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sea otter

OLogy Series
animal
card
204

sea otter

OLogy Series
animal

With its furry coat, friendly face, and playful nature, the sea otter is perhaps one of the most endearing animals in the sea. But these marine mammals are more than cute; they're fascinating creatures with unusual behaviors and great intelligence. Unfortunately, this graceful swimmer was once most valued for its thick fur and was almost hunted to extinction.

A Day in the Life of a Sea Otter
Sea otters spend almost all of their time in the water, whether they're floating along on their backs or diving for clams, fish, and other food on the ocean floor. How do sea otters stay warm if they're always in cold water? Unlike other marine mammals, sea otters don't have a layer of blubber. Instead, they depend on their thick fur for warmth. The key to this fur isn't just in its thick hairs, but in the air bubbles these hairs trap. Without this protective layer of air, the sea otter's fur would be soggy and cold. In order to maintain this layer of air, the sea otter's fur must be constantly combed and cleaned. This is why sea otters spend a lot of time cleaning their fur. Fortunately, the sea otter's flexible spine allows it to bend in all directions to clean those hard-to-reach spots!

A group of sea otters is called a:

raft

school

herd

Are you right?

Correct!

Rafts of otters are often seen hanging out in kelp beds. Sea otters protect kelp forests by preying on animals like sea urchins that feed on kelp.

What do sea otters have in common with other marine mammals?

they breathe air

they feed milk to their young

both A and B

Are you right?

Correct!

Like all mammals, sea otters breathe air and feed milk to their young. Other traits they share with mammals are that they have hair and are warm-blooded, which means their body temperature stays the same regardless of their environment.

Sea otters carry their young while floating on their backs.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fact

Sea otters also eat, breed, and sleep while floating on their backs.

Sea otters often carry stones on their bellies, which they use as tools.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fact

After sea otters surface from a dive, they roll onto their backs to eat. They often keep a stone in their pouch to crack open shells.

Scientific name: Enhydra lutris
Size: males grow to be 4.5 feet long
Weight: males weigh as much as 80 pounds (females are smaller)
Habitat: along rocky shorelines of the northern Pacific
Diet: sea urchins, crabs, clams, and fish
Status: threatened due to habitat loss
Cool fact: has the thickest fur of any animal on Earth

Image credits: courtesy of NPS, Olympic National Park.