Leopard Shark

Scientific: Triakis semifasciata
Spanish: Tiburón leopardo

Diet: Small fish, fish eggs, clams, crabs and worms
Habitat: Shallow ocean waters, kelp forests
Status: Least Concern

Gentle Predators
These small sharks swim along the coast from Oregon to Mexico. They are harmless to humans, but every year Californian fishermen catch up to 140 tons of leopard sharks for food and for the aquarium trade. 

Why do you think their mouths are positioned pointing downwards?

Marbled Murrelet

Scientific: Brachyramphus marmoratus
Spanish: Mérgulo jaspeado

Diet: Fish, cephalopods
Habitat: Nearshore waters, and coastal coniferous forests
Status: Endangered

A Seabird In the Trees
Murrelets are seabirds, but they depend upon moist forests near the coast for breeding. They build their nests high up on lichen and moss-covered branches. Logging and development in California has dramatically reduced their population, making them a threatened species.

California Sea Lion

Scientific: Zalophus californianus
Spanish: León marino de California
Awaswas: Sullan (seal)

Diet: Fish, cephalopods
Habitat: Nearshore, hauling out on rocks and pylons
Status: Least Concern

These social creatures can often be seen congregating near harbors and wharves where they vocalize via “barking.” California sea lions are year-round residents of the Monterey Bay and can be distinguished from the seasonal Steller’s sea lion who are larger, lighter-colored, and whose males lack a bony crest on their skulls.

Seals, sea lions and walruses are all pinnipeds which means “fin-footed.” Sea lions are not considered ‘true seals’ because they have external ear flaps and front flippers that allow them greater dexterity on land than other seals. Here in the Monterey Bay you can see the following pinnipeds throughout the year:

  • California Sea Lion (Zalophus californianus)
  • Steller’s Sea Lion (Eumetopias jubatus)
  • Pacific Harbor Seal (Phoca vitulina)
  • Northern Elephant Seal (Mirounga angustirostris)
  • Northern Fur Seal (Callorhinus ursinus)

Grey Whale

Scientific: Eschrichtius robustus
Spanish: Ballena gris
Awaswas: Chimme

Diet: Crustaceans, fish
Habitat: Open ocean, nearshore
Status: Least Concern

Grey Whales can be spotted in the Monterey Bay in the winter as they migrate south to Baja and in the late spring when they migrate back north with their calves. Whale lice and barnacles cause the distinctive white patches on the backs of these whales.

Whales, dolphins and porpoises are all cetaceans and are some of the largest mammals in the oceans. Here in the Monterey Bay you can see the following cetaceans throughout the year:

  • Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus) | May – October
  • Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) | April – December
  • Grey Whale (Eschrichtius robustus) | December – May
  • Orca (Orcinus orca) | Year-round transients
  • Northern Right Whale Dolphin (Lissodelphis borealis) | Year-round
  • Risso’s Dolphin (Grampus griseus) |Year-round
  • Common Dolphin (Delphinus sp.) | July – December
  • Pacific White-sided Dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens) |Year-round
  • Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops sp.) |Year-round
  • Dall’s Porpoise (Phocoenoides dalli) |Year-round

Visit a life-size replica of a female grey whale outside the Museum in Tyrrell Park.

Southern Sea Otter

Scientific: Enhydra lutris nereis
Spanish: Nutria marina del sur
Mutsun: Suuyu

Diet: Urchins, shellfish, crabs and other invertebrates
Habitat: Kelp forests, estuaries
Status: Endangered

Back From Extinction But Still Endangered
Sea otters are mustelids, the same family as weasels, badgers and wolverines. Unlike other marine mammals, otters have thick fur rather than blubber, making them a target for the fur trade historically. They were nearly hunted to extinction in the 19th and early 20th century, but under protection the population has grown to over 3,000. Sea otters can routinely be seen in the Monterey Bay, where they play an important role in the kelp forest ecosystem as a keystone species.

What would happen if there were no otters to eat urchins (which eat kelp)?

Great Egret

Scientific: Ardea alba
Spanish: Garza blanca

Diet: Wetlands, shoreline
Habitat: Fish, amphibians, invertebrates, small mammals
Status: Least Concern

These long-legged wading birds can be seen in local wetlands, and are distinguished by their yellow beaks and black feet. Great egrets almost went extinct in the 19th century due to the demand for their feathers, but conservation efforts have helped their populations recover.