Australian sea lion

The only native and restricted pinniped in Australia

Brian M Hunt

Australian sea lion


The only native and restricted pinniped in Australia

Population 6,500
57% decline in three generations

The Australian Sea Lion is a unique and captivating marine mammal endemic to the southern and western coasts of Australia. Distinguished by their striking coat colors that vary with age and sex, they vividly illustrate sexual dimorphism in the animal kingdom.

Australian Sea Lions exhibit marked differences in appearance between males and females. Males boast a robust, dark brown body with a distinctive yellow mane, highlighting their imposing presence. In contrast, females display a more subdued color palette, with fawn or silver coats and a cream underside, blending seamlessly with the sandy beaches and rocky shores they often inhabit. Newborn pups are initially dark brown, featuring a characteristic dark mask on their face and a pale crown, which serves as camouflage against predators.

As they mature, males can grow up to three times the size of females, a size disparity that is among the most pronounced in the pinniped family. This significant size difference plays a role in the breeding behavior and social structure of Australian Sea Lions, with larger males often dominating breeding sites and territories.

Australian Sea Lions are skilled hunters, preying on various marine organisms including fish, octopuses, crustaceans, and squids. Their diet reflects the rich biodiversity of Australia’s coastal waters, and their foraging behavior showcases remarkable adaptations for deep diving. Capable of reaching depths up to 180 meters (600 feet) and staying submerged for up to 40 minutes, these sea lions are equipped with physiological adaptations that allow them to conserve oxygen and withstand the pressures of deep-sea diving. This enables them to access food sources that are unavailable to many other marine predators.

The Australian Sea Lion is currently listed as Endangered, facing threats from entanglement in fishing nets, habitat degradation, and human-induced marine pollution. Entanglement in fishing gear, in particular, poses a significant risk to these sea lions, leading to injury or death and contributing to the decline in their populations.


Population est.
Pacific ocean
Indian ocean
Official estimate
Extinct locally: Tasmania
South Australia, Western Australia

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No