|The Galapagos Sea Lion are inquisitive and playful, yet aggressive at times. They are attractive and endearing, but also lazy as they lie on the beaches soaking up the sun and replenishing their oxygen. Youngsters, and occasionally adults, will body surf when the waves are right. They always seem to be playing with something, whether with each other, marine iguanas, penguins, red crabs, or just a piece of seaweed.
The Galapagos Sea Lion despite being smaller than its Californian relatives, a full-grown male is a magnificent creature, weighing up to 250 kg. The Galapagos sea lion males differ from the more graceful females in being much larger, having a characteristic "bump" on the forehead, and having a massive, thick, neck. When wet, both sexes are dark brown, but when thoroughly dry, the fur is often a creamy brown.
The Galapagos sea lions are common in the islands where there are sandy beaches and gentle rocky shores. It is estimated that there are about 50,000 individuals. Their food is mainly fish for which they will often make extended trips away from the colony.
Little is known about their life at sea, but on land they form colonies at their hauling-out areas. Each colony, or harem, is composed of a dominant bull and from a few to thirty cows with their young. Though usually referred to as harems, sea lion colonies are not true harems because females are free to wander from one territory to another. The male's harem is really only apiece of land on which females prefertolie.
The dominant bull has a stretch of coastline that he jealously defends against all other adult males. He spends much of his day swimming from one border of his territory to the other. While patrolling his territory he frequently rears his head out of the water to utter a series of barks. These barks are also made underwater and indicate his territorial ownership.
Territories are frequently challenged and fights often ensue. On land and in the shallows, these start by posturing and barking in an attempt to test each other's courage. If one or other opponent is not scared off, they will start pushing each other and biting at the opponent's neck. The males' neck is thick and strong to protect vital organs, but blood is often drawn. Scars are common amongst male sea lions. Losers are chased well away from the territory. In the water, these chases are dramatic with much splashing and proposing.
Because there are many males without harems, there is always an excess of bachelor males. Bachelor males are not tolerated near females and, when not trying to gain themselves a harem, these surplus males often congregate fairly peaceably in "bachelor colonies." Such colonies are usually in less favorable areas of coastline. One of these is found atop the cliffs of South Plaza Island. Territorial males cannot feed while defending a territory and when they become tired and weakened they will be ousted by a fresh bull. Territory tenure varies from a few days to as much as three months.