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The Info List - Sea Otter


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The sea otter (Enhydra lutris) is a marine mammal native to the coasts of the northern and eastern North Pacific Ocean. Adult sea otters typically weigh between 14 and 45 kg (31 and 99 lb), making them the heaviest members of the weasel family, but among the smallest marine mammals. Unlike most marine mammals, the sea otter's primary form of insulation is an exceptionally thick coat of fur, the densest in the animal kingdom. Although it can walk on land, the sea otter is capable of living exclusively in the ocean. The sea otter inhabits nearshore environments, where it dives to the sea floor to forage. It preys mostly on marine invertebrates such as sea urchins, various molluscs and crustaceans, and some species of fish. Its foraging and eating habits are noteworthy in several respects. First, its use of rocks to dislodge prey and to open shells makes it one of the few mammal species to use tools. In most of its range, it is a keystone species, controlling sea urchin populations which would otherwise inflict extensive damage to kelp forest ecosystems. Its diet includes prey species that are also valued by humans as food, leading to conflicts between sea otters and fisheries. Sea otters, whose numbers were once estimated at 150,000–300,000, were hunted extensively for their fur between 1741 and 1911, and the world population fell to 1,000–2,000 individuals living in a fraction of their historic range.[3] A subsequent international ban on hunting, conservation efforts, and reintroduction programs into previously populated areas have contributed to numbers rebounding, and the species occupies about two-thirds of its former range. The recovery of the sea otter is considered an important success in marine conservation, although populations in the Aleutian Islands
Aleutian Islands
and California
California
have recently declined or have plateaued at depressed levels. For these reasons, the sea otter remains classified as an endangered species.

Contents

1 Taxonomy

1.1 Evolution 1.2 Subspecies

2 Physical characteristics 3 Behavior

3.1 Foraging 3.2 Social structure 3.3 Reproduction and lifecycle

4 Population and distribution

4.1 Russia 4.2 Alaska 4.3 British Columbia 4.4 Washington 4.5 Oregon 4.6 California

5 Ecology

5.1 Diet 5.2 As a keystone species 5.3 Predators

6 Relationship with humans

6.1 Fur
Fur
trade 6.2 Recovery and conservation 6.3 Economic impact 6.4 Roles in human cultures 6.5 Aquariums and zoos

7 See also 8 References

8.1 Bibliography

9 External links

Taxonomy

Lutrinae

Pteronura
Pteronura
(giant otter)

Lontra
Lontra
(4 species)

Enhydra (sea otter)

Hydrictis (spotted-necked otter)

Lutra
Lutra
(2 species)

Aonyx (African clawless)

Amblonyx (Asian small-clawed)

Lutrogale (smooth-coated)

Cladogram
Cladogram
showing relationships between sea otters and other otters[4][5]

The first scientific description of the sea otter is contained in the field notes of Georg Steller
Georg Steller
from 1751, and the species was described by Linnaeus in his Systema Naturae
Systema Naturae
of 1758.[6] Originally named Lutra marina, it underwent numerous name changes before being accepted as Enhydra lutris in 1922.[7] The generic name Enhydra, derives from the Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek
en/εν "in" and hydra/ύδρα "water",[8] meaning "in the water", and the Latin
Latin
word lutris, meaning "otter".[9] The sea otter was formerly sometimes referred to as the "sea beaver",[10] being the marine fur-bearer similar in commercial value to the terrestrial beaver. Rodents (of which the beaver is one) are not closely related to otters, which are carnivorans. It is not to be confused with the marine otter, a rare otter species native to the southern west coast of South America. A number of other otter species, while predominantly living in fresh water, are commonly found in marine coastal habitats. The extinct sea mink of northeast North America is another mustelid that had adapted to a marine environment. Evolution The sea otter is the heaviest (the giant otter is longer, but significantly slimmer) member of the family Mustelidae,[11] a diverse group that includes the 13 otter species and terrestrial animals such as weasels, badgers, and minks. It is unique among the mustelids in not making dens or burrows, in having no functional anal scent glands,[12] and in being able to live its entire life without leaving the water.[13] The only member of the genus Enhydra, the sea otter is so different from other mustelid species that, as recently as 1982, some scientists believed it was more closely related to the earless seals.[14] Genetic analysis indicates the sea otter and its closest extant relatives, which include the African speckle-throated otter, European otter, African clawless otter
African clawless otter
and oriental small-clawed otter, shared an ancestor approximately 5 Mya (million years ago).[15] Fossil evidence indicates the Enhydra lineage became isolated in the North Pacific approximately 2 Mya, giving rise to the now-extinct Enhydra macrodonta and the modern sea otter, Enhydra lutris.[7] One related species has been described, Enhydra reevei, from the Pleistocene
Pleistocene
of East Anglia.[16] The modern sea otter evolved initially in northern Hokkaidō
Hokkaidō
and Russia, and then spread east to the Aleutian Islands, mainland Alaska, and down the North American coast.[17] In comparison to cetaceans, sirenians, and pinnipeds, which entered the water approximately 50, 40, and 20 Mya, respectively, the sea otter is a relative newcomer to a marine existence.[18] In some respects, though, the sea otter is more fully adapted to water than pinnipeds, which must haul out on land or ice to give birth.[19] The full genome of the northern sea otter (Enhydra lutris kenyoni) was sequenced in 2017 and may allow for examination of the sea otter's evolutionary divergence from terrestrial mustelids.[20] Subspecies Three subspecies of the sea otter are recognized with distinct geographical distributions. Enhydra lutris lutris (nominate), the Asian sea otter, ranges from the Kuril Islands
Kuril Islands
north of Japan to Russia's Commander Islands
Commander Islands
in the western Pacific Ocean. In the eastern Pacific Ocean, E. l. kenyoni, the northern sea otter, is found from Alaska's Aleutian Islands
Aleutian Islands
to Oregon and E. l. nereis, the southern sea otter, is native to central and southern California.[21] The Asian sea otter is the largest subspecies and has a slightly wider skull and shorter nasal bones than both other subspecies. Northern sea otters possess longer mandibles (lower jaws) while southern sea otters have longer rostrums and smaller teeth.[22][23] Physical characteristics

