Sea Lions or Seals?
California Sea Lions
California sea lions belong to the Otariidae, or sea lion family group, which is believed to descend from a terrestrial bear-like ancestor. Sea lions, also called “eared” seals, have a visible external ear flap, unlike harbor seals.
The hind flippers of sea lions are capable of rotating toward the front of the body. They are often used to walk or gallop on land.
Harbor seals belong to the Phocidae, or true seal family, that is thought to descend from a terrestrial weasel-like ancestor. Seals have no visible external ear flap and are known as “earless.”
Harbor seals will never be seen piled over one another. Unlike sea lions, they take extra precaution to stay away from each other and never touch. Moms and their pups are the only one who may be seen nuzzling noses.
Harbor seals’ hind flippers extend directly behind their bodies, unable to rotate. On land, seals flop forward with caterpillar-like hitching movements called galumphing.