Apologies for lack of recent Blog entries. Local IT has defeated me until now, but hopefully normally service is hereby resumed.
One of the joy of Galapagos is getting up close to wild animals - and there is no better illustration than the sealions. The endemic (found nowhere else) Galapagos sealions Zalophus wollebaecki evolved from Californian sealions Zalophus californianus that arrived here about 2 million years ago (determined by recent genetic studies). Four different ocean currents converge on Galapagos; they presumably arrived here on the one from the north.
Sealions can swim long distances at an average speed of 3 metres per second (much faster in bursts), dive to 500m and eat sardine-like fish. They live in large colonies and in Galapagos breed almost all year. The colonies rest on beaches with sections of foreshore presided over by a bull who will weigh about 200kg. Bulls fight fiercely for territory and control a harem of females. Here is one such beachmaster, showing his teeth to warn us not to come too close. Bulls can and do bite, and can move very surprisingly fast on sand!
Here is a section of the colony, crashed out on the beach in the equatorial sun (well, cloud actually, but it's hot):
Nothing, not even a labrador, can rest quite as well as a sealion:
And often, as here, nice and cosy with one's friends:
The smaller females are entirely unconcerned by human visitors:
The youngsters are almost unbearably adorable. Here is a little chap about one month old waiting for his mother to return from fishing. If she gets eaten by a shark he'll starve to death and become just (another) pile of small bones on the beach:
But probably he'll grow into a very inquisitive young sealion, keen to check out visitors with his (very tickly) whiskers):
And then to communicate with them - this guy, having sniffed my foot, is returning a wave from me:
We've got lots more pictures of gorgeous sealions playing on the beach in the surf, but I'll spare you them for now. Besides, there are loads of other animals to write about. Watch this space!