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Did you know that most California sea lion pups are born in June each year? That means there are lots of birthdays to celebrate this month!

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California sea lion pup running toward you
An underwater view of a sea lion diving in the ocean.
News Update

How Fast Can Sea Lions Swim? And Other Sea Lion Trivia

May 23, 2024
  • Behavior
  • Natural history

You already know sea lions are charismatic creatures, but how well do you know your sea lion facts? From how fast sea lions can swim to how they communicate, take a deep dive into this trivia.   

Ready to put your knowledge to the test? Click “Show More” to reveal the answer and more facts about sea lions.

Two California sea lions swim fast in the ocean by jumping above the water’s surface.
California sea lions can be spotted porpoising along the coast. / Photo by Bill Hunnewell © The Marine Mammal Center

How fast can sea lions swim?

California sea lions are very fast swimmers, reaching speeds of 25 miles per hour in the ocean.

As members of the otariid or “walking seal” family, sea lions have large front flippers that carry a lot of strength. In the water, they swim by using their front flippers like powerful oars. They are sometimes seen porpoising, or jumping out of the water, presumably to speed up their swimming. These animals can also move quickly on land as they can bring all four flippers underneath their bodies to walk or even run on them.

What is the difference between California sea lions and Steller sea lions? 

While Steller sea lions and California sea lions are similar in appearance, there are distinct ways to tell them apart like size and color. 

Steller sea lions are much larger and lighter in color than California sea lions. Adult male California sea lions weigh up to 850 pounds and females up to 250 pounds. Adult male Steller sea lions weigh almost 2,500 pounds and females weigh 1,000 pounds.

A Steller sea lion and California sea lion rest outside of a rehabilitation pool.
Steller sea lion pup Colby (left) and California sea lion yearling Biddle (right) were housed together at our hospital as pen-mates. / Photo by Bill Hunnewell © The Marine Mammal Center
A group of California sea lions rest closely packed together on rocks in the ocean.
Sea lions are very social and often rest closely packed together. / Photo © Bill Hunnewell

How do sea lions communicate?

Sea lions primarily communicate with each other though vocalizations, including barks, growls and grunts.

California sea lions are a very social species and are known for their noisy barking. During breeding season, male sea lions may bark to establish and defend territories. Female sea lions also use a specific vocalization to communicate with their pups. In fact, mothers and pups recognize each other on crowded rookeries, or breeding beaches, through their distinct vocalizations and smells.

Enjoyed This Animal Trivia? Discover More Sea Lion Facts and Information

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California Sea Lion