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Galapagos Sea Lion

Similar to the Galapagos Penguin, the Galapagos Sea Lion is also the smallest of its species and the only one to thrive in the warm temperatures right along the equator. Found mostly in the inner islands, they females weigh in at about 170 pounds and males can reach 450 pounds. They feed mostly on sardines about 350 feet below the surface, but can dive as deep as 2,000 feet if they need to. Although they are designated endangered, sightings of Galapagos Sea Lions are very common. Their playful barking makes spotting them no problem and their relatively social behavior means it’s easy to get up-close.

The breeding cycle for Galapagos Sea Lions features an interesting claiming of territory and a game of opportunity between dominant males and the smaller males who try to sneak a mate from one of the harems off shore. The dominant males stand guard over a group of females, while the younger males will circle the area in search of a chance to storm the castle and find a mate. Once born, pups stay with their mothers for only about a week before transitioning to a routine of hunting trips and days spent with pups on the shore. Interestingly, the length of nurturing time depends on the island, with Fernandina sea lions becoming fully independent after about a year while it takes double or even triple that on the inner islands.