Behavior: Polygynous
Sexual Maturity: Male: 3 to 7 years; Female: 2 to 7 years
Mating Season: Varies; May to June (North America)
Gestation Period: 12 months (3 months delayed implantation)
Pupping Season: April to May (east coast of North America), February to March (west coast)
Size at Birth: 2 ‑ 3 ft. (22 lbs. to 28 lbs.)
Lactation (Nursing) Period: 21 ‑ 42 days (Length of lactation period varies geographically)
Usual Diet: Herring, squid, flounder, crustaceans and mollusks
Amount of Food per Day: Juvenile: 5 lbs. to 8 lbs.; Adults: 10 lbs. to 15 lbs.
Predators: Orcas, great white sharks and polar bears
Diving Depth: Can dive to depths of 600 ft.
Submersion Times: Can remain submerged for 30 minutes; average 5 to 8 minutes.
Longevity: Average lifespan for most pinnipeds is estimated to be from 15 to 25 years

NORTHERN (ALASKA) FUR SEAL

(Callorhinusursinus) Northern Fur Seals are eared seals, named for their dense, insulating underfur. Outside of the mating season, these seals are great ocean travelers.
ORDER: SUBORDER: FAMILY: GENUS: SPECIES: Carnivora Pinnipedia Otariidae Callorhinus ursinus
Adult (Average) Size: Male: 6’3″ to 7’3”, 330 to 600 lbs.; Female: 3’8″ to 5′, 84 to 150 lbs.
Habitat: Most of the year at sea, coming to rocky and sandy beaches to breed in summer.
Range: Arctic Ocean to Southern California in winter. Summers on Pribilof Islands in Bering Sea and San Miguel islands off the California coast (Rookeries: Pribilof, Commander, and San Miguel). Not commonly seen along the coast in the Southern California area due to their pelagic lifestyle. They spend most of their time in deep waters far offshore.
Migratory Patterns: Long‑distance seasonal migrations
Social Organization During Breeding: Colonial; extremely large groups
Mating Behavior: Polygynous
Sexual Maturity: Male: 5 years; Female: 3 to 7 years
Mating Season: Late June ‑ late July
Gestation Period: 11 ‑ 12 months (3 months delayed implantation)
Pupping Season: June ‑ July (peak pupping season: Mid‑June to mid‑July)
Size at Birth: 2 ft. (10 lbs. to 15 lbs.)
Lactation (Nursing) Period: 4 to 5 months
Usual Diet: Squid, herring, pollack and lantern fish
Amount of Food per Day: Juvenile: 5 lbs. to 8 lbs.; Adults: 10 lbs. to 30 lbs.
Predators: Orcas, great white sharks, and Stellar Sea Lions (feed on pups)
Diving Depth: On average they can dive 68 ft. and have been recorded to dive to depths of 600 ft.
Submersion Times: Average about 7 minutes
Longevity: Average lifespan for most pinnipeds is estimated to be from 15 to 25 years

NORTHERN ELEPHANT SEAL

(Mirounga Angustirostris) Northern elephant seals are earless seals (true seals). This species is among the largest of all seals, second only to the Southern elephant seal.
ORDER: SUBORDER: FAMILY: GENUS: SPECIES: Carnivora Pinnipedia Phocidae Mirounga angustirostris
Adult (Average) Size: Male: up to 14′, 4,400 lbs. Female: up to 10′, 1,300 lbs.
Habitat: Temperate waters; subtropical sandy beaches during breeding and  molting times
Range: Gulf of Alaska south to Baja California; Breeds on islands from Farollons off California coast south to Benito Island off Baja California. (California rookeries at Ano Nuevo, Pt. Reyes, Big Sur, and Channel Islands)
Migratory Patterns: Long‑distance seasonal migrations
Social Organization During Breeding: Colonial; moderate sized to extremely large groups
Mating Behavior: Polygynous
Sexual Maturity: Male: 5 years; Female: 2 to 6 years
Mating Season: Mid‑February
Gestation Period: 11 months (4 months delayed implantation)
Pupping Season: December to mid‑March (peak pupping season: Late January ‑ early February)
Size at Birth: 3 ‑ 5 ft. (60 – 80 lbs.)
Lactation (Nursing) Period: 22 ‑ 29 days approximate
Usual Diet: Squid, small sharks, rays and other deep water species
Amount of Food per Day: Juvenile: 10 lbs. to 12 lbs.; Adults: 50 lbs. to 100 lbs.
Predators: Orcas and great white sharks
Diving Depth: Average Dive: 450 ft. Have been recorded to dive to depths of 5,000 ft.
Submersion Times: They can easily remain submerged for 20 minutes, with a maximum of 119 minutes
Longevity: Average lifespan for most pinnipeds is estimated to be from 15 to 25 years.  Females generally longer than males.

