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. She serves as the executive director of the Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation. Sea otters will eat virtually anything they can get their little paws on. They are native to the northern coastlines of the Pacific Ocean, from northern Japan to Baja, Mexico. In environments where sea otter populations have been reintroduced, tall kelp forests are flourishing. 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! Discover our favourite incredible otter facts, including facts about sea otters, perhaps the cutest of them all. Research has shown that sea otters are vital to the health of carbon-absorbing kelp forests. They gorge on more than 100 different prey species. 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. 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. Otter watching involves perseverance. However, when tackling species with the heaviest armour, such as as marine snails and thick-shelled bivalves, sea otters often employ tools. This makes up for its lack of blubber in the cold Pacific water. Populations in Canada and California are now doing well. Discover our favourite incredible otter facts, including facts about sea otters, perhaps the cutest of them all. Please see previous post 10 Amazing Facts About Sea Otters Most facts from 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. 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 Otter Facts. Not all otters use tools, but sea otters use them all the time. 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. This ancient religion considered otters to be the dogs of the river or sea and had strict rules forbidding the killing of otters. Facebook; Prev Article Next Article . They can keep extra food in this spot, and also store a favorite rock for cracking the shell of their prey. The otters lie on their backs and pat the stones into the air, catching them and rolling them skilfully around their chests and necks. Even a baby sea otter can stay warm on the open ocean, but they do need some help from their mothers. The answer varies by species and location. Sea otters have a baggy patch of skin under their forelimbs which is used for storage. On a river it is vital to check for signs during winter when the vegetation has died back. Try 3 issues of BBC Wildlife Magazine for just £5! In fact, sea otters are one of the only mammals (apart from primates) to have developed tool use. Winter brings many challenges for Eurasian otters. You can see why only 50 per cent of youngsters survive to see the spring. 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). To be fair, it’s more keepy-uppy than juggling, albeit keepy-uppy with two or three rocks at a time. But that isn't an issue for the talented sea otter, which cracks open the shells by banging them with rocks. Other than natural predators, threats to sea otters include pollution, diseases, parasites, entanglement in marine debris, and boat strikes. 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. Sea otter rafts are segregated: Groups of between two and 1,000 otters are either all males or females and their young. What Thick Fur You Have . The sea otter (Enhydra lutris) is rare, completely marine otter. 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. There are only a handful of non-primate species known to use tools, including dolphins and octopuses. This thick fur keeps the animals warm ​but unfortunately has led to over-hunting by humans of many of these mustelid species. Sea otters (Enhydra lutris) are an easily recognized and beloved marine mammal. 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. Sea otters have incredibly dense fur, with up to 150,000 hair follicles per square centimeter. You're now subscribed to our newsletter. When sea otter populations are healthy, urchin populations are kept in check, and kelp is abundant. Kelp provides shelter for sea otters and their pups and a variety of other marine organisms. And you definitely don’t want to mess with giant otters, just check out this clip below! The gestation period lasts for six months, and females nearly always give birth to a single live pup, although twinning does occur. While mothers and pups are usually solitary, sea otters can form social groups of up to a few dozen. Sea otters in the U.S. today are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. 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. Swollen, murky waters also make swimming more difficult, forcing the animals onto busy roads. 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. If a sea otter’s fur becomes dirty, it has trouble absorbing the air needed to keep it warm. To swim faster they use their webbed feet for propulsion and undulate their bodies. Sea Otters’ metabolic rate is 2-3x greater than other mammals their size (they must eat 25% of their body weight a day). 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. Sea otters are the only fully aquatic form of otters, but they share features with the others such as thick fur and short ears. Sea otters are known for their remarkable ability to use rocks to smash open shellfish to fill their stomachs. They typically use rocks and empty shells to feed on marine snails, crabs, sea urchins and mussels. 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! But the sea otter’s habitat is unique, as they only live in shallow coastal waters in the North Pacific ocean. If there is a decline in sea otters due to natural predation or other factors such as an oil spill, urchin populations explode. Thanks! Recreational juggling may be a playful way of learning how best to manipulate these tools. 13 amazing otter facts. The energy demands of a sea otter mother increases by 17 per cent after giving birth. Mating is polygynous—one male breeds with all the females in its breeding territory. Already have an account with us? Fully 10 percent of a sea otter's day is spent grooming its fur. Otters live in a wide variety of watery locations, from the mighty Amazon to the heart of Singapore. How to listen to podcasts, and the best wildlife and nature ones to listen to, 60+ wildlife and nature books for children and teenagers, Tiger guide: species facts, how they hunt and where to see in the wild, Jaguar guide: how to identify, where to see and conservation. 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? Some of these animals have hard shells, which protect them from predators. 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. It is native to the coasts of the northern and eastern North Pacific Ocean. 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