Puget Sound life
11:41 am
Mon December 12, 2011

Sea lion vs. octopus: Photographer catches rare glimpse of battle

Last Wednesday, Dec. 7, Everett Herald photographer Mark Mulligan caught a rare sight on camera – a stellar sea lion feeding on an octopus. (See video inside.)

It is a seldom occurrence to witness the splendor of marine life. The limited encounters that we have with such fuels curiosity and interest.

Seattle aquarium’s curator of mammals and birds, Traci Belting, shared some insight into the diet of sea lions.

“Local sea lions are opportunistic and will eat anything they can,” said Belting. “In the past, necropsies on sea lions have found octopus beaks in their stomachs.”

It’s not uncommon for sea lions to feed on octopus, given its wide dietary patterns. Sea lions don’t chew their food; the only time we are able to see them feed is when they surface to tear their prey into smaller pieces to swallow whole.

“Octopus are usually pretty evasive and make for cunning prey,” said Belting.

On the other side of the world National Geographic features an article about the behavior and foraging habits of Australian sea lions.

In related news:

A northern fur seal named Al who had entertained millions of Seattle Aquarium visitors and provided rich research to scientists has died. He was 19.

The Seattle Aquarium says the seal's health had been declining in recent weeks. He was euthanized Tuesday.

Named after Vice President Al Gore, the seal landed at the aquarium after he veered from the ocean and was found in a cow pasture in Hoquiam. And federal biologists determined he wasn't fit to be returned to the wild because of his small size and lack of survival skills.

Aquarium officials say his remains will be sent for study to the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in Seattle and to a researcher in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

He is survived by an 11-year-old pup, Isaac, who is on loan at Boston's New England Aquarium.