Difference Between Seal And Sealion

Seals and sea lions are two distinct pinnipeds with different physical appearances, behaviors, diets, and mating systems.

Difference Between Seal And Sealion

Seals and sea lions are two common pinnipeds (semi-aquatic marine mammals) that can be found along the coastlines of many countries. From afar, it may be difficult to differentiate between the two, but upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that seals and sea lions have distinct physical appearances as well as differing behaviors. In this article, we will explore the main differences between seals and sea lions.

Physical Differences

One of the most notable physical differences between seals and sea lions is their external ear flaps. Sea lions have external ear flaps, while seals do not. Seals only have ear holes on the sides of their heads. Sea lions also have a longer neck and a visible skeletal framework around their shoulders, giving them a more robust appearance compared to seals.

Sea lions also have larger flippers than seals, which makes them more agile in the water. Sea lions use their flippers to "walk" on land, while seals use their flippers to crawl. Additionally, the way they move their flippers underwater is different. Sea lions use their large front flippers to paddle through the water, while seals rely on their hind flippers for propulsion, which they move in a sculling motion.

Seals are also more adept at diving than sea lions. Seals can dive to great depths and stay underwater for up to 90 minutes, while sea lions can only dive up to 300 feet and stay underwater for around 20 minutes.

Behavioral Differences

Seals and sea lions exhibit different types of behaviors when they are out of the water. Seals tend to be more solitary animals and are often seen lazing around on the beach or rocks. They are more timid than sea lions and prefer to stay away from humans. They also tend to spend more time in the water than on land.

Sea lions, on the other hand, are more social animals and can often be seen sunbathing in large groups on beaches or rocky outcrops. They are also more curious and interactive with humans and other animals.

Dietary Differences

Another key difference between seals and sea lions is their diet. Seals primarily feed on fish and crustaceans and are considered to be opportunistic feeders. They tend to hunt in shallow waters and along the shoreline. Sea lions, on the other hand, are more versatile feeders and can prey on a wide range of animals, including fish, squid, shellfish, and smaller pinnipeds like seals. Sea lions can also hunt in deeper waters than seals.

Breeding and Reproduction

Seals and sea lions also differ in their breeding and reproduction patterns. Seals typically breed in colonies on land and give birth to their young on sea ice or rocky beaches. Seals tend to have a monogamous mating system, where a pair of seals will mate for several years, but they do not form long-lasting social bonds.

Sea lions, on the other hand, breed in large groups called rookeries, often on sandy beaches. Male sea lions compete for the attention of females by using displays of strength and aggression. Once a male has gained a female’s attention, they will form a bond for several weeks until the female gives birth. Male sea lions do not usually play a role in the care of their offspring.


In conclusion, seals and sea lions are both fascinating animals that are important for the ecosystem of marine environments. While they may appear similar from afar, upon closer inspection, it becomes apparent that they have several key differences in their physical appearance, behavior, diet, and mating systems. Knowing these differences can help us appreciate the unique qualities of each species and the important role they play in our world's oceans.