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12 Jun 2019 15:51:19
Have you ever looked at a seal and thought ‘woof?’ Well, you’re not alone – widely known as the puppies of the sea, there’s science behind this similarity. At SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast (formerly Underwater World), we have three male and four female seals who call the aquarium home. Meet Teiko, our Australian Sea Lion, and Groucho, our male Australian Fur Seal who was found starving on a beach in Victoria. These playful creatures with big personalities are endlessly entertaining and interesting too. Here are five fun facts about our seals.
With their gorgeous big eyes, whiskers, snouts and frisky character, there could be more to these similarities than just resemblance. There’s a scientific theory that draws an evolutionary connection between seals and dogs. It goes like this – a prehistoric, dog-like land mammal started searching for food in shallow waters, before moving to streams and lakes. Over a space of time, they then transformed and grew physical qualities that let them survive in the sea. Even today, if you examine the skulls of a Leopard Seal and a large dog, they’re strikingly similar!
How long can you hold your breath? The average human can hold their breath for less than thirty seconds, but our Eared Seals can do it for up to ten minutes! How is that even possible you ask? Well, seals have more blood in their bodies than any other animal, and because oxygen is stored and carried around the body in blood, this means they’re well equipped to hold their breath for a long time! With their layer of fat, called blubber, they’re well-equipped for cold water, and their sleek fur coat allows them to glide through the water gracefully.
We all love our sleep, but while we may enjoy a long snooze, our seal friends prefer to snooze in bursts, both on land and in the water. This extraordinary skill allows these smart sleepers to find the best place to grab some zzzzz’s, away from danger. When the weather is warm, or they have pups in tow, some species of seal choose to sleep on land.
There’s a wide range of seal species: 33 to be precise! At one extremity, there’s the humongous Elephant Seal which can grow up to 4 metres in length and weigh in at up to two tonnes; that’s almost as heavy as a big car. At the other, there’s the teeny tiny Galapagos Fur Seal; at only 1 metre in length, this slight seal weighs an average of 30 kilograms.
Australian Sea Lions extend a lot of energy, so they need to eat a great deal to fuel their fun. They love to munch on fish, squid, and other meat-heavy sea creatures; while they eat their smaller prey whole, they tear their larger catches up into small chunks they can easily digest. These gentle creatures have seriously strong teeth, which means they can crack through thick shells to get the meat of what they eat. And their wily whiskers help them find their prey, even when the water is dark and cloudy.
Come and see our seals up close. And if you want to immerse yourself even further, SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast offers a seal swim experience where you can have an unforgettable encounter with our playful friends.