They have webbed feet, water-repellent fur to keep them dry and warm, and nostrils and ears that close in the water. Their teeth are strong enough to crunch open a clam shell or bite through a sea urchin's spines. But that isn't an issue for the talented sea otter, which cracks open the shells by banging them with rocks. As predators that are near the top of the food chain, otters are hugely important for keeping their environments balanced. Discover our favourite incredible otter facts, including facts about sea otters, perhaps the cutest of them all. Under their arms, Sea otters have built in pockets. Coastal otters frequent intertidal zones in search of blennies, eels, rockling, crabs and other crustaceans, and are easy to spot when on the shore. Sea otters inhabit temperate coastal waters with rocky or soft sediment ocean bottom. Not all otters use tools, but sea otters use them all the time. Most critically, they are a keystone species, meaning that their continued existence is required for several other species to survive. They’re renowned for preying on hard-shelled marine invertebrates, including abalones, sea urchins, clams, mussels and crabs, usually fracturing the shells with their teeth. Here are few life facts you should know about Sea Otters! Sea otters are the only fully aquatic form of otters, but they share features with the others such as thick fur and short ears. Because otters actually form attachments to certain stones – keeping them in an armpit when not in use – and have been known to retain their favourite ones throughout their lives, which is definitely one of our favourite sea otter facts! 90% of all sea otters live on the coast of Alaska. The food sea otters eat can impact the entire ecosystem in which they live. Adult sea otters typically weigh between 14 and 45 kg (31 and 99 lb), making them the heaviest members of the weasel family, but among the smallest marine mammals. Some of these animals have hard shells, which protect them from predators. More surprisingly, sea otters are quite slow swimmers, although they are extremely agile. Forget everything you thought you knew about otter species. Otters have a dense fur made up of a combination of undercoat and longer guard hairs that provides insulation, but it must be almost continuously maintained. Sea otters are a keystone species and play a critical role in the food web of the kelp forest, so much so that even terrestrial species are influenced by sea otter activity. The answer varies by species and location. Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2020 – The People’s Choice Award, Namibian fishing laws cut seabird deaths by more than 90%, Tiger guide: species facts, how they hunt and where to see in the wild, Jaguar guide: how to identify, where to see and conservation. Since then, sea otter populations have rebounded, but the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the species as a whole as Endangered. 3. Warm air trapped in a sea otter’s fur keeps them warm in chilly waters.When otters dive, they seal their ears and nose.The word otter comes from Old English and Indo European root words that were also used to create the English word for water.Otters have the densest fur in the world. Adults weigh up to 99 pounds and are the weasel family’s heaviest animals, but strangely the smallest of all marine mammals. Sea otters are the smallest fully marine mammal in the world: Males range in length between 3.9–4.9 feet, while females range between 3.3–4.6 feet. Sea otters, particularly mothers and pups, sometimes hold hands while floating on their backs. Mint Images - Frans Lanting / Getty Images, Gulf of Maine Cod Project, NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries / National Archives, The Family Otariidae: Characteristics of Eared Seals and Sea Lions, 5 Environmental Consequences of Oil Spills, Harp Seal Facts (Pagophilus groenlandicus), Neritic Zone: Definition, Animal Life, and Characteristics, Bald Eagles and Sea Otters in the Aleutian Archipelago: Indirect Effects of Trophic Cascades, Northern Sea Otter (Enhydra lutris kenyoni), Southern sea otter (Enhydra lutris nereis), Do Trophic Cascades Affect the Storage and Flux of Atmospheric Carbon? 