A sea otter's thick fur makes its body appear plumper on land than in the water.

The sea otter is one of the smallest marine mammal species, but it is the heaviest mustelid.[13] Male sea otters usually weigh 22 to 45 kg (49 to 99 lb) and are 1.2 to 1.5 m (3 ft 11 in to 4 ft 11 in) in length, though specimens to 54 kg (119 lb) have been recorded.[24] Females are smaller, weighing 14 to 33 kg (31 to 73 lb) and measuring 1.0 to 1.4 m (3 ft 3 in to 4 ft 7 in) in length.[25] For its size, the male otter's baculum is very large, massive and bent upwards, measuring 150 mm (5.9 in) in length and 15 mm (0.59 in) at the base.[26] Unlike most other marine mammals, the sea otter has no blubber and relies on its exceptionally thick fur to keep warm.[27] With up to 150,000 strands of hair per square centimeter (nearly one million per sq in), its fur is the densest of any animal.[28] The fur consists of long, waterproof guard hairs and short underfur; the guard hairs keep the dense underfur layer dry. Cold water is kept completely away from the skin and heat loss is limited.[25] The fur is thick year-round, as it is shed and replaced gradually rather than in a distinct molting season.[29] As the ability of the guard hairs to repel water depends on utmost cleanliness, the sea otter has the ability to reach and groom the fur on any part of its body, taking advantage of its loose skin and an unusually supple skeleton.[30] The coloration of the pelage is usually deep brown with silver-gray speckles, but it can range from yellowish or grayish brown to almost black.[31] In adults, the head, throat, and chest are lighter in color than the rest of the body.[31] The sea otter displays numerous adaptations to its marine environment. The nostrils and small ears can close.[32] The hind feet, which provide most of its propulsion in swimming, are long, broadly flattened, and fully webbed.[33] The fifth digit on each hind foot is longest, facilitating swimming while on its back, but making walking difficult.[34] The tail is fairly short, thick, slightly flattened, and muscular. The front paws are short with retractable claws, with tough pads on the palms that enable gripping slippery prey.[35] The bones show osteosclerosis, increasing their density to reduce buoyancy.[36]

Skull, as illustrated by N. N. Kondakov

The sea otter propels itself underwater by moving the rear end of its body, including its tail and hind feet, up and down,[33] and is capable of speeds of up to 9 km/h (5.6 mph).[11] When underwater, its body is long and streamlined, with the short forelimbs pressed closely against the chest.[37] When at the surface, it usually floats on its back and moves by sculling its feet and tail from side to side.[38] At rest, all four limbs can be folded onto the torso to conserve heat, whereas on particularly hot days, the hind feet may be held underwater for cooling.[39] The sea otter's body is highly buoyant because of its large lung capacity – about 2.5 times greater than that of similar-sized land mammals[40] – and the air trapped in its fur. The sea otter walks with a clumsy, rolling gait on land, and can run in a bounding motion.[34] Long, highly sensitive whiskers and front paws help the sea otter find prey by touch when waters are dark or murky.[41] Researchers have noted when they approach in plain view, sea otters react more rapidly when the wind is blowing towards the animals, indicating the sense of smell is more important than sight as a warning sense.[42] Other observations indicate the sea otter's sense of sight is useful above and below the water, although not as good as that of seals.[43] Its hearing is neither particularly acute nor poor.[44] An adult's 32 teeth, particularly the molars, are flattened and rounded for crushing rather than cutting food.[45] Seals and sea otters are the only carnivores with two pairs of lower incisor teeth rather than three;[46] the adult dental formula is 3.1.3.12.1.3.2[47] The sea otter has a metabolic rate two or three times that of comparatively sized terrestrial mammals. It must eat an estimated 25 to 38% of its own body weight in food each day to burn the calories necessary to counteract the loss of heat due to the cold water environment.[48][49] Its digestive efficiency is estimated at 80 to 85%,[50] and food is digested and passed in as little as three hours.[27] Most of its need for water is met through food, although, in contrast to most other marine mammals, it also drinks seawater. Its relatively large kidneys enable it to derive fresh water from sea water and excrete concentrated urine.[51] Behavior

Sensitive vibrissae and forepaws enable sea otters to find prey (like this purple sea urchin) using their sense of touch.

