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are otters mammals
The charismatic otter, a member of the weasel family, is found on every continent except Australia and Antarctica. Most are small, with short ears and noses, elongated bodies, long tails, and soft, dense fur.
There are 13 species in total, ranging from the small-clawed otter to the giant otter.
Though most live in freshwater rivers, lakes, and wetlands, the sea otter and the smaller marine otter are found in the Pacific Ocean.
Habitat and young
Webbed feet and powerful tails, which act like rudders, make otters strong swimmers. Their nostrils and ears close to keep water out, and waterproof fur keeps them warm.
They must carefully groom their fur and furry undercoat to keep them clean and sealed off to water.
because they’re not covered in a fatty layer like other seagoing creatures. Otters have the densest fur of any animal—as many as a million hairs per square inch in places.
Otters also have particularly stinky poop, which even has its own name: spraints.
It’s thought to get its special odor, which some scientists describe as smelling like violets, from the seafood diet otters eat.
animals such as beavers
Most otter species come ashore to give birth in dens, which sometimes have been used by other animals such as beavers. Sea otters are the exception, giving birth in the water.
Baby otters, called pups or kittens, stay with their mothers until they’re up to a year old, or until she has another litter. River otters don’t breed until they’re at least five years old.
are otters aquatic mammals
are otters marine mammals
All otters are expert hunters that eat fish, crustaceans, and other critters. Sea otters have an ingenious method to open shellfish.
A sea otter will float on its back, place a rock on its chest, then smash the mollusk down on it until it breaks open.
When it’s time to nap, sea otters entangle themselves in kelp so they don’t float away.
They also sometimes intertwine their feet with another sea otter, so that they stay together.
River otters are especially playful, gamboling on land and splashing into rivers and streams.
They learn to swim when they are about two months old, when their mother pushes them into the water.
Otters and their mustelid relatives were once hunted extensively for their fur, many to the point of near extinction. Despite regulations designed to protect them.
many species remain at risk from pollution and habitat loss.
The sea otter is listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List, pressured by pollution, pesticides, and conflicts with fishermen who kill them for eating their fish.
Asian otter species also face threats from the illegal pet trade.
Otter guide: how to identify and species facts
An agile hunter of fish, learn more about this carnivorous, semi-aquatic mammal, including how to identify each of the 13 species found worldwide, habitat, diet and other key species facts.
Otters are carnivorous mustelids in the Lutrinae subfamily. There are 13 otter species found 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. Only one species is native to the UK and still remains an elusive creature to spot, although it has made a comeback since the 1950s when it was becoming an endangered species.
Some species of otter
Some species of otter are quite common and easy to see in the right places, but others are extremely rare and very difficult to find.
Otters are well adapted to life on both land and in water, and have webbed feet for swimming, dense fur for warmth, and can close their ears and nose underwater.
An agile hunter of fish, learn more about this carnivorous, semi-aquatic mammal, including how to identify each species, habitat, diet and other key species facts.
Where do otters live?
Otters live in a wide variety of watery locations, from the mighty Amazon to the heart of Singapore. But the sea otter’s habitat is unique, as they only live in shallow coastal waters in the North Pacific ocean.
As predators that are near the top of the food chain, otters are hugely important for keeping their environments balanced.
Research has shown that sea otters are vital to the health of carbon-absorbing kelp forests. They prey on sea urchins that feed on kelp.
In environments where sea otter populations have been reintroduced, tall kelp forests are flourishing.
What do otters eat?
Many otters eat tough food, particularly sea otters that inhabit the shallow coastal waters of the northern Pacific.
They’re renowned for preying on hard-shelled marine invertebrates, including abalones, sea urchins, clams, mussels and crabs, usually fracturing the shells with their teeth.
A sea otter can consume up to 11kg of food every day to support its high metabolism .
– that’s about a quarter of its own body weight! The energy demands of a sea otter mother increases by 17 per cent after giving birth.
How fast can otters swim?
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. 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!
More surprisingly, sea otters are quite slow swimmers, although they are extremely agile.
They spend the majority of their lives on their backs, only flipping over onto their fronts when greater speed is required.
To swim faster they use their webbed feet for propulsion and undulate their bodies.
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.
What is a group of otters called?
It’s not unusual to see a mother otter with her cubs, but families aside, it depends on the species. Many are mostly solitary apart from the breeding season, whereas others live in groups all year round.
The most gregarious by far are sea otters, which are polygynous (males mate with multiple females).
While mothers and pups are usually solitary, sea otters can form social groups of up to a few dozen.
When on water, these groups are called rafts, and the largest one ever recorded contained up to 2,000 sea otters.