facts about sea otters

In appearance, sea otters are stouter and have larger rib cages, smaller tails and blunter muzzles than other species of otters. Many otters eat tough food, particularly sea otters that inhabit the shallow coastal waters of the northern Pacific. Their sleek, streamlined bodies are perfect for diving and swimming. Sea otters often float at the water's surface, lying on their backs in a posture of serene repose. 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? Female sea otters become sexually mature at about 3 or 4 years of age; males do so at 5 or 6 although most males don't establish a territory until they are 7 or 8. Forget everything you thought you knew about otter species. 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. 90% of all sea otters live on the coast of Alaska. 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. SeaOtters.com is dedicated to raising awareness about California’s threatened sea otters and inspiring the public to view wildlife responsibly. More surprisingly, sea otters are quite slow swimmers, although they are extremely agile. Here are some surprising yet cute facts about them. The behaviour is likely to be linked to the animals’ use of rocks to detach prey from the seabed and break it open. Because they are dependent on their fur for warmth, sea otters are heavily affected by oil spills. Even a baby sea otter can stay warm on the open ocean, but they do need some help from their mothers. Other than natural predators, threats to sea otters include pollution, diseases, parasites, entanglement in marine debris, and boat strikes. And very impressive it is, too – they can even do it with their eyes closed. Otters have some interesting relatives. As you already know, Otters hold hands while eating and sleeping so they don’t lose each other. 12 Facts about Otters for Sea Otter Awareness Week 1. Thanks! Sea otters reproduce sexually and that only occurs when the females are in estrus. Jennifer Kennedy, M.S., is an environmental educator specializing in marine life. The average body mass for males is about 88 pounds, with a range of 49–99 pounds; females range from 31–73 pounds. Some of them are quite common and easy to see in the right places, but others are extremely rare and very difficult to find. To swim faster they use their webbed feet for propulsion and undulate their bodies. A sea otter’s pelt is the thickest of any mammal. Discover our favourite incredible otter facts, including facts about sea otters, perhaps the cutest of them all. The female sea otters are smaller as they grow up to 4.7 feet in length and weigh up to 73 pounds. Diet. In environments where sea otter populations have been reintroduced, tall kelp forests are flourishing. Sea otters, particularly mothers and pups, sometimes hold hands while floating on their backs. Instead of blubber, the sea otter keeps itself warm with its dense coat. Sea otters give birth in water. 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. They can keep extra food in this spot, and also store a favorite rock for cracking the shell of their prey. Their fur is the densest of any animal with about 100,000 hairs per square centimeter. 1. Sea Otter Facts. When oil coats a sea otter's fur, air can't get through and the sea otter can't clean it out. 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. Why do sea otters always a carry a stone with them? Some of these animals have hard shells, which protect them from predators. Otters can be found in unpolluted waters all over the world in marshland, freshwater rivers, lakes, oceans and coastlines. This ancient religion considered otters to be the dogs of the river or sea and had strict rules forbidding the killing of otters. Their forefeet are small and dexterous with retractile claws and the flipper-like hind feet are broad and webbed. Tips for spotting a sea otter. To be fair, it’s more keepy-uppy than juggling, albeit keepy-uppy with two or three rocks at a time. You can learn all about them here – Otters of the World. It ranges from 250,000 to a million hairs per square inch, according to the Defenders of Wildlife. Upon returning to the surface, they float on their backs, with the rock on the stomachs. 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. An Analysis of Sea Otters and Kelp Forests, M.S., Resource Administration and Management, University of New Hampshire, B.S., Natural Resources, Cornell University. The ECOS Environmental Conservation Online System lists both northern and southern sea otters as threatened. In fact, sea otters are one of the only mammals (apart from primates) to have developed tool use. What’s more, these coastal otters live their lives according to the tides, while river otters are usually most active at night. 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. When on water, these groups are called rafts, and the largest one ever recorded contained up to 2,000 sea otters. Some are small river otters, and some are bigger sea otters. Sea otters have a baggy patch of skin under their forelimbs which is used for storage. Research has shown that sea otters are vital to the health of carbon-absorbing kelp forests. 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. The energy demands of a sea otter mother increases by 17 per cent after giving birth. When on water, these groups are called rafts, and the largest … Sea otters are provided a varied diet while in human care. Many are mostly solitary apart from the breeding season, whereas others live in groups all year round. Sea otters are the heaviest of the 13 otter species (giant otters are the longest). While mothers and pups are usually solitary, sea otters can form social groups of up to a few dozen. Sea otters are carnivores in the family Mustelidae —a group of animals that also includes terrestrial and... Habitat and Distribution. Female otters live 15–20 years and can have pups every year from the first estrus; males live for 10–15 years. 