The sea otter is diurnal. It has a period of foraging and eating in the morning, starting about an hour before sunrise, then rests or sleeps in mid-day.[52] Foraging resumes for a few hours in the afternoon and subsides before sunset, and a third foraging period may occur around midnight.[52] Females with pups appear to be more inclined to feed at night.[52] Observations of the amount of time a sea otter must spend each day foraging range from 24 to 60%, apparently depending on the availability of food in the area.[53] Sea otters spend much of their time grooming, which consists of cleaning the fur, untangling knots, removing loose fur, rubbing the fur to squeeze out water and introduce air, and blowing air into the fur. To casual observers, it appears as if the animals are scratching, but they are not known to have lice or other parasites in the fur.[54] When eating, sea otters roll in the water frequently, apparently to wash food scraps from their fur.[55] Foraging The sea otter hunts in short dives, often to the sea floor. Although it can hold its breath for up to five minutes,[32] its dives typically last about one minute and no more than four.[25] It is the only marine animal capable of lifting and turning over rocks, which it often does with its front paws when searching for prey.[55] The sea otter may also pluck snails and other organisms from kelp and dig deep into underwater mud for clams.[55] It is the only marine mammal that catches fish with its forepaws rather than with its teeth.[27] Under each foreleg, the sea otter has a loose pouch of skin that extends across the chest. In this pouch (preferentially the left one), the animal stores collected food to bring to the surface. This pouch also holds a rock, unique to the otter, that is used to break open shellfish and clams.[56] There, the sea otter eats while floating on its back, using its forepaws to tear food apart and bring it to its mouth. It can chew and swallow small mussels with their shells, whereas large mussel shells may be twisted apart.[57] It uses its lower incisor teeth to access the meat in shellfish.[58] To eat large sea urchins, which are mostly covered with spines, the sea otter bites through the underside where the spines are shortest, and licks the soft contents out of the urchin's shell.[57] The sea otter's use of rocks when hunting and feeding makes it one of the few mammal species to use tools.[59] To open hard shells, it may pound its prey with both paws against a rock on its chest. To pry an abalone off its rock, it hammers the abalone shell using a large stone, with observed rates of 45 blows in 15 seconds.[25] Releasing an abalone, which can cling to rock with a force equal to 4,000 times its own body weight, requires multiple dives.[25] Social structure

Sleeping sea otters holding paws at the Vancouver Aquarium[60] are kept afloat by their naturally high buoyancy.

Although each adult and independent juvenile forages alone, sea otters tend to rest together in single-sex groups called rafts. A raft typically contains 10 to 100 animals, with male rafts being larger than female ones.[61] The largest raft ever seen contained over 2000 sea otters. To keep from drifting out to sea when resting and eating, sea otters may wrap themselves in kelp.[62] A male sea otter is most likely to mate if he maintains a breeding territory in an area that is also favored by females.[63] As autumn is the peak breeding season in most areas, males typically defend their territory only from spring to autumn.[63] During this time, males patrol the boundaries of their territories to exclude other males,[63] although actual fighting is rare.[61] Adult females move freely between male territories, where they outnumber adult males by an average of five to one.[63] Males that do not have territories tend to congregate in large, male-only groups,[63] and swim through female areas when searching for a mate.[64] The species exhibits a variety of vocal behaviors. The cry of a pup is often compared to that of a seagull.[65] Females coo when they are apparently content; males may grunt instead.[66] Distressed or frightened adults may whistle, hiss, or in extreme circumstances, scream.[65] Although sea otters can be playful and sociable, they are not considered to be truly social animals.[67] They spend much time alone, and each adult can meet its own needs in terms of hunting, grooming, and defense.[67] Reproduction and lifecycle

While mating the male bites the nose of the female, often bloodying and scarring it.

Sea otters are polygynous: males have multiple female partners. However, temporary pair-bonding occurs for a few days between a female in estrus and her mate.[55] Mating takes place in the water and can be rough, the male biting the female on the muzzle – which often leaves scars on the nose – and sometimes holding her head under water.[11][68] Births occur year-round, with peaks between May and June in northern populations and between January and March in southern populations.[69] Gestation appears to vary from four to twelve months, as the species is capable of delayed implantation followed by four months of pregnancy.[69] In California, sea otters usually breed every year, about twice as often as those in Alaska.[70] Birth usually takes place in the water and typically produces a single pup weighing 1.4 to 2.3 kg (3 to 5 lb).[71] Twins occur in 2% of births; however, usually only one pup survives.[11] At birth, the eyes are open, ten teeth are visible, and the pup has a thick coat of baby fur.[72] Mothers have been observed to lick and fluff a newborn for hours; after grooming, the pup's fur retains so much air, the pup floats like a cork and cannot dive.[73] The fluffy baby fur is replaced by adult fur after about 13 weeks.[6]

A mother floats with her pup on her chest. Georg Steller
Georg Steller
wrote, "They embrace their young with an affection that is scarcely credible."[74]

