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The lovable (and lethal) sea lion - Claire Simeone

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Sunning themselves on rocks or waddling awkwardly across the beach, it’s easy to think of sea lions more as sea house cats. But don’t be fooled by their beachside behavior. Under the waves, sea lions are incredible endurance hunters, reaching speeds of 18 miles an hour and hunting for up to 30 hours at a time. Claire Simeone dives into what makes these majestic mammals such resourceful foragers.

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TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Claire Simeone
  • Director Mateus Contini, Edgar Costa
  • Narrator Alexandra Panzer
  • Art Director Mateus Contini, Edgar Costa
  • Storyboard Artist Mateus Contini, Edgar Costa
  • Layout Artist Mateus Contini, Edgar Costa
  • Editor Mateus Contini
  • Character Designer Edgar Costa
  • Animator Mateus Contini, Edgar Costa, Kelvin Lima, Allan Dantas
  • Sound Designer Matheus Wittmann
  • Composer Matheus Wittmann
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Associate Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Associate Editorial Producer Dan Kwartler
  • Script Editor Emma Bryce
  • Fact-checker Eden Girma
  • See more
Additional Resources for you to Explore
Marine mammals are a special group of animals that have the same characteristics as all other mammals, but they have adapted to living all or part of their life in the ocean. Sea lions are a type of pinniped (which means ‘flipper-footed’), which is a group that includes sea lions, seals, and walrus. The best way to tell the difference between a sea lion and a seal is to look at their ears and the way they walk. Sea lions have visible ear flaps, while seals lack external ears. Sea lions can rotate their flippers to ‘walk’ on land, while seals cannot, and instead wriggle along land (a movement known as ‘galumphing’!). Watch this video to see the difference between the California sea lions that run along the beach first, and the harbor seals that follow behind.

You learned all about the adaptations that marine mammals have to allow them to live a life in the sea. There are even more specializations that marine mammals’ bodies have than what we described in our video. You can read more about the specializations that marine mammals have in their blood and muscle here, and read about how marine mammal lungs are specialized to prevent them from getting ‘the bends’.

Sea lions have an incredible memory, and can remember how to perform tasks after 10 years with no practice in between. Read this article to meet sea lion Rio, who helped scientists to understand just how powerful sea lion memory is. Sea lions have also shown that they are similar to us in more ways than just a good memory; watch this video of Ronan, a California sea lion that was the first non-human mammal shown to be able to find and keep the beat with music.

What happens when a sickness affects a sea lion’s memory? Sea lions can be sickened by domoic acid, a toxin produced by marine algae. Watch this video that describes how domoic acid can affect sea lions, and how we can learn from them to better understand our own health.

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About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Claire Simeone
  • Director Mateus Contini, Edgar Costa
  • Narrator Alexandra Panzer
  • Art Director Mateus Contini, Edgar Costa
  • Storyboard Artist Mateus Contini, Edgar Costa
  • Layout Artist Mateus Contini, Edgar Costa
  • Editor Mateus Contini
  • Character Designer Edgar Costa
  • Animator Mateus Contini, Edgar Costa, Kelvin Lima, Allan Dantas
  • Sound Designer Matheus Wittmann
  • Composer Matheus Wittmann
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Associate Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Associate Editorial Producer Dan Kwartler
  • Script Editor Emma Bryce
  • Fact-checker Eden Girma
  • See more