PINNIPED

Pinniped means “wing or fin-footed,” or casually speaking, “flippered feet.”  Pinnipeds are animals organized into groups that share similar physical, functional, and genetic characteristics.  All pinnipeds belong to the Order Carnivora, which includes meat-eating animals with sharp teeth.  The next classification is the Suborder Pinnipedia. The name pinniped comes from the Latin “pinnipes” and roughly translates to “wing or fin-footed.” These animals have paddle-shaped feet with claws. The suborder Pinnipedia is divided into three families: the Otariidae, the Phocidae and the Odobenidae, which are further divided into genus and species.

OTARIIDAE

The Otariidae are characterized by having external ear flaps (pinnae) and are often referred to as the “eared seals.” They have whiskers (vibrissae), can walk on all four limbs (quadrupedal), and have nails on their rear flippers and small tails. The bottom surfaces (palmar surface) of the flippers are leathery rather than covered with fur. The Otariids swim primarily with their front flippers, using the rear flippers for steering. Adult males are much larger than females (sexual dimorphism) and develop a sagittal crest on the skull.

10% of pinnipeds are in the family Otariidae; yet, in Southern California they constitute the majority of our patients. The California sea lion (Zalophus californianus) is the most commonly treated pinniped at Marine Mammal Care Center Los Angeles. Other members of the Otariid family treated at MMCC LA include the Northern fur seal (Callorhin ursinus) and the Guadalupe fur seal (Arctocephalus townsendi).

Please don’t become confused by the common names Northern fur seal and Guadalupe fur seal.  Both of these types of seals have all of the characteristics of animals in the sea lion family despite having the common name fur seal.  Fur seals eat fish and squid, travel long distances, and can live 15-25 years. They breed and give birth to pups on islands or in remote coastal rookeries.  California sea lion pups may remain with their mothers on their natal beaches for a year or more.   Young sea lion pups aged 6-12 months can be rescued and brought to MMCC LA if they separate early from their mothers and become dehydrated and malnourished.

PHOCIDAE

The Phocidae account for 90% of all pinnipeds worldwide. They are often referred to as “true seals” and are characterized by having no external ear flaps, having fur on all flipper surfaces, and small, sharp nails on the front and rear digits. They cannot tuck their rear flippers under their bodies for walking as the sea lions do. They move on land by scooting and in the water the rear flippers move side to side, pushing the animal through the water.

The Phocidae are distributed around the world and in many habitats. The smallest pinniped, weighing up to 200 lbs, is the Baikal seal (Pusa sibirica), which is found in Lake Baikal, Russia. This is the only freshwater seal. The largest pinniped is the Southern elephant seal (Mirounga leonina), which is found in Antarctica and weighs up to 11,000 lbs. Worldwide there are 13 genera and 18 species in the family Phocidae. Many are associated with the Arctic and Antarctic.

Coastal California is home to two phocid species; the Pacific Harbor seal (Phoca vitulina) and the Northern elephant seal (Mirounga angustirostris) and both are routinely admitted to MMCC for injury, illness or malnutrition. Adult Northern elephant seals are rarely observed on Southern California beaches and are rarely admitted for rehabilitation. Adult Harbor seals are also rarely admitted for rehabilitation. Unlike sea lions, the Northern elephant seal and the Pacific Harbor seal have short lactation periods of only about 30 days before the pups are weaned.

ODOBENIDAE

The Odobenidae, include the walruses. Walruses are found in coastal areas of Alaska and around the Arctic. They breed on pack ice and forage on mollusks, clams and other invertebrates on the bottom of the ocean. They are characterized by the continually growing upper canine teeth in adult males and females and can reach 40 years of age.

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