Nursing lasts six to eight months in Californian populations and four to twelve months in Alaska, with the mother beginning to offer bits of prey at one to two months.[75] The milk from a sea otter's two abdominal nipples is rich in fat and more similar to the milk of other marine mammals than to that of other mustelids.[76] A pup, with guidance from its mother, practices swimming and diving for several weeks before it is able to reach the sea floor. Initially, the objects it retrieves are of little food value, such as brightly colored starfish and pebbles.[56] Juveniles are typically independent at six to eight months, but a mother may be forced to abandon a pup if she cannot find enough food for it;[77] at the other extreme, a pup may nurse until it is almost adult size.[71] Pup mortality is high, particularly during an individual's first winter – by one estimate, only 25% of pups survive their first year.[77] Pups born to experienced mothers have the highest survival rates.[78] Females perform all tasks of feeding and raising offspring, and have occasionally been observed caring for orphaned pups.[79] Much has been written about the level of devotion of sea otter mothers for their pups – a mother gives her infant almost constant attention, cradling it on her chest away from the cold water and attentively grooming its fur.[80] When foraging, she leaves her pup floating on the water, sometimes wrapped in kelp to keep it from floating away;[81] if the pup is not sleeping, it cries loudly until she returns.[82] Mothers have been known to carry their pups for days after the pups' deaths.[74] Females become sexually mature at around three or four years of age and males at around five; however, males often do not successfully breed until a few years later.[83] A captive male sired offspring at age 19.[71] In the wild, sea otters live to a maximum age of 23 years,[25] with average lifespans of 10–15 years for males and 15–20 years for females.[84] Several captive individuals have lived past 20 years, and a female at the Seattle Aquarium
Seattle Aquarium
died at the age of 28 years.[85] Sea otters in the wild often develop worn teeth, which may account for their apparently shorter lifespans.[86] There are several documented cases in which male sea otters have forcibly copulated with juvenile harbor seals, sometimes resulting in death.[87] Similarly, forced copulation by sea otters involving animals other than Pacific harbor seals has occasionally been reported.[88] Population and distribution Sea otters live in coastal waters 15 to 23 meters (50 to 75 ft) deep,[89] and usually stay within a kilometer (⅔ mi) of the shore.[90] They are found most often in areas with protection from the most severe ocean winds, such as rocky coastlines, thick kelp forests, and barrier reefs.[91] Although they are most strongly associated with rocky substrates, sea otters can also live in areas where the sea floor consists primarily of mud, sand, or silt.[92] Their northern range is limited by ice, as sea otters can survive amidst drift ice but not land-fast ice.[93] Individuals generally occupy a home range a few kilometers long, and remain there year-round.[94] The sea otter population is thought to have once been 150,000 to 300,000,[10] stretching in an arc across the North Pacific from northern Japan to the central Baja California
California
Peninsula in Mexico. The fur trade that began in the 1740s reduced the sea otter's numbers to an estimated 1,000 to 2,000 members in 13 colonies. In about two-thirds of its former range, the species is at varying levels of recovery, with high population densities in some areas and threatened populations in others. Sea otters currently have stable populations in parts of the Russian east coast, Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, and California, with reports of recolonizations in Mexico
Mexico
and Japan.[95] Population estimates made between 2004 and 2007 give a worldwide total of approximately 107,000 sea otters.[6][96][97][98][99] Russia Currently, the most stable and secure part of the sea otter's range is Russia.[100] Before the 19th century, around 20,000 to 25,000 sea otters lived near the Kuril Islands, with more near Kamchatka
Kamchatka
and the Commander Islands. After the years of the Great Hunt, the population in these areas, currently part of Russia, was only 750.[96] By 2004, sea otters had repopulated all of their former habitat in these areas, with an estimated total population of about 27,000. Of these, about 19,000 are at the Kurils, 2,000 to 3,500 at Kamchatka
Kamchatka
and another 5,000 to 5,500 at the Commander Islands.[96] Growth has slowed slightly, suggesting the numbers are reaching carrying capacity.[96] Alaska Alaska
Alaska
is the heartland of the sea otter's range. In 1973, the population in Alaska
Alaska
was estimated at between 100,000 and 125,000 animals.[101] By 2006, though, the Alaska
Alaska
population had fallen to an estimated 73,000 animals.[97] A massive decline in sea otter populations in the Aleutian Islands
Aleutian Islands
accounts for most of the change; the cause of this decline is not known, although orca predation is suspected.[102] The sea otter population in Prince William Sound
Prince William Sound
was also hit hard by the Exxon Valdez oil spill, which killed thousands of sea otters in 1989.[55] British Columbia Along the North American coast south of Alaska, the sea otter's range is discontinuous. A remnant population survived off Vancouver Island into the 20th century, but it died out despite the 1911 international protection treaty, with the last sea otter taken near Kyuquot in 1929. From 1969 to 1972, 89 sea otters were flown or shipped from Alaska
Alaska
to the west coast of Vancouver Island. This population expanded to over 3,200 in 2004, and their range on the island's west coast expanded from Cape Scott in the north to Barkley Sound
Barkley Sound
to the south.[103] In 1989, a separate colony was discovered in the central British Columbia coast. It is not known if this colony, which numbered about 300 animals in 2004, was founded by transplanted otters or by survivors of the fur trade.[98] In 2008, Canada determined the status of sea otters to be "special concern", based off 4,700 individuals recorded off the coast of central British Columbia and the west coast of Vancouver Island.[104][105] Washington In 1969 and 1970, 59 sea otters were translocated from Amchitka Island to Washington. Annual surveys between 2000 and 2004 have recorded between 504 and 743 individuals, and their range is in the Olympic Peninsula from just south of Destruction Island to Pillar Point.[6] In Washington, sea otters are found almost exclusively on the outer coasts. They can swim as close as six feet off shore along the Olympic coast. Reported sightings of sea otters in the San Juan Islands
San Juan Islands
and Puget Sound
Puget Sound
almost always turn out to be North American river otters, which are commonly seen along the seashore. However, biologists have confirmed isolated sightings of sea otters in these areas since the mid-1990s.[6] Oregon The last native sea otter in Oregon was probably shot and killed in 1906. In 1970 and 1971, a total of 95 sea otters were transplanted from Amchitka Island, Alaska
Alaska
to the Southern Oregon coast. However, this translocation effort failed and otters soon again disappeared from the state.[106] In 2004, a male sea otter took up residence at Simpson Reef off of Cape Arago for six months. This male is thought to have originated from a colony in Washington, but disappeared after a coastal storm.[107] On 18 February 2009, a male sea otter was spotted in Depoe Bay
Depoe Bay
off the Oregon Coast. It could have traveled to the state from either California
California
or Washington.[108] California

California's remote areas of coastline sheltered small colonies of sea otters through the fur trade. The 50 that survived in California, which were rediscovered in 1938, have since reproduced to almost 3,000.

