Readers’ wildlife photographs

Reader Joe Dickinson has sent some marine mammals, and wants us to judge which is the cutest:

Recent encounters with sea otters (Enhydra lutris) and harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) along the central California coast got me thinking about which is cuter.



Both often look as if they are praying, although the seals use the hind flippers.  I thought you would appreciate that.



Then, in fairness,  I looked at my archives.  One would not generally count adult sea lions as cute, but some youngsters of the Galápagos sea lion (Zalophus wollebaeki) are pretty cute.  That is, of course, a Galápagos marine iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus ) sharing one of those photos.





Even this young adult (adolescent?) might pass as cute given the pose.



  1. barn owl
    Posted May 30, 2016 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    Well, because the appearance of praying was mentioned, the top photo of sea otters reminded me of the oleaginous Joel and Victoria Osteen, in full prosperity gospel mode. Therefore I’m going with the harbor seals as the cutest. I’m very fond of phocids in any case.

  2. Posted May 30, 2016 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    Looking like a small innocent baby….

  3. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted May 30, 2016 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    This is one of the ‘hard problems’ isn’t it? I am going to go with the sleeping sea otter.

    • Pete Moulton
      Posted May 30, 2016 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

      I’ll second this. Love Sea Otters!

  4. Diana MacPherson
    Posted May 30, 2016 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    The cutest ones are the ones where the sea lions are looking directly at you. So, the group photo and the sandy sea lion.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted May 30, 2016 at 8:49 am | Permalink

      Oops I mean harbour seals.

  5. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted May 30, 2016 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    I sea, yet an otter competition.

    Well, if I have to choose…

  6. Stephen Barnard
    Posted May 30, 2016 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    I have to see photos of baby sea otters before I vote. Fair is fair, apples and apples, even playing field, and all that.

    This brings up the question, “What counts as cute?” Mammals dominate the category, but there are cute baby birds, although relatively rare.

    “Cute” is a multidimensional category. Some organisms are so ugly they’re cute. (e.g. human infants, naked mole rats). Some are cute because they show conspicuous natal characteristics. Some are cute because of exaggerated adult characteristics.

  7. Heather Hastie
    Posted May 30, 2016 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    Sea otters are the most adorable imo. But I’m remembering pics of otters supporting the pups on their stomachs while they groom them, among other things, as well as the lovely pics here.

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