LA JOLLA MARINE LIFE
California Sea Lion
The Californian Sea Lion is one of the most iconic mammals of La Jolla Cove. These marine mammals are playful and have distinct personalities. The sea lions are very social animals, often huddled up on each other on the rocks near the sea caves. They huddle in groups to regulate body temperature. The females can usually be seen sunbathing during the day and hunting throughout the night. The primary diet of the Californian Sea Lion consists of a variety of small fish and squid. The juvenile pups are curious animals, swimming most of day to learn their environment and interacting with kayakers and swimmers. At times the pups will hitch a ride on our kayaks to take a break from swimming.
The females can reach the size of 5.5ft weighing in at 110-600 lbs while the males are about 7.25ft ranging from 440-2,200 lbs. The demographic of the sea lions in La Jolla Cove are almost all female, with one alpha male “Bruno”.
Fun Facts: a group of sea lions is called a raft. They can reach a depth of up to 900ft, and the deepest recorded dive was 1,760 ft! They are able to perform these dives by slowing their heart rate for diving about 10 minutes.
Harbor seals are an endangered species in California and are protected by both state and federal law. In La Jolla Cove we spot them by the Children’s Pool, sunbathing on the sandy beach or swimming along with their mothers. Their primary diet consists of a variety of small fish and shellfish. They are often confused with the sea lion, but are different in many ways. The harbor seals are better suited for life in the water, more aqua-dynamic and heavier, with smaller flippers. They will sometimes sunbathe on the sandy beach, although you will never see them on the rocks because their bodies cannot climb over the rocks. They do not have ear lobes like the sea lion, but have holes for better hearing underwater.
Fun Facts: The Harbor Seal’s pups are born instinctively knowing how to swim only a few hours after birth!
The common dolphin, is most prevalent in La Jolla MPA. The average size of an adult common dolphin is about 8 ft at 300 lbs. They are highly social and intelligent animals that swim in pods consisting anywhere from 6 to over 1,000 dolphins!
By utilizing many different vocals, they communicate with other dolphins and use echolocation to discover underwater topography and uncover potential threats. Dolphins use a very complex hierarchy based on a variety of factors such as age and size. The social dynamic of dolphins is seen by their behavior and their playful interactions. Using the highly developed social behavior of the pods, they will herd large schools of fish into tight balls for eating. They’ll typically feed on a variety of different fish and squid here in La Jolla, often seen near our kelp forest and Scripps Canyon during feeding and even closer to the beach for breeding. They will often travel in pods of 8-12 dolphins, occasionally with sea lions tagging along to benefit from the bait balls formed by the pods.
Fun Facts: The common dolphins aren’t a migratory species and live in La Jolla year round, only to swim to other areas when food is sparse, but they will always return home after feeding.
Grey Whales are one of the world’s largest mammals, at a length of 40-50ft, weighing in at 30-40 tons (about the size of a school bus!). They are baleen feeders, using teeth made from a material similar to human hair to filter and to allow the smaller organisms to pass into their mouths. The Gray Whales were almost hunted to extinction in the 1800’s for their blubber until The International Whaling Commission banned the hunting of these animals in 1946 and their population has recovered, although not near the pre-whaling amounts.
They are a spectacular experience on the kayaks, spending most of their time feeding off the Alaskan coast, but during the winter months they start the 12,430 miles round-trip to Baja California for the mating season. The shallow lagoons in Mexico provide shelter for the mammals while they strengthen the calves for the migration back to the nutrient rich waters in the north.
The Grey Whales follow the Scripps Canyon through the La Jolla Ecological Reserve as a navigation route like the I-5. The depths of the canyon provide food for the whales as they often use their tail to stir up the sediment for the whales to filter feed off plankton. Grey Whales are a spectacular experience to see on the kayaks, as a non-invasive way to witness these gentle giants swim by. Larger motorized vessels create noise pollution that can disturb these mammals, so the best way to view these animals is on the seat of an EDCA ocean kayak.
Fun Facts: Whale’s milk is rich in fat, helping the calves build up weight for the journey to Alaska. Once the calves are strong enough to make the journey back to Alaska, the migration route becomes closer to shore, making La Jolla a unique location to see these animals up close.
La Jolla Cove is the destination for one of the world’s largest migration of Leopard Sharks. Leopard Sharks are named for the prominent spots on their back. As year round residents of La Jolla, the usually reside in the deeper waters for feeding off squid and crustaceans, but in our summer months the pregnant females will migrate to the warmer shallow waters in La Jolla Shores. This helps during their gestation period to produce 4 to 33 pups, as the warmer water acts like incubation for the mothers. Leopard sharks are very timid creatures and will swim away from noise such as splashing. The best way to view these animals is by snorkeling above them as they swim by. Everyday California hosts guided snorkeling tours during the season to get the best view of these animals.
Fun Facts: The Leopard Sharks can reach lengths of 5 feet, and are completely harmless to humans. They are found all over the globe, but the migration in La Jolla is known to be one of the largest migration of these animals in the world.