Sea Lion vs. Walrus

What's the Difference?

Sea lions and walruses are both marine mammals that belong to the pinniped family. However, they have distinct differences in their physical characteristics and behavior. Sea lions are smaller in size, with a streamlined body and long flippers that enable them to swim swiftly through the water. They are known for their agility and can even walk on land using their flippers. On the other hand, walruses are much larger and have a robust body with a thick layer of blubber to keep them warm in cold Arctic waters. They possess long tusks, which are actually elongated canine teeth, used for various purposes such as defense, breaking ice, and hauling themselves out of the water. While sea lions are more social and tend to form large colonies, walruses are more solitary creatures. Overall, both sea lions and walruses are fascinating creatures with unique adaptations to their marine environments.


Sea Lion
Photo by Maura Mikhail on Unsplash
AttributeSea LionWalrus
Scientific NameZalophus californianusOdobenus rosmarus
WeightUp to 800 poundsUp to 3,700 pounds
HabitatCoastal areasArctic regions
DietPrimarily fishPrimarily mollusks
Swimming SpeedUp to 25 mphUp to 21 mph
Photo by NOAA on Unsplash

Further Detail


Sea lions and walruses are both fascinating marine mammals that belong to the pinniped family. While they share some similarities, they also have distinct attributes that set them apart. In this article, we will explore the characteristics, behavior, habitat, diet, and conservation status of sea lions and walruses, shedding light on the unique qualities of each species.


Sea lions and walruses have different physical characteristics that distinguish them from one another. Sea lions are generally smaller in size, with males reaching lengths of 6 to 8 feet and weighing between 600 to 800 pounds. They have a streamlined body shape, long flippers, and a pointed snout. In contrast, walruses are much larger, with males growing up to 10 to 12 feet in length and weighing between 2,000 to 3,000 pounds. They have a robust body, short flippers, and prominent tusks.

Another notable difference is their fur. Sea lions have a short, sleek coat that varies in color from light brown to dark gray. On the other hand, walruses have a thick layer of blubber and a sparse coat of coarse, bristly hair that ranges from light brown to reddish-brown. These unique characteristics allow them to adapt to their respective environments.


When it comes to behavior, sea lions and walruses exhibit distinct traits. Sea lions are highly social animals, often forming large colonies on rocky shores or sandy beaches. They are known for their agility and can move swiftly both on land and in water. Sea lions are also excellent swimmers, capable of diving to great depths in search of food.

Walruses, on the other hand, are more solitary creatures. They tend to spend a significant amount of time in the water, using their powerful flippers to navigate through the ocean. Walruses are known for their ability to haul themselves onto ice floes or rocky shores, where they rest and socialize. They are less agile on land compared to sea lions but are excellent divers, often descending to the ocean floor in search of food.


Sea lions and walruses have different habitat preferences. Sea lions are found in various coastal regions around the world, including the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. They inhabit rocky shores, sandy beaches, and even man-made structures such as piers and docks. Sea lions are adaptable and can thrive in both warm and cold waters, as long as there is an abundant food supply.

Walruses, on the other hand, are primarily found in the Arctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere. They inhabit the cold waters of the Arctic Ocean and adjacent seas, often congregating near ice floes. Walruses rely on sea ice for resting, giving birth, and accessing their main food source, which is found on the ocean floor.


Both sea lions and walruses are carnivorous, but their diets differ. Sea lions primarily feed on fish, squid, and occasionally crustaceans. They are agile hunters, using their sharp teeth to catch and consume their prey. Sea lions are known for their ability to swim swiftly and maneuver through schools of fish, making them efficient hunters in the ocean.

Walruses, on the other hand, have a more diverse diet. They primarily feed on benthic invertebrates such as clams, mussels, and snails. Using their sensitive whiskers, known as vibrissae, walruses locate their prey on the ocean floor and use their powerful suction to suck them out of their shells. This specialized feeding behavior allows them to extract the soft tissues while discarding the shells.

Conservation Status

Both sea lions and walruses face various conservation challenges due to human activities and environmental changes. Sea lions, in particular, have experienced population declines in some regions due to habitat destruction, pollution, and overfishing. However, many sea lion populations are considered stable or recovering, thanks to conservation efforts and protective measures.

Walruses, on the other hand, are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The loss of sea ice, which is crucial for their resting and feeding habits, poses a significant threat to their survival. Additionally, walruses are sometimes targeted by hunters for their valuable ivory tusks, further endangering their populations. As a result, walruses are classified as a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).


In conclusion, while sea lions and walruses are both members of the pinniped family, they have distinct attributes that make them unique. Sea lions are smaller, more social, and adaptable to various coastal environments, while walruses are larger, more solitary, and primarily inhabit the Arctic regions. Their diets and conservation statuses also differ, with sea lions primarily feeding on fish and squid, and walruses relying on benthic invertebrates. Understanding these differences allows us to appreciate the diversity of marine life and the importance of conservation efforts to protect these remarkable creatures.

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