Thursday, February 23, 2012

Australian Sea Lion

Neophoca cinerea
The Australian Sea Lion is a sedentary Pinniped found off of the southern and western coasts of Australia. They breed on beaches and offshore islands, and rarely stray far from the area in which they were born. Australian Sea Lions are the only species within their genus, and they are also one of the most endangered Pinnipeds in the world.

Back in the 18th century, when Australia was first colonized by Europeans, the Sea Lions were hunted extensively for their hides and oil. The population plummeted and didn't receive any national protection until the 1970s. There are now around 14,000 individuals left, but habitat interference and fishing net entanglement continue to be threats.

Luckily, many of the breeding beaches are receiving protection, and the breeding cycle for the Australian Sea Lion is a rather interesting one. The season lasts for about 5 months, but because the males are unable to continuously protect their harems, they only come ashore for 4 weeks at a time. When they are with the females, the males are incredibly aggressive toward other males, and they will sometimes kill young pups that are not their own.

Females are pregnant for almost 18 months, and will breed again almost immediately after giving birth. However, there is some debate over how long the true gestation period actually is. It is generally agreed that there is delayed implantation, but the length of the delay is unknown. Periods of 3 months, 6 months, and even 10 months have been suggested.

IUCN Status : Endangered
Location : Southern Australia
Size : Body Length up to 8ft (2.5m), Weight up to 660lbs (300kg)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Mammalia -- Order : Carnivora
Suborder : Pinnipedia -- Family : Otariidae -- Genus : Neophoca -- Species : N. cinerea

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