Ask Difference

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

By Tayyaba Rehman — Published on January 31, 2024
Seals are marine mammals with short flippers, no external ear flaps, and wriggle on their bellies on land. Sea lions have longer flippers, visible ear flaps, and can walk on land using their flippers.
Seal vs. Sea Lion — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Seal and Sea Lion


Key Differences

Seals, belonging to the family Phocidae, are characterized by their streamlined bodies and short flippers, which make them excellent swimmers but clumsy movers on land, where they wriggle on their bellies. Sea lions, part of the Otariidae family, have notably larger flippers and can rotate their hind flippers forward, allowing them to walk on land more effectively than seals.
In terms of physical appearance, seals lack external ear flaps, having only small openings for ears, which contributes to their streamlined shape for efficient swimming. Sea lions, on the other hand, are easily distinguishable by their external ear flaps, which are visible and prominent, setting them apart from seals.
Seals are generally quieter, using soft grunts or moans, especially during social interactions or mating seasons. Sea lions are more vocal, known for their loud barks and roars, which they use for communication in their social groups, both on land and in the water.
The habitat and social behavior of seals usually involve more solitary living, coming together primarily during breeding seasons. Sea lions are more social animals, often seen in large groups on beaches or rocks, and they exhibit a more playful behavior compared to the typically more reserved seals.
When it comes to diet, both seals and sea lions are carnivorous, primarily feeding on fish and squid. However, their hunting techniques differ, with seals relying more on stealth and ambush, while sea lions often use their agility and speed in active pursuit of prey.

Comparison Chart


Short, inefficient on land
Long, can walk on land

Ear Flaps

No external ear flaps
Visible external ear flaps


Generally quieter, soft grunts
Loud barks and roars

Social Behavior

More solitary
Highly social and playful

Hunting Technique

Stealth and ambush
Agility and speed in pursuit

Compare with Definitions


Seals are carnivorous, feeding mainly on fish and squid.
The seal dove deep to hunt for squid.

Sea Lion

Sea lions have visible external ear flaps.
The small ear flaps were a clear sign of the animal being a sea lion.


Seals are adept swimmers but move clumsily on land.
On the beach, the seal wriggled on its belly to move.

Sea Lion

Sea lions are more social and playful compared to seals.
The sea lions played together in the water.


Seals are typically less vocal and more reserved in behavior.
The seals communicated with soft grunts on the ice floe.

Sea Lion

Sea lions are marine mammals with long flippers and the ability to walk on land.
The sea lion used its flippers to walk across the rocks.


Seals are marine mammals known for their streamlined bodies and short flippers.
The seal glided effortlessly through the water.

Sea Lion

Sea lions are known for their loud barking and social nature.
The group of sea lions barked loudly on the crowded beach.


Seals lack external ear flaps, having small ear openings instead.
The absence of ear flaps made the seal's head look more streamlined.

Sea Lion

Sea lions hunt actively using their agility and speed.
The sea lion chased after a school of fish.


To hunt seals.

Sea Lion

Alternative form of sea lion

Common Curiosities

Do seals have external ear flaps?

No, seals do not have external ear flaps, only small ear openings.

Can seals walk on land?

Seals are not efficient at walking on land; they wriggle on their bellies to move.

What is a sea lion?

A sea lion is a marine mammal with long flippers, visible external ear flaps, and a loud, barking vocalization.

Can sea lions walk on land?

Yes, sea lions can walk on land using their long flippers.

Are sea lions social animals?

Sea lions are very social and often found in large groups.

What do seals eat?

Seals primarily eat fish and squid, using stealth and ambush techniques for hunting.

Where do sea lions live?

Sea lions are found in many coastal waters and are commonly seen on beaches and rocks.

How do seals communicate?

Seals communicate using soft grunts or moans.

What is a seal?

A seal is a marine mammal with a streamlined body, short flippers, and no external ear flaps.

Are seals social animals?

Seals are generally more solitary, coming together mainly during breeding seasons.

Do sea lions have external ear flaps?

Yes, sea lions have visible external ear flaps.

Can both seals and sea lions swim well?

Yes, both seals and sea lions are excellent swimmers.

How do sea lions communicate?

Sea lions communicate using loud barks and roars.

Where do seals live?

Seals live in various marine environments, often in colder waters.

What do sea lions eat?

Sea lions eat fish and squid, actively pursuing their prey using speed and agility.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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