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sea lion Facts Portrait of a Sea Lion Sea lions are 7 species of large marine mammals in the pinniped (seal) family. The sea lions ancient ancestors were land animals somewhat similar to bears. For reasons unknown these creatures returned to the ocean about 20 million years ago, where they have since become the most successful and widely distributed family of carnivores in the world . The sea lions entire body is structured for life in the water, with a smooth, torpedo shaped torso and flattened, powerful flippers, like four large swim fins instead of feet. In fact, the swim-fins scuba divers and backyard snorkelers use were modeled after a sea lions unique, compressed and web-toed hind feet. Sea lions live in very large social groups called colonies that may come together to sunbathe in masses of hundreds, and take to the beach to mate and raise young in tightly packed gatherings of thousands. On land they are relatively cumbersome, but, unlike the "true seals", the sea lions can lift their bodies up off the sand and walk on all fours , and even run if necessary. This ability finds sea lions and fur seals commonly referred to as the "walking seals", while their external ears are why they are also referred to as the "eared seals." The "true seals", such as elephant seals and harp seals, do not have external ear structures and are not capable of walking, but rather must roll or wriggle from place to place when on land. In the water, sea lions shine with balletic grace, spending the majority of  their time hunting in reefs and ocean waters where they can dive as deep as 900 feet and remain submerged for over half an hour. Sea lions are true carnivores and individuals may eat as much as 50 pounds of fish and squid in a day. They are solitary hunters and rarely if ever take large game such as penguins or seals, concentrating mostly on small squid and school fish such as  herring and anchovy, which they can swallow whole, without any chewing at all. Sea lions stalk schoo

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