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Sea Lions napping on the pier in Newport

These are some of the sea lion males having a snooze on the docks up at Newport, the next town up from where we live. The local sea lions are all males. They swim down to Northern California at the end of summer for a chance to fight off the prior year’s victorious bulls for a chance to have their own harem of cows. The cows stay in the waters off of Northern California.

The loser males (which means almost all of them) come back to Oregon for the remaining 11 months of the year to live with their fellow loser males—not that the winning bulls in California don’t occasionally long to take a leisurely nap on the pier and not have to put up with the administrative and mating duties that go with having a harem of fifteen cows and their pups.

Two sea lion males laying on the pier with large bulges above their heads.

Notice the bulge on top of their heads?

As for what sea lion cows find sexy in a sea lion bull, it’s the bulge. But unlike the bulge in the front of a human male’s Speedos, it’s the bulge on top of a sea lion’s head that attracts attention. That’s because it’s part of his jaw muscles.  Given how important the jaw is in husking oysters and protecting against predators and unwelcome males, the bulge on top of a sea lion’s head is an indicator of fitness. It’s one of the things that sea lion cows notice.

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