12 Facts about Otters for Sea Otter Awareness Week 1. Sea Otter Facts California’s southern sea otter has been listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act since 1977. Healthy river systems in the UK may boast equally vibrant populations of otters as typical coastal habitat, but riparian otters are usually harder to spot due to high levels of human and dog disturbance, dense vegetation and the fact that it is more challenging to see otters hunting in fast moving rivers than on the sea. Diet. Generally, the male sea otters grows from 3.11 to 4.11 feet in length and weighs around 49 to 99 pounds. Sea Otter Facts. Fun Facts for Kids. Facts about Sea otters June 23, 2017 June 23, 2017 admintag Being on the shore or resting in the water, sea otters take care of their chic fur for a long time, comb and smooth it. The otters lie on their backs and pat the stones into the air, catching them and rolling them skilfully around their chests and necks. The sea otter can usually be found in kelp beds, and looks very much like lumps of kelp. Their nickname is the “sea beaver.” They keep warm because of their incredibly dense fur–with up to nearly 1,000,000 (one million) hairs per square inch! Sea otters can spend their entire life in water. Many species of river-dwelling otter can swim quite quickly – they have to be strong swimmers to catch fish and fight the flow of the river. Young sea otters have a form of extremely woolly fur that makes an otter pup so buoyant that it can't dive underwater and can float off if not tended carefully. Scottish coastal otters, for example, which usually forage and hunt throughout the day in summer, instead seek prey more intensively in the mornings (though, interestingly, camera-traps set by the International Otter Survival Fund have revealed that they are in fact also active at night). National Geographic: North American River Otter 3. Sea otters have several adaptations that allow them to live in a marine environment. The males of this subspecies weigh around 65 pounds while females are 45 pounds in weight. She serves as the executive director of the Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation. They like to eat sea … Sea otters first became protected from the fur trade by the International Fur Seal Treaty in 1911, after the population had decreased to about 2,000 as a result of unrestrained hunting for furs. Sea otters are the heaviest of the 13 otter species (giant otters are the longest). They spend the majority of their lives on their backs, only flipping over onto their fronts when greater speed is required. Check out this amazing video of incredibly cute otters using rocks to break open their food: Sea otters have many ways of tugging on our heartstrings. Mating is polygynous—one male breeds with all the females in its breeding territory. For the Love of Sea Otters. Because they are not exposed to predators, and do not have to forage for prey, they are provided with environmental enrichment in their habitat to keep them entertained. In appearance, sea otters are stouter and have larger rib cages, smaller tails and blunter muzzles than other species of otters. Sea otters have a baggy patch of skin under their forelimbs which is used for storage. The most gregarious by far are sea otters, which are polygynous (males mate with multiple females). Additional resources 1. Instead of blubber, the sea otter keeps itself warm with its dense coat. Sea otters in the U.S. today are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Otter watching involves perseverance. Sign in to manage your newsletter preferences. Eurasian otters have staged a remarkable comeback in the UK, where they’re now once again present in every single county. You can see why only 50 per cent of youngsters survive to see the spring. Indeed, research suggests that the sea otter’s bite force may not be sufficient to open the hardest-shelled prey items, hence their use of tools. The females enter estrus again within several days to weeks after weaning. Peter Burka / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0. They have an interesting method of eating their prey. By entering your details, you are agreeing to Discover Wildlife terms and conditions and privacy policy. But the sea otter’s habitat is unique, as they only live in shallow coastal waters in the North Pacific ocean. This was stopped by the establishment of the International Fur Seal Treaty in 1911. It is made up of a waterproof top layer and a short underlayer, which can contain as many as one million hairs per square inch. But habitat loss and hunting have brought many populations of other otter species crashing down around the world, especially in more tropical locations. Fully 10 percent of a sea otter's day is spent grooming its fur. As a result, kelp abundance decreases and other marine species have less habitat. Winter brings many other dangers to otters. Their fur is the densest of any animal with about 100,000 hairs per square centimeter. Floating on its back, it opens mollusks by smashing them on a stone balanced on its chest. As you already know, Otters hold hands while eating and sleeping so they don’t lose each other. Thirteen different species of otter