Galpagos sea lion

Zalophus wollebaeki

SUBFAMILY

Otariinae

TAXONOMY

Zalophus wollebaeki Sivertsen, 1953.

OTHER COMMON NAMES German: Galapagos Seelowe.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Males are gray/brown to black; no weights reported. Their call is a sharp, intense bark. Females are tawny, and weigh up to 176 lb (80 kg).

DISTRIBUTION

Galápagos Islands. It is restricted to feeding in upwelling plumes around the islands and cannot emigrate during El Niño events.

HABITAT

The Galápagos sea lion breeds on all the major islands of the Galápagos. It prefers gently sloping beaches of sand and rock, and therefore shares no breeding sites with the Galápagos fur seal.

BEHAVIOR

Their behavior has not been well studied, but appears to resemble that of California sea lions in general. It defends shoreline territories. Most animals are on shore at night.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

These animals forage usually in the daytime on sardines (70% of diet). They may switch to green eyes and myctophids during El Niño events.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Polygynous. The species maintains an annual cycle of breeding, and has a long (6-8 month) breeding season. Females suckle young for two years on average (range 1-3 years), and may simultaneously suckle a pup born that year.

CONSERVATION STATUS

The species was not commercially exploited. It numbered to 50,000 in 1963, but declined to 14,000 after the 1997-98 El Niño event. It may now be below historic numbers.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

An ecotourism attraction as part of the native fauna of the Galápagos Islands. ♦

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