The historic population of California
California
sea otters was estimated at 16,000 before the fur trade decimated the population, leading to their assumed extinction. Today's population of California
California
sea otters are the descendants of a single colony of about 50 sea otters located near Bixby Creek Bridge
Bixby Creek Bridge
in March 1938 by Howard G. Sharpe, owner of the nearby Rainbow Lodge on Bixby Bridge in Big Sur.[109][110][111] Their principal range has gradually expanded and extends from Pigeon Point in San Mateo County
San Mateo County
to Santa Barbara County.[112] Sea otters were once numerous in San Francisco Bay.[113] Historical records revealed the Russian-American Company
Russian-American Company
sneaked Aleuts into San Francisco Bay multiple times, despite the Spanish capturing or shooting them while hunting sea otters in the estuaries of San Jose, San Mateo, San Bruno and around Angel Island.[114] The founder of Fort Ross, Ivan Kuskov, finding otters scarce on his second voyage to Bodega Bay in 1812, sent a party of Aleuts to San Francisco Bay, where they met another Russian party and an American party, and caught 1,160 sea otters in three months.[115] By 1817, sea otters in the area were practically eliminated and the Russians sought permission from the Spanish and the Mexican governments to hunt further and further south of San Francisco.[116] Remnant sea otter populations may have survived in the bay until 1840, when the Rancho Punta de Quentin was granted to Captain John B. R. Cooper, a sea captain from Boston, by Mexican Governor Juan Bautista Alvarado
Juan Bautista Alvarado
along with a license to hunt sea otters, reportedly then prevalent at the mouth of Corte Madera Creek.[117] In the late 1980s, the USFWS relocated about 140 southern sea otters to San Nicolas Island
San Nicolas Island
in southern California, in the hope of establishing a reserve population should the mainland be struck by an oil spill. To the surprise of biologists, the San Nicolas sea otters mostly swam back to the mainland.[118] By 2005, only 30 sea otters remained at San Nicolas,[119] although they were slowly increasing as they thrived on the abundant prey around the island.[118] The plan that authorized the translocation program had predicted the carrying capacity would be reached within five to 10 years.[120] The spring 2016 count at San Nicolas Island
San Nicolas Island
was 104 sea otters, continuing a 5-year positive trend of over 12% per year.[121] Sea otters were observed twice in Southern California
California
in 2011, once near Laguna Beach and once at Zuniga Point Jetty, near San Diego. These are the first documented sightings of otters this far south in 30 years.[122] Although the southern sea otter's range has continuously expanded from the remnant population of about 50 individuals in Big Sur
Big Sur
since protection in 1911, however from 2007 to 2010, the otter population and its range contracted and since 2010 has made little progress.[123][124] As of spring 2010, the northern boundary had moved from about Tunitas Creek
Tunitas Creek
to a point 2 km southeast of Pigeon Point, and the southern boundary has moved from approximately Coal Oil Point to Gaviota State Park.[125] Recently, a toxin called microcystin, produced by a type of cyanobacteria (Microcystis), seems to be concentrated in the shellfish the otters eat, poisoning them. Cyanobacteria
Cyanobacteria
are found in stagnant freshwater enriched with nitrogen and phosphorus from septic tank and agricultural fertilizer runoff, and may be flushed into the ocean when streamflows are high in the rainy season.[126][127] A record number of sea otter carcasses were found on California's coastline in 2010, with increased shark attacks an increasing component of the mortality.[128] Great white sharks do not consume relatively fat-poor sea otters but shark-bitten carcasses have increased from 8% in the 1980s to 15% in the 1990s and to 30% in 2010 and 2011.[129] For southern sea otters to be considered for removal from threatened species listing, the U.S. Fish
Fish
and Wildlife Service (USFWS) determined that the population should exceed 3,090 for three consecutive years.[123] In response to recovery efforts, the population climbed steadily from the mid-20th century through the early 2000s, then remained relatively flat from 2005–2014 at just under 3,000. There was some contraction from the northern (now Pigeon Point) and southern limits of the sea otter's range during the end of this period, circumstantially related to an increase in lethal shark bites, raising concerns that the population had reached a plateau.[130] However, the population increased markedly from 2015–2016, with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) California
California
sea otter survey 3-year average reaching 3,272 in 2016, the first time it exceeded the threshold for delisting from the Endangered Species Act
Endangered Species Act
(ESA).[121] If populations continued to grow and ESA delisting occurred, southern sea otters would still be fully protected by state regulations and the Marine Mammal
Mammal
Protection Act, which set higher thresholds for protection, at approximately 8,400 individuals.[131] However, ESA delisting seems unlikely due to a precipitous population decline recorded in the spring 2017 USGS
USGS
sea otter survey count, from the 2016 high of 3,615 individuals to 2,688, a loss of 25% of the California
California
sea otter population.[132] Ecology Diet Sea otters consume over 100 prey species.[133] In most of its range, the sea otter's diet consists almost exclusively of marine benthic invertebrates, including sea urchins, fat innkeeper worms, a variety of bivalves such as clams and mussels, abalone, other mollusks, crustaceans, and snails.[133][134] Its prey ranges in size from tiny limpets and crabs to giant octopuses.[133] Where prey such as sea urchins, clams, and abalone are present in a range of sizes, sea otters tend to select larger items over smaller ones of similar type.[133] In California, they have been noted to ignore Pismo clams smaller than 3 inches (7 cm) across.[135] In a few northern areas, fish are also eaten. In studies performed at Amchitka Island
Amchitka Island
in the 1960s, where the sea otter population was at carrying capacity, 50% of food found in sea otter stomachs was fish.[136] The fish species were usually bottom-dwelling and sedentary or sluggish forms, such as Hemilepidotus hemilepidotus
Hemilepidotus hemilepidotus
and family Tetraodontidae.[136] However, south of Alaska
Alaska
on the North American coast, fish are a negligible or extremely minor part of the sea otter's diet.[6][137] Contrary to popular depictions, sea otters rarely eat starfish, and any kelp that is consumed apparently passes through the sea otter's system undigested.[138] The individuals within a particular area often differ in their foraging methods and prey types, and tend to follow the same patterns as their mothers.[139] The diet of local populations also changes over time, as sea otters can significantly deplete populations of highly preferred prey such as large sea urchins, and prey availability is also affected by other factors such as fishing by humans.[6] Sea otters can thoroughly remove abalone from an area except for specimens in deep rock crevices,[140] however, they never completely wipe out a prey species from an area.[141] A 2007 Californian study demonstrated, in areas where food was relatively scarce, a wider variety of prey was consumed. Surprisingly, though, the diets of individuals were more specialized in these areas than in areas where food was plentiful.[118] As a keystone species

