Animals / Mammal Facts / Weasels - Omnivore Mustelid Family Found All Over / Sea Otter - Cold-Water, Little, Keystone Species Mammal

Sea Otter - Cold-Water, Little, Keystone Species Mammal


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The sea otter, or kalen as it's sometimes known, is an endangered species of marine mammal. With a weight anywhere between 49 to 99 lbs (22 to 45 kg) and a length of 3 ft 3 in to 4 ft 7 in (1 to 1.4 m), the sea otter is actually one of the smallest marine mammals in the world. Their low weight is somewhat attributed to their lack of blubber (a common feature of most marine mammals); as the sea otter instead relies on it's thick, waterproof fur to keep it warm. Although it can live on land and will in fact spend time on land, it spends most of it's life in the water. This lifestyle obviously makes the sea otter a great swimmer, and thanks to it's tremendous lung capacity, it hold it's breath during foraging dives for up to five minutes if it chooses; though they often make very quick dives and instead use their lunges to help them float.

 

 

group raft sea mammals

 

otter eating crab

 

Inhabiting the Pacific coasts of Russia, British Columbia, Washington, California, Oregon, and Russia (where it's most stable population exists), the sea otter is known as a keystone species. A keystone species is one which, despite it's relatively small population, has a large impact on it's ecosystem. The species has a profound impact because of it's tendency to prey on sea urchins; that if left unchecked, would devastate kelp growth. They prey almost exclusively on invertebrates, such as sea urchins, clams, mussels, abalone, crustaceans, snails, crabs and octopuses. While hunting, the sea otter shows the unique to marine mammal behavior of using tools; as they will slam shelled creatures against rock in order to get to their edible parts.

 

eating

 

Another interesting part of the sea otter's behavior comes in it's mode of self preservation during sleep. As they sleep in the water while afloat, they run the risk of being swept out to sea. In order to combat this, they will wrap themselves in kelp to add extra tide resistance and then interlock paws with another member of it's raft (it's social group). With it's unique habits and endangered status, it is one of the most interesting and appreciated species of marine mammals, and we can only hope that the species continues to flourish.

 

rolled up kelp

 

 

 

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