The Ultimate List of Sea Otter Facts
Otters are some of the most incredible creatures on earth. Their charming features are unmatched, from their expression to their use of tools. Over thirteen different species of Sea Otters exist around the world. U.S.A is home to two of the species, the sea otter and the Northern American River sea otter.
They are marine mammals that are found at the coast of Northern and Eastern Pacific ocean. Scientifically they are referred to as Enhydra lutris.
They belong to the weasel family
Characterized by very thick fur unique to them. Their fur consists of two layers, an undercoat, and longer guard hairs. One unique fact is that they have 850,000 to 1,000,000 hairs per square inch making them have the thickest fur of any mammal. Their thick fur helps them to trap air next to their skin to avoid getting wet. They are dark brown in color with lighter fur on their head. They are small mammals, but they are the heaviest member of their weasel family-b typically weighing between 14 and 45kgs.
Sea otters are social animals living in groups. Males stay together while the females also survive together. Their young ones, pups, stay with their mothers for the first eight months of their life. When they are left alone they stick together, wrapped in kelps in order to hunt. Their mothers spend most of their early life grooming and preparing them. They often carry them on their chest until they are able to swim on their own at the age of four to six weeks. Sea otters feed on animals with shells such as clams and abalone, using stones to break the shell. They then carry their food under the loose skin folds on their armpits they use a stone to break open the shell, characterizing them as one of the animals that use tools to hunt other than primates. Basically, adult sea otters can eat 25%-30% of their body weight in a single day. To get their food, sea otters occasionally dive up to 250 feet, using their sensitive whiskers to locate small preys inside crevices or their strong forepaws to dig for clams.
They are adapted to survive in their habitats, first, they use their feet to maximize or reduce heat loss when water temperatures are too high or too low. By floating on their backs with their feet out in water, sea otters reduce heat loss when the temperatures are too cold when the temperatures are high; they tend to lose heat by extending their feet under water to maximize their surface area. They also tend to preserve their body heat by spreading out or folding up their feet.
The shape of their feet and tails are unique.
Sea otter’s feet are webbed and their tails are limp at the base, as the tail reaches the tip it flatte2223ns, making it possible for them to pick up speed in water and ease their movement in the water. The sea otter has no blubber and depends on its thick fur to stay warm. The fur consist of long, waterproof guard hairs that help keep the dense short underfur layer dry and keep cold water completely away from the skin hence avoiding heat loss.
These sea mammals have long whiskers that grow around their muzzle to detect fish.
This is made possible as they detect vibrations in water caused by the tail of the fish. These whiskers help the otters hunt in any condition of the water. They have molars that they use for crushing things.
Sea otters are the Smallest Marine Mammal
Nevertheless, they can grow to be between 4 and 5 feet long and weigh between sixty and seventy pounds. They will eat between twenty-five and thirty percent of their body weight per day. Pregnancies last between 5 and eight months and lead to one pup born an average of once a year. Pups are dependent upon their mothers for up to 1 year. the average sea otter lives between ten to twelve years, though in captivity they can live up to twenty-five years.
In the early twentieth century, hunting had drastically reduced the number of remaining sea otters
They had been reduced to an extremely small amount of only 2,000 sea otters. Luckily, due to bans on hunting and other related efforts, today there are as many as 150,000 sea otters living off the coasts of Alaska, California, and British Columbia.
Sea Otter Reproduction
The females generally give birth to a single pup, but they can actually give birth to twins, usually at the age of four or five years. Mating and birth take place in the water. Their mating season is throughout the year. Their pregnancies also last for six to eight months and otter pups can be born at any time of the year. However, in Alaska, most are born in summer while in California most are bred between January and March. The pups weigh between three to five pounds.
Where are Sea Otters found?
Sea otters can be found in the shallow waters off the north Pacific. Historically, their range stretches from the coast of Siberia, the Aleutian chain all the way to Alaska. They are currently found in Canada, Russia, Japan, Washington, and California and most of them being found in Alaska.
There are two distinct subspecies of sea otters found in the U.S
Namely the Northern sea otter and the southern sea otter. The northern sea otter is found within the Aleutian Islands, southern Alaska, British Columbia, and Washington. While the southern sea otter is mainly found in the California coastline, stretching from San Mateo County in the north to Santa Barbara County in the south. The southern sea otter is also referred to as the Californian sea otter.
Otters are an important keystone species
A species that is critical to how an ecosystem works as it has a large-scale impact on the population in which it lives. Sea otters help to control the sea urchin population along the coast of the Pacific.
Thus fewer urchins, in turn, help to prevent kelp forests from being overgrazed. Research shows that in California, sea otters help enhance seagrass beds while in Alaska sea otters return in the area has made gradual return of a more diversified ecosystem.
Sea otters have several natural predators
They include great white sharks, orcas and also sea lions. They must, therefore, be able to defend themselves. They can flee; take refuge in the kelp where they live. When they are on land they have very strong teeth that they can use against the predators. They also live in large groups hence making it difficult for predators to approach them
More Facts about Sea Otters
As I had said earlier, sea otters are very adaptive. For this reason, there’s a lot you don’t know about them. At this point in time, I am going to talk about some more facts about them.
- One fact is that sea otters can live their whole life without leaving the water. This is one of the most amazing things about them. Since their mating process and the birth process is done on the water, they can live their entire life without leaving the water. You wouldn’t expect this because sea otters are just like any other animal in our environment.
- As I had already stated, its fur is the densest of all on earth. According to research, sea otters have about 1 million hairs per square inch. The reason for this is because it has no bladders to keep its body warm. So the dense hair is for keeping it warm.
- Leave alone primates, sea otters are the other mammal on earth that uses a tool to crush food. I had already stated that sea otters use stones to crush some hard preys such as the clubs. This mammal can wedge a stone between its chest and the armpit of a foreleg and pounds shells against it to open them up.
- It is the only marine mammal that is capable of getting down to the sea floor to search for food. This is another very amazing underwater superlative. It is also the only marine mammal that is capable of catching fish with their forepaws and not the mouth.
- These marine mammals have to eat up to 25 percent of their body weight a day. The main reason for this is to get warm. The other thing is that they can get prey on up to 100 different food sources.
- Sea otters have trouble maintaining the heat they need to stay healthy when their fur gets dirty.
- Another thing is that sea otters don’t migrate far away from where they are born, they can actually just migrate to about 600 meters.
- Sea otters are hunted for their pelts. It was lastly estimated that over 300,000 sea otters were killed for their pelts.
- An international ban on sea otters was introduced and for that reason, their number rebounded significantly. Despite the IUCN efforts to reduce their hunting, they are actually classified as endangered species.
Sea otters are a species that completes the food chain
For this reason, we have to conserve them for future generations. Sea otters are unique creatures, there is a lot of things to learn about them. Check out our Otter Videos for awesome otter content! Or create custom Otter Memes ?