The clichéd circus seal—obligingly balancing a ball on its nose and jumping through hoops—is typically a California sea lion.
But in the wild, the California sea lion is a sleek animal, faster than any other sea lion or seal. These eared seals top out at speeds of some 25 miles an hour. Unlike other sea lions, California sea lions do not have lionlike manes.
These pinnipeds live along the rocky Pacific Ocean coastlines of western North America. Huge colonies can be seen gathered on seaside rocks, and even on man-made structures, for breeding and for birthing. Males gather harems of females to their sides in competition to sire young pups, which are born on land.
The sea lion's ancient ancestors, like those of