exist all around the world. The energy demands of a sea otter mother increases by 17 per cent after giving birth. Sea otter rafts are segregated: Groups of between two and 1,000 otters are either all males or females and their young. Recreational juggling may be a playful way of learning how best to manipulate these tools. The animal’s enamel contains additional layers of a protein-rich gel that works to prevent cracks from spreading. Even a baby sea otter can stay warm on the open ocean, but they do need some help from their mothers. In fact, sea otters are one of the only mammals (apart from primates) to have developed tool use. There are only a handful of non-primate species known to use tools, including dolphins and octopuses. FactsKing.com / Animal Facts / 8 Top Predators of Sea Otters that Eat Sea Otter Sea otters are sea mammals native to the eastern and northern parts of the North Pacific Ocean. Sea otters are carnivores in the family Mustelidae—a group of animals that also includes terrestrial and semi-aquatic forms such as weasels, badgers, skunks, fishers, minks, and river otters. To swim faster they use their webbed feet for propulsion and undulate their bodies. Many otters eat tough food, particularly sea otters that inhabit the shallow coastal waters of the northern Pacific. Yet, sea otters do possess the fine, dense fur coats characteristic of the Mustelidae. When oil coats a sea otter's fur, air can't get through and the sea otter can't clean it out. 1. The sea otter (Enhydra lutris) is a marine mammal native to the coasts of the northern and eastern North Pacific Ocean. Sea otters are foragers that eat mostly hard-shelled invertebrates, including sea urchins and a variety of clams, mussels, and crabs. They're hungry animals! The female sea otters are smaller as they grow up to 4.7 feet in length and weigh up to 73 pounds. When on water, these groups are called rafts, and the largest … Sea otters can sometimes be seen off sandy beaches — and even local harbors. Otters are part of the Mustelidae family, which is a family of carnivorous... 3. Try 3 issues of BBC Wildlife Magazine for just £5! Females rove freely between and among male territories. They are native to the northern coastlines of the Pacific Ocean, from northern Japan to Baja, Mexico. When sea otter populations are abundant, bald eagles prey primarily on fish and sea otter pups, but when sea otter populations declined in early the 2000s due to predation by an increased population of orcas, bald eagles preyed more on marine birds and had more offspring because of the higher caloric content of a seabird diet. Because they are dependent on their fur for warmth, sea otters are heavily affected by oil spills. National Geographic: Sea Otter 2. A sea otter can consume up to 11kg of food every day to support its high metabolism – that’s about a quarter of its own body weight! While mothers and pups are usually solitary, sea otters can form social groups of up to a few dozen. If there is a decline in sea otters due to natural predation or other factors such as an oil spill, urchin populations explode. While sea otter populations increased after legal protections were put in place, there have been recent declines in sea otters in the Aleutian Islands (thought to be from orca predation) and a decline or plateau in the populations in California. They prey on sea urchins that feed on kelp. Get the Facts. These include spraint sites on exposed roots and stones, worn slides on muddy banks and tracks showing five webbed toes. While mothers and pups are usually solitary, sea otters can form social groups of up to a few dozen. Sea Otter Facts Description. Sea otters have been found to play a pivotal role in the habitat and marine life that inhabit a kelp forest. The largest of this weasel family, sea otters weigh 31-100 lb (14-45 kg). This makes up for its lack of blubber in the cold Pacific water. Sea otters can reach 9kph underwater, North American river otters are faster at 11kph, and the maximum speed of the giant river otter is an impressive 14kph. It is native to the coasts of the northern and eastern North Pacific Ocean. Sea otter facts There is one species of sea otter and three subspecies, the California or Southern sea otter is found off the central coast of California, the Northern sea otter is found in the waters off Alaska and Canada, and the common or Asian sea otter is found along coastlines of Japan and Russia. 