Sea otters control herbivore populations, ensuring sufficient coverage of kelp in kelp forests

Sea otters are a classic example of a keystone species; their presence affects the ecosystem more profoundly than their size and numbers would suggest. They keep the population of certain benthic (sea floor) herbivores, particularly sea urchins, in check. Sea urchins graze on the lower stems of kelp, causing the kelp to drift away and die. Loss of the habitat and nutrients provided by kelp forests leads to profound cascade effects on the marine ecosystem. North Pacific areas that do not have sea otters often turn into urchin barrens, with abundant sea urchins and no kelp forest.[11] Kelp
Kelp
forests are extremely productive ecosystems. Kelp
Kelp
forests sequester (absorb and capture) CO2 from the atmosphere through photosynthesis. Sea otters may help mitigate effects of climate change by their cascading trophic influence[142] Reintroduction of sea otters to British Columbia has led to a dramatic improvement in the health of coastal ecosystems,[143] and similar changes have been observed as sea otter populations recovered in the Aleutian and Commander Islands
Commander Islands
and the Big Sur
Big Sur
coast of California[144] However, some kelp forest ecosystems in California have also thrived without sea otters, with sea urchin populations apparently controlled by other factors.[144] The role of sea otters in maintaining kelp forests has been observed to be more important in areas of open coast than in more protected bays and estuaries.[144] Sea otters effect rocky ecosystems that are dominated by mussel beds by removing mussels from rocks. This allows space for competing species and increases species diversity.[144] Predators Sea otter
Sea otter
predation is not common as many predators find the otter's pungent scent glands distasteful. Leading mammalian predators of this species include orcas and sea lions, and bald eagles may grab pups from the surface of the water. Young predators may kill an otter and not eat it.[59] On land, young sea otters may face attack from bears and coyotes. In California, great white sharks are their primary predator[145] but there is no evidence that the sharks eat them. Urban runoff
Urban runoff
transporting cat feces into the ocean brings Toxoplasma gondii, an obligate parasite, which has killed sea otters.[146] Parasitic infections of Sarcocystis
Sarcocystis
neurona are also associated with human activity.[20] According to the U.S. Geological Survey and the CDC, northern sea otters off Washington have been infected with the H1N1 flu virus
H1N1 flu virus
and "may be a newly identified animal host of influenza viruses".[147] Relationship with humans Fur
Fur
trade

Aleut men in Unalaska
Unalaska
in 1896 used waterproof kayak gear and garments to hunt sea otters.

Sea otters have the thickest fur of any mammal. Their beautiful fur is a main target for many hunters. Archaeological evidence indicates that for thousands of years, indigenous peoples have hunted sea otters for food and fur.[10] Large-scale hunting, part of the Maritime Fur
Fur
Trade, which would eventually kill approximately one million sea otters, began in the 18th century when hunters and traders began to arrive from all over the world to meet foreign demand for otter pelts, which were one of the world's most valuable types of fur.[10] In the early 18th century, Russians began to hunt sea otters in the Kuril Islands[10] and sold them to the Chinese at Kyakhta. Russia
Russia
was also exploring the far northern Pacific at this time, and sent Vitus Bering to map the Arctic coast and find routes from Siberia to North America.[148] In 1741, on his second North Pacific voyage, Bering was shipwrecked off Bering Island
Bering Island
in the Commander Islands, where he and many of his crew died.[148] The surviving crew members, which included naturalist Georg Steller, discovered sea otters on the beaches of the island and spent the winter hunting sea otters and gambling with otter pelts.[148] They returned to Siberia, having killed nearly 1,000 sea otters, and were able to command high prices for the pelts.[148] Thus began what is sometimes called the "Great Hunt", which would continue for another hundred years. The Russians found the sea otter far more valuable than the sable skins that had driven and paid for most of their expansion across Siberia. If the sea otter pelts brought back by Bering's survivors had been sold at Kyakhta
Kyakhta
prices they would have paid for one tenth the cost of Bering's expedition.[149] In 1775 at Okhotsk, sea otter pelts were worth 50–80 rubles as opposed to 2.5 rubles for sable.

