CONSISTENCY IN THE FOOD PREFERENCES OF CALIFORNIA SEA LIONS (Zalophus californianus)

Rebecca Russo, Katherine Karlis, Pamela Prowten, Eric Gaglione and Michael Noonan

Canisius College, Buffalo, New York and Aquarium of Niagara, Niagara Falls, New York

Presented at the Northeastern Regional Animal Behavior meeting, October, 1996, New Britain, Connecticut.

This report communicates new findings from our continuing investigation of food preferences in the California sea lion. In the present work, a single sea lion, housed in salt water, was taught to associate arbitrary symbols with different species of fish as food items. Paired comparisons were then used to allow the sea lion to indicate and obtain its preferred type of fish. The results reveal a preference for fish species high in calories and low in water, and are consistent with data we had obtained from an earlier subject which had been housed in fresh water. These findings indicate that sea lions are selective in their food choice in a way that optimizes their nutrition. As a practical matter, we suggest that food-preference information of this type might be useful in improving reinforcement techniques during training.

 

Contact Info: Michael Noonan, PhD, Canisius College , 2001 Main St., Buffalo, NY 14208                                                                             noonan@canisius.edu