Seals and sea lions are very different creatures, and that's the main thing people asked me about when visiting the habitat.
One of the differences is in their movement. Sea lions are more flexible and can "walk" on their front and back flippers, while seals aren't so lucky. They scoot like a caterpillar, so when I wrote about them in Legasea, I had to show some of the limitations of their movements when they move across the beach or dive off of rocks. Those limitations are also the reason sea lions are often substitued for seals in live shows and movies.
Another difference is in their social behavior. While sea lions are social and can often be seen floating in piles in the water (this is called "rafting"), seals aren't. Seals congregate in large groups, hanging out on rocks or the beach, but they keep their distance from each other. In Legasea, the seals often hang out on the rocks behind Aileen's house, exactly like they do in the wild.
Prior to editing Legasea, I took a trip with my family to San Diego. When they asked me what I wanted to see, I shouted out, “Harbor Seals!” So, on our first morning there, we made the trip out to La Jolla Children's Pool to view the seals in their natural habitat.
It was a very foggy, very quiet morning. I took a lot of pictures and video taped them navigating the rocks and slipping into the water, so I could work extra details into my revisions. Seeing them in the wild vs. observing them in a manmade habitat was a totally different experience. I knew how they behaved, but seeing it first hand really helped to solidify their behaviors in my mind and helped me to revise with more realistic details.
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