Sea lion invites scuba diver to play by nibbling on his fins

The Galapagos Islands are home to many wonderful and unique animals, both above and below the waves. The sea lions are among the most interesting of them all. Nicknamed "sea dogs" and "ocean puppies", they are curious and playful, much like our canine companions. Sea lions are sleek and graceful in the water. They glide effortlessly using their front flippers for propulsion. Surprisingly quick and agile, they are capable hunters that can outswim fish and other marine life. But the young sea lions spend most of their time playing instead of hunting. When these sea lions encountered a group of scuba divers near the shore of Bartholome Island, they danced around them, inviting them to play in their underwater ballet. The arced all around the divers, peering into their faces and nibbling on their fins, challenging them to follow or imitate them in their beautiful maneuvers. Understandably, the scuba divers were thrilled with the encounter. But humans are clumsy in the underwater world and there is no way for them to keep up with these youngsters. Sea lions will care for their young for up to three years. A colony will have one dominant male who will chase other males away when they become old enough to breed. They may challenge the alpha male for his position and his breeding rights, but they will usually go off on their own to establish their own colonies. The females leave the young sea lions on or near the shore while they go out into the ocean to hunt for eels, octopus, fish, and crabs. They will return with a full belly and the young will nurse happily, living off the nutrient rich milk for 2 to 3 years. While the mothers are out looking for food, the young will use the time for frolicking like these two are eager to do. Sea lions are truly the clowns of the ocean with their underwater antics and their playful natures. They are adorably clumsy on land but they are impressively mobile in the surf. Intelligent and curious, it is not uncommon for them to suddenly appear to inspect scuba divers. This is always a welcome sight and an interaction like this makes for an unforgettable dive experience.

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