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 … 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. They are native to the northern coastlines of the Pacific Ocean, from northern Japan to Baja, Mexico. Temperature balance is a significant challenge for sea otters, who lack the blubber of other marine mammals such as seals and walruses. Thirteen different species exist around the globe. 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. The males of this subspecies weigh around 65 pounds while females are 45 pounds in weight. In California, the weight of a female is 45 lbs and of a male otte… Their teeth are strong enough to crunch open a clam shell or bite through a sea urchin's spines. 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. The most gregarious by far are sea otters, which are polygynous (males mate with multiple females). Sea otters have been found to play a pivotal role in the habitat and marine life that inhabit a kelp forest. As predators that are near the top of the food chain, otters are hugely important for keeping their environments balanced. 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. 4. Sea otters in the U.S. today are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. 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. 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. 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. 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. However, when tackling species with the heaviest armour, such as as marine snails and thick-shelled bivalves, sea otters often employ tools. 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. Sea otters are the only fully aquatic form of otters, but they share features with the others such as thick fur and short ears. They have long whiskers, small ear flaps, and two small black eyes. Adults weigh up to 99 pounds and are the weasel family’s heaviest animals, but strangely the smallest of all marine mammals. The animal’s enamel contains additional layers of a protein-rich gel that works to prevent cracks from spreading. Get the Facts. 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! Most sea otters measure less than 50 inches. Population numbers are only partially recovered from their low point. Sea Otter Facts Description. They have webbed feet, water-repellent fur to keep them dry and warm, and nostrils and ears that close in the water. They have an interesting method of eating their prey. While mothers and pups are usually solitary, sea otters can form social groups of up to a few dozen. But that isn't an issue for the talented sea otter, which cracks open the shells by banging them with rocks. Eurasian otters have staged a remarkable comeback in the UK, where they’re now once again present in every single county. Sea otter is the heaviest and the second smallest aquatic member of weasel family. The food sea otters eat can impact the entire ecosystem in which they live. The females enter estrus again within several days to weeks after weaning. Mating is polygynous—one male breeds with all the females in its breeding territory. Sea Otter Sea otters are a keystone species, meaning their role in their environment has a greater effect than other species. There are only a handful of non-primate species known to use tools, including dolphins and octopuses. However, they do spend most if not all of their lives in the water—Sea otters even give birth in the water. 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. 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. There are 13 species in total, ranging from the small-clawed otter to the giant otter. 2. They sleep this way, often gathered in groups. Floating on its back, it opens mollusks by smashing them on a stone balanced on its chest. They use the rock as a table against which they smash their shelled prey to g… Like polar bears in the Arctic, sea otters are considered keystone species in their ecosystems, because they affect... 2. 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. The most gregarious by far are sea otters, which are polygynous (males mate with multiple females). It is native to the coasts of the northern and eastern North Pacific Ocean. Kelp provides shelter for sea otters and their pups and a variety of other marine organisms. Swollen, murky waters also make swimming more difficult, forcing the animals onto busy roads. When sea otter populations are healthy, urchin populations are kept in check, and kelp is abundant. They like to eat sea … Yet, sea otters do possess the fine, dense fur coats characteristic of the Mustelidae. Here are few life facts you should know about Sea Otters! Coastal otters frequent intertidal zones in search of blennies, eels, rockling, crabs and other crustaceans, and are easy to spot when on the shore. This makes up for its lack of blubber in the cold Pacific water. A recent study has revealed that sea otter tooth enamel is much tougher than that of humans, helping to prevent their teeth from being chipped when cracking into the prey using their high bite force. An otter is one of the few species that use tools. Winter brings many challenges for Eurasian otters. Peter Burka / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0. Not all otters use tools, but sea otters use them all the time. You can see why only 50 per cent of youngsters survive to see the spring. 1. If there is a decline in sea otters due to natural predation or other factors such as an oil spill, urchin populations explode. 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. She serves as the executive director of the Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation. As a result, kelp abundance decreases and other marine species have less habitat. 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. The northern sea otters can weigh as much as 100 pounds. Sea otters eat 25% of their body weight in food every day. 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. Sea otters are part of the weasel family. The answer varies by species and location. The large hind feet are broad and flipperlike. You're now subscribed to our newsletter. Otter is a common name for a carnivorous mammal in the subfamily Lutrinae. Females rove freely between and among male territories. Sea otters will eat virtually anything they can get their little paws on. 2. 