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What's the difference between a seal and a sea lion?


If you've ever been to feeding time at the zoo, you know that it's tremendous fun to watch the staff feed the animals, especially the seals. Or wait-- were those sea lions?

It's easy to get confused between the two!

Here's how you can tell them apart: Sea lions have ear flaps on the outside of their bodies, called external ear flaps; seals have what are called ear holes. Sea lions can actually move their back flippers forward so they can walk on land; seals have to hold their hind legs out straight and move forward on land in a kind of rolling movement with their stomachs. Sea lions have smooth whiskers; most seals have whiskers that are wavy. And finally, if you ever get a good look at the front flipper of a sea lion, you'll see that those flippers are long and hairless; they also have short nails. Seals have shorter, furrier front flippers with long claws.

Another way to tell them part - just listen! Sea lions tend to be loud--you can hear them roaring and barking to defend the females.

All seals and sea lions (pinnipeds, as they're known) are mammals, and all have four flippers (one pair in front; one pair in back.) They also have a layer of blubber and delicate whiskers.

Further Information

Seals and sea lions are part of a scientific order called Pinnipedia. That group is further divided into three families""walruses, true seals, and eared seals, which include sea lions.