Sea otter is a marine mammal native to the coast of northern and eastern North Pacific Ocean.
The scientific name of sea otters is Enhydra lutris. They are from the enhydra genus and belong to the mustelidae family. They are also known as great sea otters or complete marine otters. The sea otter is one of the 13 marine otters but also the only living member of its genus. They weigh between 14 – 45 kg making them the heaviest member of their family but are among the smallest marine mammals. They like floating freely on their back but are quite insatiable predators and need to eat a lot to sustain their lifestyle. They are very good neighbors but can be very aggressive when it comes to their mates. There are currently three subspecies of sea otters : the Asian sea otters, the northern sea otters and the southern sea otters.
- KINGDOM : ANIMALIA
- PHYLUM : CHORDATA
- CLASS : MAMMALIA
- ORDER : CARNIVORA
- FAMILY : MUSTELIDAE
- GENUS : ENHYDRA
- SCIENTIFIC NAME : ENHYDRA LUTRIS
- SUBSPECIES: * ENHYDRA LUTRIS
* ENHYDRA LUTRIS
* ENHYDRA LUTRIS
- ENHYDRA LUTRIS NEREIS:
Southern sea otters also known as “California” sea otters. Their scientific name is Enhydra Lutris Nereis. They ranged in California from San Mateo County in the north to near Santa Barbara County in the south.
- ENHYDRA LUTRIS KENYONI
Northern sea otter’s scientific name is Enhydra lutris kenyoni, found along the coast of Alaska and Washington.
- ENHYDRA LUTRIS LUTRIS
Asian sea otter’s scientific name is Enhydra lutris lutris are found in the Pacific Ocean off the coasts of Russia and Japan.
The sea otters are about 1.2m long and weigh about 70 pounds. They are marine animals that spend little time ashore. Its fur is thin and glossy and ranges in color from black to dark brown, with some white tipped hairs. The large blunt head, throat and chest are all creamy white. Their ears are almost hidden in their fur and their eyes are small. They drive through water using their long well defined flipper – like hind feet. The forelegs are comparatively small with five fingered forepaws, which are used to grasp shellfish and other prey.
They are mostly found in temperate or cold coastal waters with plentiful forests of giant kelp beds. Shallow water at least 100 feet deep is the otter’s preferred habitat.All the three sea otters have definite geographical range in the Pacific.Asian sea otter occupies a narrow range of land from Kuril island which is north of Japan to Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula. The northern sea otters are aboriginal to the Eastern Pacific between the Aleutian islands in Alaska and Oregon. The southern sea otters are indigenous to the coast of California. They are mostly found in temperate or cold coastal waters with plentiful forests of giant kelp beds.
The social life of sea otter’s revolves around a company of single – sex groups known as pod or raft, which consists 10 – 100 individuals. The raft gives safety to the otters while hunting. You will always find sea otters in their default position which is resting calmly on their back or holding hands with other otters to prevent them from floating away. They prefer spending most of their day time resting or maybe grooming themselves and hunts between dusk and dawn hours. The relationship of the sea otters with their neighbors is good but usually it does not continue during the breeding time, which is most likely to maintain and police its territory. The male otters often cross the territory of the female otters but not with other males. They have an excellent sense of smell which helps them to identify each other.
Sea otters are carnivores. They eat wide variety of prey which includes marine invertebrates such as echinoderms ( sea stars and sea urchins), crustaceans ( like crabs), cephalopods ( squid), bivalves ( clams, mussels, abalone), gastropods
( snails) and chirinos. Sea otters need to consume almost a quarter of their body weight everyday to support their high metabolism and maintain a comfortable body temperature. They obtain most of the water from their food only, but if it is necessary they drink sea water.
THEIR MATING SYSTEM AND THEIR LIFE SPAN
Sea otters have a very unique reproductive cycle. They have a polygynous mating system and show highly significant sexual dimorphism. Sea otters give birth throughout the year. Females are not sexually mature until 3 years and male are not mature until 5 – 6 years and they only breed until they are 7 years old.
The reproduction begins with the male courting the female sea otters. The male sea otters will swim around and search for females in oestrus. During mating the male grasps his teeth into the female’s nose and also wraps his forelegs around the female’s chest to hang on to her. Mating takes between 15 – 30 minutes and these 30 minutes are very aggressive and intense for both of them.
The gestation period for sea otters is extremely long as compared to other otters. It takes at least 4 – 12 months. By this time sea otters are able to give birth to only one pup and giving birth to a twin is an exception. For the first five or six months of the Pup’s life the mother has sole responsibility for their protection, while the father provides no assistance. She wraps the pup in kelp to prevent it from floating away.
If sea otters are kept in zoos and other such places their life expectancy is 20 years. But if they are in the wild they tend to live between 10 – 15 years because they get killed by their predators or they die because of environmental limitations.
INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT SEA OTTERS
- The sea otters can live its entire life without leaving the water.
- Its fur is the densest of any animal on earth – an estimated 1 million hairs per square inch. That’s because, unlike its fellow marine mammals, it has no blubber to keep it warm.
- To keep drifting apart while they snooze, sea otters often sleep holding paws.
- Like polar bears in the Arctic, sea otters are considered as keystone species in their ecosystems because they have a great influence on their environment.
The sea otters are on the verge of extinction. They were hunted to near extinction in the 18th and 19th century as the hunters got attracted towards their fur. Finally, sea otters attain protections with the signing of The International Fur Seal Treaty of 1911. In the 1970s, they received additional safeguards under Marine Mammal Protection Act,1972 and Endangered Species Act, 1975. Worldwide sea otters have slowly recovered but still stand far below their historical population numbers. While sea otters are vulnerable to natural environmental changes, their populations are significantly impacted by several human factors.
MEASURES THAT CAN BE TAKEN TO INCREASE SEA OTTERS POPULATION
- Dispose hazardous waste properly.
- Use non – toxic hazardous waste products.
- Use less water.
- Purchase sustainable, recycled, biodegradable goods.
- Volunteer to help a beach clean up.
- Don’t litter or dump materials into store drains.
- Learn more about ocean issues or share your knowledge .
Keep this in mind if you do not live near the sea all drains run into streams which flow into rivers and eventually reach our oceans.
So, yes we want to save the sea otters because they not only play an important role in the lives of many animals but also human lives. And also no animal deserves to become endangered or extinct because of us.
IN THE END…
Sea otters are marine mammals that are indigenous to the northern and eastern coast of the North Pacific Ocean. They are from the enhydra genus and belong to the mustelidae family. They are around 1.2 m long and weigh about 70 pounds which makes them the heaviest member of their family and are among the smallest marine mammals. They can live their entire life in water.
Sea otters are on the verge of extinction. Hunters got attracted towards their dense fur which threatened their population. The population eventually bottomed out at only 1,000 to 2,000 by the early 20th century. With the 1975 Endangered Species Act and the digilent work of conservationists, sea otters numbers have begun to recover. Many laws are implemented to protect sea otters but still considered to be a threatened and endangered species. A massive effort to clean up the oceans, improve the ecosystem and limit the damage fr climate could go a long way toward improving population numbers.
NOVEMBER 23, 2021