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Seal vs. Sea Lion: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 20, 2023
Seals have short flippers and no external ear flaps, while sea lions have larger flippers and visible ear flaps.

Key Differences

Seals belong to the family Phocidae, characterized by their streamlined bodies and short, stubby front flippers. On land, their movement is quite clumsy as they wiggle on their bellies. On the other hand, sea lions are members of the family Otariidae and are more versatile in their movement. With their strong, large front flippers, they can "walk" on land.
Seals often lack visible ear flaps; instead, they have small holes for ears. This feature gives them a smoother appearance on the side of their head. In contrast, sea lions have distinct external ear flaps, which are easily noticeable.
In terms of vocalizations, seals are relatively quieter, making soft grunts or noises. However, sea lions are much more vocal and are known for their loud barking sounds, especially in groups.
While both seals and sea lions have a layer of blubber to keep them warm, their skin and fur differ. Seals typically have a thicker layer of blubber and shorter fur, whereas sea lions have a thinner blubber layer but a dense underfur beneath their coarser top fur.
Dietary habits of seals and sea lions also have distinctions. While both primarily eat fish and squid, seals might dive deeper and stay underwater longer in search of food. Sea lions, on the other hand, often hunt in groups and might pursue larger prey.

Comparison Chart

Physical Features

Streamlined body, short flippers.
Strong, large flippers, "walks" on land.


Small ear holes, no external flaps.
Visible external ear flaps.


Quieter, soft grunts.
Loud barking sounds.

Skin and Fur

Thicker blubber, shorter fur.
Thinner blubber, dense underfur.

Hunting Habits

Dives deep, stays underwater longer.
Hunts in groups, might pursue larger prey.

Seal and Sea Lion Definitions


An aquatic carnivore known for its thick layer of blubber.
The seal dove deep into the cold waters in search of fish.

Sea Lion

A marine mammal with visible ear flaps and large front flippers.
The sea lion skillfully balanced a ball on its nose during the show.


A marine mammal with a streamlined body and short flippers.
The seal basked in the sun on the rocky shore.

Sea Lion

An aquatic animal that can "walk" on land using its strong flippers.
The sea lion confidently walked up to the trainer for a treat.


A creature lacking visible ear flaps, belonging to the family Phocidae.
From a distance, the smooth head of the seal was easily recognizable.

Sea Lion

A creature with a dense underfur beneath a coarser top fur.
The thick fur of the sea lion kept it warm in chilly waters.


An animal that moves by wriggling on its belly on land.
The children watched in fascination as the seal clumsily moved towards the water.

Sea Lion

A member of the Otariidae family known for its barking vocalizations.
The loud barks of the sea lion echoed across the beach.


A marine predator primarily feeding on fish and squid.
The seal skillfully caught a squid, much to the delight of the onlookers.

Sea Lion

A group-hunting predator often chasing larger prey.
A group of sea lions worked together to corner a school of fish.


A device or material that is used to close off or fasten an opening or connection, especially to prevent the escape of a liquid or gas
Used caulk as a seal around the window.


What's a noticeable feature on a sea lion's head?

Sea lions have distinct external ear flaps.

Which is more vocal, the seal or the sea lion?

The sea lion is more vocal, known for its loud barking sounds.

What family do seals belong to?

Seals belong to the family Phocidae.

Which has a denser underfur, the seal or the sea lion?

The sea lion has a denser underfur beneath its coarser top fur.

How do sea lions rear their young?

Sea lions give birth on land and take care of their pups, often teaching them to swim and hunt.

Can sea lions "walk" on land?

Yes, sea lions can "walk" on land using their strong, large front flippers.

Which dives deeper in search of food?

Seals often dive deeper and stay underwater longer in search of food.

Are seals and sea lions endangered?

Some species of seals and sea lions are endangered, while others have stable populations.

Do seals have whiskers?

Yes, both seals and sea lions have whiskers, which help them detect vibrations in the water.

Do seals have external ear flaps?

No, seals do not have visible external ear flaps; they have small ear holes.

Which has a thicker layer of blubber?

Seals typically have a thicker layer of blubber compared to sea lions.

How do sea lions protect themselves from predators?

Sea lions use their agility in water, group behaviors, and sometimes their loud vocalizations to deter predators.

How do seals move on land?

Seals move by wriggling on their bellies, making their land movement quite clumsy.

Do both seals and sea lions eat fish?

Yes, both seals and sea lions primarily eat fish and squid.

How do sea lions communicate?

Sea lions communicate using a range of vocalizations, including barks, grunts, and growls.

Are sea lions social animals?

Yes, sea lions are social and often hunt and live in groups.

Can seals climb on rocks?

While not as agile as sea lions, seals can still haul out and rest on rocky shores.

Do both seals and sea lions have sharp teeth?

Yes, both seals and sea lions have sharp teeth, aiding them in catching and consuming prey.

Are sea lions part of the seal family?

No, sea lions belong to the family Otariidae.

Can you find seals in warm waters?

Seals are versatile and can be found in various habitats, from icy polar regions to warmer waters.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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