Erakina

Most Adorable Mammal, Sea Otter

Published Date : December 9, 2021

The Sea Otter is one of the most adorable animals on land or sea.

The smallest marine mammal, the sea otter (Enhyda Lutris) is a marine mammal native to the coats of the northern and the eastern North Pacific Ocean. About 90% of the world’s sea otters live in Alaska. The Adult Sea Otters typically weigh between 14 and 45 kg making them the heaviest members in the weasel family. It has a small, round face and a tendency to float on its back in an adorable position. Even more enchanting, sea otters are known to hold hands when they float on the water together.

The Sea Otter, Enhydra Lutris
Sea otter swimming on his back

 

Habitat and Population

Sea otters were once found from Mexico to Alaska, and even Japan. Currently, the California population of about 3,000 individuals range from Half Moon Bay to Point Conception. There is a much larger population of sea otters found in Alaska, and some are still found in Russia as well.

As a coastal species, sea otters prefer areas with kelp, which they use as an anchor by wrapping themselves in it when resting.

Sea otters were hunted extensively in the past for their luxurious fur, leading to a dramatic decline in their population and a need for protection. Listed as a threatened species, southern sea otters are still vulnerable, especially to the risk of oil spills.

Without blubber to protect them from chilly ocean waters, sea otters rely on their thick fur, but if exposed to oil their fur loses its insulating qualities. Sea otters can be further harmed by oil’s fumes or by eating contaminated food. Other threats include disease, parasites, boat strikes, predation and entanglement.

 

Breeding And Behaviour

At about 4 or 5 years old, female sea otters typically have their first pup after a four-to-five-month-long pregnancy. Females can give birth any time of the year, but most in California have their pup between January and March.

New born sea otters weigh 3 to 5 pounds. A sea otter pup’s fur traps so much air that they cannot dive underwater. When a mother leaves to go hunt for food, she will wrap her baby in kelp, leaving it to bob on the surface of the ocean like a cork. Mothers spend much of their time grooming their pups and are often observed carrying them on their chest.

Sea otter pups begin to learn to swim at around 4 weeks old. After about eight months staying alongside their mothers, pups are weaned and on their own.

Sea otters are a social species—females and their pups are often observed spending time together in one group and males in another.

As one of the few animals that uses tools, sea otters feed on shelled creatures like clams and abalone, using a rock to break them open. When sea otters are underwater foraging for food, they make use of the loose skin under their armpits, using the area like pockets to store food as they continue their search. 

Sea otters can eat 25 to 30 percent of their body weight in one day, which would be equivalent to a 175-pound human eating 45 pounds of food in one day.

 

What makes this fury ocean animal so cute?

Otters are so fluffy, indeed having the thickest fur of any mammal! They have a million hairs per square inch, that’s about if you took all the hairs on your head and put them on one square inch, now cover the otter’s entire body with that. So fluffy and adorable!!

Now, to take care of all that fur, otters spend a lot of time grooming, which can also be very, very cute! They actually have to spend a third of each day grooming it and making it all fluffy and full of air! This involved scratching at it, puffing it, and rolling around in the water. 

Another really cute otter thing is that they hang out in rafts, and often wrap themselves in kelp while they sleep. By the way, otters lay down on the water. How cute! Otter moms diligently carry their fluffy puffballs on their stomachs until they are big enough to go on their own, because they are so fluffy they float! So when mom needs to go get food, she’ll tie baby to the kelp so it can stay there for when she returns.

 

Facts about Sea Otters

  • Otters have some interesting relatives. Otters are part of the Mustelidae family, which is a family of carnivorous mammals that includes skunks, weasels, wolverines, and badgers. The sea otter is the largest member of the weasel family, yet the smallest marine mammal in North America.
  • U.S. and international law protects threatened sea otters. Hunted to the edge of extinction by fur traders in the 18th and 19th centuries, the few remaining sea otters (about 2,000 scattered in remnant colonies throughout the North Pacific rim) were first protected by the International Fur Seal Treaty in 1911. Sea otters in the United States received additional protections with the passage of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act in the 1970s.
  • Sea otters eat 25 percent of their body weight in food every day. Sea otters’ diets include sea urchins, crabs, mussels, and clams, which they’re known to crack open with a rock and eat while floating in the water. To find food, sea otters may occasionally dive as deep as 250 feet and will use their sensitive whiskers to locate small prey inside crevices or their strong forepaws to dig for clams.
  • Sea otters have the thickest fur of any animal. Their fur contains between 600,000 to 1,000,000 hair follicles per square inch. Unlike most other marine mammals, otters lack a blubber layer. Instead, they depend on their dense, water-resistant fur to provide insulation. To keep warm, sea otters spend a large portion of their days grooming and conditioning their fur. This traps air and heat next to their skin.
  • Sea otters can have a pup any time of the year. Southern sea otters breed and pup year-round, while northern sea otter pups in Alaska are usually born in the spring. A new born pup needs constant attention and will stay with its mother for six months until it develops survival skills. Fun fact: An otter pup’s fur is so dense that it can’t dive underwater until it gets its adult fur. This comes in handy when mothers leave their pups safely floating on the water’s surface while they forage for food.
  • The otter is one of the few mammals that use tools. A sea otter’s tool of choice: typically a rock that can be used as a hammer or anvil to break open hard-shelled prey. They have a loose patch of skin under their armpit to store both the food they’ve foraged and their rock to crack it open.

Sanjana Pal

Content Writer (Erakina by RTMN)

23-11-2021

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