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Your morning adorable: Sea lions are artists at Oregon Coast Aquarium

September 8, 2009 | 11:46 am

Sea lion painting

Jen DeGroot, a marine mammologist at the Oregon Coast Aquarium, was looking for enrichment activities to keep her sea lion charges stimulated and challenged.  The idea she came up with -- "sea lion art" -- has become such a hit with visitors that the aquarium now sells pinniped paintings in its gift shop.

The aquarium's two "artists in residence" are Lea (pictured), a 20-year-old female, and Max, a 19-year-old male. DeGroot had previously worked in an aquarium that enlisted penguins with paint-covered feet to walk across a canvas, so teaching sea lions to make flipper prints seemed like a logical thing to do.  Still, DeGroot says, the skill of pressing flipper to paper is a unique one for sea lions.

"To this day, I think we are the only people who have trained a sea lion to do a flipper print," DeGroot told the Portland Oregonian. "Each sea lion flipper has distinctive markings just like a human fingerprint and it's really neat to see the detail in the print. It is pretty unique."

Not only are Lea and Max trained to touch their paint-covered flippers to paper -- they've also learned to paint by means of a paintbrush with a special attachment that allows them to hold it in their mouths.  See one of Lea's creations after the jump!

Sea lion painting

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photos: Lori Tobias / Associated Press

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