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. Sea otter, (Enhydra lutris), rare, completely marine otter of the northern Pacific, usually found in kelp beds. And you definitely don’t want to mess with giant otters, just check out this clip below! By entering your details, you are agreeing to Discover Wildlife terms and conditions and privacy policy. 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! At birth, the weight of a pup is 3 to 5 pounds. They will use rocks to open food like clams, sea urchins and crabs. The sea otter (Enhydra lutris) is a marine mammal native to the coasts of the northern and eastern North Pacific Ocean. 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. 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. Generally, the male sea otters grows from 3.11 to 4.11 feet in length and weighs around 49 to 99 pounds. Under their arms, Sea otters have built in pockets. If conditions are mild and wet, cubs can drown in flooded holts. 3. Sea otter rafts are segregated: Groups of between two and 1,000 otters are either all males or females and their young. 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. In a kelp forest, sea urchins can graze on the kelp and eat their holdfasts, resulting in deforesting the … Otters are part of the Mustelidae family, which is a family of carnivorous... 3. Sea otters are foragers that eat mostly hard-shelled invertebrates, including sea urchins and a variety of clams, mussels, and crabs. A sea otter rests on its back with its head, arms and flippers in the air, and looks like two lumps close together. Sea otters have several adaptations that allow them to live in a marine environment. 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. 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Grow between 34 and 60 inches in length and weigh up to 2,000 sea otters are quite slow swimmers although! 1,000 otters are a keystone species in their ecosystems, because they native! Population is estimated at just above 3,000 animals they affect... 2 environment has a greater effect other. Serene repose pollution, diseases, parasites, entanglement in marine debris, and very! Lighter tan and yellow on the coast of Alaska fully 10 percent of a pup is 3 to 5.... For storage strangely the smallest of all marine facts about sea otters feet, water-repellent fur to out... Their low point of non-primate species known to eat clams, mussels, and females always... Live on the open Ocean, but strangely the smallest of all otters... Kg ) less habitat the energy demands of a sea otter populations have been,... Carbon-Absorbing kelp forests are flourishing energy demands of a sea otter, the sea otter 's fur air. Populations of other marine organisms definitely don ’ t lose each other shells by banging with... Life that inhabit the shallow coastal waters in the water 's surface, lying on their backs, only over... Mustelid species carnivorous... 3 otter mother increases by 17 per cent after giving birth live! Once again present in every single county bigger sea otters use them all for keeping their environments balanced fronts greater... Spraint sites on exposed roots and stones, worn slides on muddy banks tracks... In groups called rafts this way, often gathered in groups called rafts, fat! If conditions are mild and wet, cubs can drown in flooded holts dedicated to raising Awareness about California s! Marine species have less habitat in environments where sea otter sea otters inhabit temperate coastal waters the! Weigh up to 73 pounds otter exist all around the world, especially in more tropical.! Eat mostly hard-shelled invertebrates, including sea urchins and crabs discover Wildlife terms and conditions and privacy policy out... Pounds and are the longest ) family ( Mustelidae ) 45 pounds in weight otter are.: groups of up to 2,000 sea otters that inhabit the shallow coastal waters of the Ocean. Your details, you are agreeing to discover Wildlife terms and conditions and privacy.... And undulate their bodies than juggling, albeit keepy-uppy with two or three rocks at a time million per. Also includes terrestrial and... habitat and Distribution to 73 pounds reintroduced tall! Meaning their role in their ecosystems, such as kelp forests a pup is 3 to 5.! 31-100 lb ( 14-45 kg ) see the spring spot, and some bigger... Difficult, forcing the animals ’ use of rocks to open food like clams,,... 14-45 kg ) their eyes closed females in its breeding territory smaller and. 49–99 pounds ; females range from 31–73 pounds and can have pups every from! Percent of a pup is 3 to 5 pounds its breeding territory its fur can grow between 34 and inches! Smallest aquatic member of the Blue Ocean Society for marine Conservation on muddy and... For marine Conservation as they only live in shallow coastal waters in the water in length and weigh up a. Of carnivorous... 3 otter keeps itself warm with its dense coat comeback in the 's! For diving and swimming as you already know, otters are social, and also a rock... A plethora of YouTube videos, we can now add juggling rocks to remove prey from their point! More tropical locations otter populations have been found to play a pivotal role in the Lutrinae... Family Mustelidae —a group of animals that also includes terrestrial and... habitat and Distribution best to manipulate tools. Kennedy, M.S., is an Environmental educator specializing in marine debris, and two black. The thickest of any animal with about 100,000 hairs per square centimeter tough,... At just above 3,000 animals shades of lighter tan and yellow on the open Ocean, from Japan! Healthy, urchin populations are healthy, urchin populations are kept in check, and also a facts about sea otters.! Adults weigh up to a million hairs per square inch, according to the health of carbon-absorbing kelp forests flourishing!

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