Pelt sales (in thousands) in the London fur market – the drop beginning in the 1880s reflects dwindling sea otter populations.[150]

Russian fur-hunting expeditions soon depleted the sea otter populations in the Commander Islands, and by 1745, they began to move on to the Aleutian Islands. The Russians initially traded with the Aleuts inhabitants of these islands for otter pelts, but later enslaved the Aleuts, taking women and children hostage and torturing and killing Aleut men to force them to hunt. Many Aleuts were either murdered by the Russians or died from diseases the hunters had introduced.[151] The Aleut population was reduced, by the Russians' own estimate, from 20,000 to 2,000.[152] By the 1760s, the Russians had reached Alaska. In 1799, Emperor Paul I consolidated the rival fur-hunting companies into the Russian-American Company, granting it an imperial charter and protection, and a monopoly over trade rights and territorial acquisition. Under Aleksandr I, the administration of the merchant-controlled company was transferred to the Imperial Navy, largely due to the alarming reports by naval officers of native abuse; in 1818, the indigenous peoples of Alaska
Alaska
were granted civil rights equivalent to a townsman status in the Russian Empire.[153] Other nations joined in the hunt in the south. Along the coasts of what is now Mexico
Mexico
and California, Spanish explorers bought sea otter pelts from Native Americans and sold them in Asia.[151] In 1778, British explorer Captain James Cook
Captain James Cook
reached Vancouver Island
Vancouver Island
and bought sea otter furs from the First Nations
First Nations
people.[154] When Cook's ship later stopped at a Chinese port, the pelts rapidly sold at high prices, and were soon known as "soft gold". As word spread, people from all over Europe and North America began to arrive in the Pacific Northwest to trade for sea otter furs.[154] Russian hunting expanded to the south, initiated by American ship captains, who subcontracted Russian supervisors and Aleut hunters[155] in what are now Washington, Oregon, and California. Between 1803 and 1846, 72 American ships were involved in the otter hunt in California, harvesting an estimated 40,000 skins and tails, compared to only 13 ships of the Russian-American Company, which reported 5,696 otter skins taken between 1806 and 1846.[156] In 1812, the Russians founded an agricultural settlement at what is now Fort Ross
Fort Ross
in northern California, as their southern headquarters.[154] Eventually, sea otter populations became so depleted, commercial hunting was no longer viable. It had stopped in the Aleutian Islands, by 1808, as a conservation measure imposed by the Russian-American Company.[157] Further restrictions were ordered by the Company in 1834.[157] When Russia
Russia
sold Alaska
Alaska
to the United States in 1867, the Alaska
Alaska
population had recovered to over 100,000, but Americans resumed hunting and quickly extirpated the sea otter again.[158] Prices rose as the species became rare. During the 1880s, a pelt brought $105 to $165 in the London market, but by 1903, a pelt could be worth as much as $1,125.[71] In 1911, Russia, Japan, Great Britain (for Canada) and the United States signed the Treaty for the Preservation and Protection of Fur
Fur
Seals, imposing a moratorium on the harvesting of sea otters.[159] So few remained, perhaps only 1,000–2,000 individuals in the wild, that many believed the species would become extinct.[6] Recovery and conservation Main article: Sea otter
Sea otter
conservation

In the wake of the March 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, heavy sheens of oil covered large areas of Prince William Sound.

During the 20th century, sea otter numbers rebounded in about two-thirds of their historic range, a recovery considered one of the greatest successes in marine conservation.[160] However, the IUCN still lists the sea otter as an endangered species, and describes the significant threats to sea otters as oil pollution, predation by orcas, poaching, and conflicts with fisheries – sea otters can drown if entangled in fishing gear.[1] The hunting of sea otters is no longer legal except for limited harvests by indigenous peoples in the United States.[161] Poaching
Poaching
was a serious concern in the Russian Far East immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991; however, it has declined significantly with stricter law enforcement and better economic conditions.[100] The most significant threat to sea otters is oil spills,[59] to which they are particularly vulnerable, since they rely on their fur to keep warm. When their fur is soaked with oil, it loses its ability to retain air, and the animals can quickly die from hypothermia.[59] The liver, kidneys, and lungs of sea otters also become damaged after they inhale oil or ingest it when grooming.[59] The Exxon Valdez oil spill of 24 March 1989 killed thousands of sea otters in Prince William Sound, and as of 2006, the lingering oil in the area continues to affect the population.[162] Describing the public sympathy for sea otters that developed from media coverage of the event, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesperson wrote:

As a playful, photogenic, innocent bystander, the sea otter epitomized the role of victim ... cute and frolicsome sea otters suddenly in distress, oiled, frightened, and dying, in a losing battle with the oil.[6]