2. A daily food intake of 15–20 per cent of body weight is key to survival, and otters adapt their patterns of predation and hunting behaviour to make the most of the prey available during these leaner months. There are 13 species in total, ranging from the small-clawed otter to the giant otter. Otters can be found in unpolluted waters all over the world in marshland, freshwater rivers, lakes, oceans and coastlines. They sleep this way, often gathered in groups. To be fair, it’s more keepy-uppy than juggling, albeit keepy-uppy with two or three rocks at a time. Otters are adorable creatures that live both on land and in the water. The fur is responsible for insulating them and keeping them warm because they do not have a layer of blubber to keep them warm and protect them from the outside environment. Their fur is brown with shades of lighter tan and yellow on the heads of adults. Sea otters are provided a varied diet while in human care. This thick fur keeps the animals warm ​but unfortunately has led to over-hunting by humans of many of these mustelid species. Why do sea otters always a carry a stone with them? North American sea otters are something of a recent success story after they were brought close to extinction in the 19th century, widely hunted for their fur. Sea otters will eat virtually anything they can get their little paws on. Jennifer Kennedy, M.S., is an environmental educator specializing in marine life. Their sleek, streamlined bodies are perfect for diving and swimming. Sea otter is the heaviest and the second smallest aquatic member of weasel family. As top predators, sea otters are critical to maintaining the balance of nearshore ecosystems, such as kelp forests, embayments and estuaries. They have furry bodies, whiskered faces, and a propensity to lay on their backs and float on the water, a behavior that humans perceive as evidence of fun-loving. This ancient religion considered otters to be the dogs of the river or sea and had strict rules forbidding the killing of otters. Sea otters are a medium-sized member of the Mustelidae family. Otters are expert hunters. Sea otters often float at the water's surface in forests of kelp, or giant seaweed, and entangle themselves to keep from moving in the rolling sea. SeaOtters.com is dedicated to raising awareness about California’s threatened sea otters and inspiring the public to view wildlife responsibly. There are 13 known species of otters, which range in size from 2.9 feet (90 cm) all the way to 5.9 feet (1.8 m) long! It ranges from 250,000 to a million hairs per square inch, according to the Defenders of Wildlife. Most sea otters measure less than 50 inches. Most females have only one pup at a time. The sea otters once roamed across large swaths of their Pacific territory, but because their fur is highly desired, they were hunted to the brink of extinction. With the giant otters of the Amazon growing up to 2m in length, you can imagine that they can swim pretty speedily when they want to! Other than natural predators, threats to sea otters include pollution, diseases, parasites, entanglement in marine debris, and boat strikes. It takes 8–10 weeks for the pup to shed its initial fur and learn to dive and the pup stays with the mother for up to six months after birth. Sea otters (Enhydra lutris) are an easily recognized and beloved marine mammal. At birth, the weight of a pup is 3 to 5 pounds. Female otters live 15–20 years and can have pups every year from the first estrus; males live for 10–15 years. However, fur is an inflexible insulation, so, when necessary, sea otters cool off by flapping their nearly-hairless rear flippers. Population numbers are only partially recovered from their low point. They have very thick fur – near about 250,000 to one million hair per square inch. The mother will produce milk, hunt and teach the pup how to dive for food until the youngster is five to eight months old and can fend for itself. In environments where sea otter populations have been reintroduced, tall kelp forests are flourishing. They will use rocks to open food like clams, sea urchins and crabs. They typically use rocks and empty shells to feed on marine snails, crabs, sea urchins and mussels. Winter brings many challenges for Eurasian otters. The behaviour is likely to be linked to the animals’ use of rocks to detach prey from the seabed and break it open. Otters have some interesting relatives. Sea otters use rocks to remove prey from their shells. Hand-holding keeps the otters … An Amazing Animal: 3 Sea Otter Facts. The sea otter (Enhydra lutris) is rare, completely marine otter. Unlike some marine mammals like whales that would die if they were on land for too long, sea otters can go up onto land to rest, groom, or nurse. The most gregarious by far are sea otters, which are polygynous (males mate with multiple females). An otter is one of the few species that use tools. In a kelp forest, sea urchins can graze on the kelp and eat their holdfasts, resulting in deforesting the … They typically use a rock as an anvil and repeatedly bash their prey against it until the shell cracks open, then extract the meat from the shell with their canines. Kelp forests absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and a healthy forest can absorb as much as 12 times the amount of CO2 from the atmosphere than if it were subject to sea urchin predation. It is 40–65 inches (100–160 cm) long and weighs It’s not unusual to see a mother otter with her cubs, but families aside, it depends on the species. Many are mostly solitary apart from the breeding season, whereas others live in groups all year round. 