Are Sea Lions Related to Dogs?

Despite the similar phenotypes of dogs and sea lions, the two animals are not closely related. Sea lions are from the family of pinnipeds within the Carnivora order of “dog-like” carnivorans. The group includes different types of seals, including earless seals (true seals), eared seals (sea lions), and walruses.

Did you know that sea lions and dogs have very similar behaviors? However, physical inspection reveals several differences between sea lions and dogs. Read on to learn more about the relationship between dogs and sea lions.

Are Sea Lions Related to Dogs? Explore The Relationship Between Sea Lions and Dogs

Sometimes known as sea puppies, sea lions are not closely related to dogs because both animals are part of different families. Dogs belong to the Canidae family, while sea lions are part of the Otariidae family.

The two animals look alike because of their common sub-order called Caniformia, which includes animals with dog-like characteristics.

sea lion

Dogs and seals share the top four classifications in the hierarchy of living organisms: Kingdom, Phylum, Class, and Order. For instance, they share the order Carnivora, a group of flesh-eating mammals, and the suborder Caniformia.

However, after their suborder, the two animals diverge into different families. Dogs belong to the Canidae family, while seals fall into the Pinnipedia group.

Did you know? Sea lions have similar abilities to primates, such as distinguishing stimuli based on numerosity, a skill that depends on a certain level of working memory function. ~ National Library of Medicine

When Did Sea Lions First Appear on Earth?

Sea lions first appeared on Earth approximately 6 million years ago. According to the fossil record, California sea lions first appeared about 120,000–220,000 years ago.

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Around 6 million years ago, fossils were found along the western coast of North America. These preserved fossils are evidence of the divergence of the northern fur seal genus called Callorhinus.

However, fossils discovered in California and Japan suggest that sea lions diverged later.

What Did Sea Lions Evolve From?

There are two kinds of seals: earless or true seals and eared seals, each of which belongs to different families and have distant ancestors.

The true seals belong to the Phocidae family and are believed to have evolved from a land-dwelling ancestor resembling a weasel.

On the other hand, the sea lions, belonging to the Otariidae family, are believed to have descended from a land-dwelling ancestor resembling a bear.

Did you know? True seals do not have an external ear flap, so they are known as “earless” seals. On the other hand, sea lions are called “eared” seals because they have a visible outer ear flap. ~

Sea lions are closely related to walruses and seals. Together with fur seals, they belong to the family Otariidae, commonly referred to as eared seals.

Why Do Sea Lions Look Like Dogs?

sea lion

Sea lions and dogs have similar phenotypes, even though they aren’t closely related. This is because of their common origin in the sub-order Caniformia.

The sub-order, which includes dog-like carnivores, consists of animals with common features like non-retractable claws and a lengthy snout.

Both dogs and sea lions have an elongated snout, a defining characteristic of animals in this sub-order. The snout sets them apart from other carnivorous animals.

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Sea lions and dogs have similar facial features because of their dog-like skulls. This is why the two animals also have common facial expressions, such as the deep gazes that both animals are known for.


What Other Animals Belong to the Same Order as sea lions?

Seals, sea lions, and walruses are part of the order Carnivora and suborder Pinnipedia, which is why they are collectively referred to as “pinnipeds.”

What is the sea lion’s closest relative?

The Steller sea lion is the closest living relative to the Zalophus sea lion and is considered a sister species.


Dogs and sea lions share the same sub-order, but the animals belong to very different families, which means they are not closely related. Despite that, these carnivorous animals have very similar characteristics, leading people to believe they are close relatives.

I hope this article helped clarify the relationship between dogs and sea lions and why they look alike.

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