Social interactions of stranded and recovering immature California sea lions (Zalophus californianus)

Monet S. Meyer, Siobhan S. Rickert, Hadley L. Pearce, Omar A. Khan, William van Bonn, Shawn P. Johnson, Garet P. Lahvis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Hundreds of California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) strand along the Pacific coast of North America each year. They are treated for a variety of conditions at marine mammal clinics along the coast, including malnutrition, physical trauma, infections, and toxicosis. The largest clinic is The Marine Mammal Center (TMMC) in the Marin County Headlands just north of San Francisco where sea lions can reside for weeks to months before release. Assessment of illness and recovery can be difficult. Since healthy sociality is sensitive to developmental impairment and illness, understanding of typical social interactions would aid in the assessment of overall recovery. To gain insight to the social behavior of captive California sea lions, we examined the behaviors of recovering immature individuals at TMMC. We found that the sea lions in male pens were generally more physically active, expressing more approach interactions and coordinated swimming per day. The sea lions in mixed-sex pens fluctuated in activity, with the level of activity decreasing as the day went on; while the sea lions in male pens maintained similar levels of activity all day. These findings offer a foundation for more rigorous studies of the social neurobiology of recovering California sea lions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)517-529
Number of pages13
JournalAquatic Mammals
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2017


  • Adolescence
  • California sea lions
  • Social behavior
  • Sociality
  • Swimming behaviors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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