2. The species has no seasonal fur variation, so expends far more heat and energy swimming and diving in colder waters despite its dense, double-layered coat. Sea otters eat 25% of their body weight in food every day. Their bodies are insulated by a thick fur coat and not by blubber as in other marine mammals. They use the rock as a table against which they smash their shelled prey to g… Thirteen different species exist around the globe. On a river it is vital to check for signs during winter when the vegetation has died back. Sea otters are social, and hang out together in groups called rafts. The infamous Exxon Valdez spill killed at least several hundred sea otters and affected the sea otter population in Prince William Sound for well over a decade, according to the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council. The average body mass for males is about 88 pounds, with a range of 49–99 pounds; females range from 31–73 pounds. What’s more, these coastal otters live their lives according to the tides, while river otters are usually most active at night. Temperature balance is a significant challenge for sea otters, who lack the blubber of other marine mammals such as seals and walruses. And going by a plethora of YouTube videos, we can now add juggling rocks to the list. Here are four essential facts about sea otters: They’re the largest member of the weasel family Mustelidae, a family of fur-bearing mammals that … Although there is just one species of sea otter, there are three subspecies: Sea otters eat fish and marine invertebrates like crabs, urchins, sea stars, and abalone, as well as squid and octopuses. Some are small river otters, and some are bigger sea otters. Otter is a common name for a carnivorous mammal in the subfamily Lutrinae. An Analysis of Sea Otters and Kelp Forests, M.S., Resource Administration and Management, University of New Hampshire, B.S., Natural Resources, Cornell University. Thanks! The ECOS Environmental Conservation Online System lists both northern and southern sea otters as threatened. To hunt prey, sea otters have been known to dive as deep as 320 feet; however, males mostly forage at depths of around 260 feet and females about 180 feet. Research has shown that sea otters are vital to the health of carbon-absorbing kelp forests. When on water, these groups are called rafts, and the largest one ever recorded contained up to 2,000 sea otters. You can unsubscribe at any time. The large hind feet are broad and flipperlike. Sea otters are part of the weasel family. When sea otter populations are healthy, urchin populations are kept in check, and kelp is abundant. There are 13 otter species around the world, including the giant river otters, North American river otter, Asian small-clawed otter, European otter, Japanese river otter and African clawless otter, as well as many less well known species. They prey on crustaceans by using pairs of rocks to crush the outer shells, easily accessing the soft flesh inside. A sea otter’s pelt is the thickest of any mammal. Sea otter, (Enhydra lutris), rare, completely marine otter of the northern Pacific, usually found in kelp beds. They are known to eat clams, mussels, crabs, octopus, sea urchins, snails, and fat innkeeper worms. In California, the weight of a female is 45 lbs and of a male otte… Sea Otter Sea otters are a keystone species, meaning their role in their environment has a greater effect than other species. You're now subscribed to our newsletter. However, they do spend most if not all of their lives in the water—Sea otters even give birth in the water. For one of the smallest marine mammals on Earth (yet the largest member of the weasel family), the sea otter has racked up quite a few superlatives: 1. A sea otter rests on its back with its head, arms and flippers in the air, and looks like two lumps close together. There are 13 species of otter found all around the world. Here are some surprising yet cute facts about them. Sea otters can grow between 34 and 60 inches in length. 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