The small geographic ranges of the sea otter populations in California, Washington, and British Columbia mean a single major spill could be catastrophic for that state or province.[6][49][55] Prevention of oil spills and preparation to rescue otters if one happens is a major focus for conservation efforts. Increasing the size and range of sea otter populations would also reduce the risk of an oil spill wiping out a population.[6] However, because of the species' reputation for depleting shellfish resources, advocates for commercial, recreational, and subsistence shellfish harvesting have often opposed allowing the sea otter's range to increase, and there have even been instances of fishermen and others illegally killing them.[163] In the Aleutian Islands, a massive and unexpected disappearance of sea otters has occurred in recent decades. In the 1980s, the area was home to an estimated 55,000 to 100,000 sea otters, but the population fell to around 6,000 animals by 2000.[164] The most widely accepted, but still controversial, hypothesis is that killer whales have been eating the otters. The pattern of disappearances is consistent with a rise in predation, but there has been no direct evidence of orcas preying on sea otters to any significant extent.[102] Another area of concern is California, where recovery began to fluctuate or decline in the late 1990s.[165] Unusually high mortality rates amongst adult and subadult otters, particularly females, have been reported.[99] In 2017 the US Geological Survey found a 3% drop in the sea otter population of the California
California
coast. This number still keeps them on track for removal from the endangered species list, although just barely.[166] Necropsies
Necropsies
of dead sea otters indicate diseases, particularly Toxoplasma gondii
Toxoplasma gondii
and acanthocephalan parasite infections, are major causes of sea otter mortality in California.[167] The Toxoplasma gondii
Toxoplasma gondii
parasite, which is often fatal to sea otters, is carried by wild and domestic cats and may be transmitted by domestic cat droppings flushed into the ocean via sewage systems.[167][168] Although disease has clearly contributed to the deaths of many of California's sea otters, it is not known why the California
California
population is apparently more affected by disease than populations in other areas.[167]

Sea otters off the coast of Washington, within the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary

Sea otter
Sea otter
habitat is preserved through several protected areas in the United States, Russia
Russia
and Canada. In marine protected areas, polluting activities such as dumping of waste and oil drilling are typically prohibited.[169] An estimated 1,200 sea otters live within the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, and more than 500 live within the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary.[170][171] Economic impact Some of the sea otter's preferred prey species, particularly abalone, clams, and crabs, are also food sources for humans. In some areas, massive declines in shellfish harvests have been blamed on the sea otter, and intense public debate has taken place over how to manage the competition between sea otters and humans for seafood.[172] The debate is complicated because sea otters have sometimes been held responsible for declines of shellfish stocks that were more likely caused by overfishing, disease, pollution, and seismic activity.[55][173] Shellfish
Shellfish
declines have also occurred in many parts of the North American Pacific coast that do not have sea otters, and conservationists sometimes note the existence of large concentrations of shellfish on the coast is a recent development resulting from the fur trade's near-extirpation of the sea otter.[173] Although many factors affect shellfish stocks, sea otter predation can deplete a fishery to the point where it is no longer commercially viable.[172] Scientists agree that sea otters and abalone fisheries cannot exist in the same area,[172] and the same is likely true for certain other types of shellfish, as well.[164] Many facets of the interaction between sea otters and the human economy are not as immediately felt. Sea otters have been credited with contributing to the kelp harvesting industry via their well-known role in controlling sea urchin populations; kelp is used in the production of diverse food and pharmaceutical products.[174] Although human divers harvest red sea urchins both for food and to protect the kelp, sea otters hunt more sea urchin species and are more consistently effective in controlling these populations.[175] The health of the kelp forest ecosystem is significant in nurturing populations of fish, including commercially important fish species.[174] In some areas, sea otters are popular tourist attractions, bringing visitors to local hotels, restaurants, and sea otter-watching expeditions.[174] Roles in human cultures

Left: Aleut sea otter amulet in the form of a mother with pup. Above: Aleut carving of a sea otter hunt on a whalebone spear. Both items are on display at the Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography in St. Petersburg. Articles depicting sea otters were considered to have magical properties.[176]

For many maritime indigenous cultures throughout the North Pacific, especially the Ainu in the Kuril Islands, the Koryaks
Koryaks
and Itelmen
Itelmen
of Kamchatka, the Aleut in the Aleutian Islands, the Haida of Haida Gwaii[177] and a host of tribes on the Pacific coast of North America, the sea otter has played an important role as a cultural, as well as material, resource. In these cultures, many of which have strongly animist traditions full of legends and stories in which many aspects of the natural world are associated with spirits, the sea otter was considered particularly kin to humans. The Nuu-chah-nulth, Haida, and other First Nations
First Nations
of coastal British Columbia used the warm and luxurious pelts as chiefs' regalia. Sea otter
Sea otter
pelts were given in potlatches to mark coming-of-age ceremonies, weddings, and funerals.[60] The Aleuts carved sea otter bones for use as ornaments and in games, and used powdered sea otter baculum as a medicine for fever.[178] Among the Ainu, the otter is portrayed as an occasional messenger between humans and the creator.[179] The sea otter is a recurring figure in Ainu folklore. A major Ainu epic, the Kutune Shirka, tells the tale of wars and struggles over a golden sea otter. Versions of a widespread Aleut legend tell of lovers or despairing women who plunge into the sea and become otters.[180] These links have been associated with the many human-like behavioral features of the sea otter, including apparent playfulness, strong mother-pup bonds and tool use, yielding to ready anthropomorphism.[181] The beginning of commercial exploitation had a great impact on the human, as well as animal, populations  the Ainu and Aleuts have been displaced or their numbers are dwindling, while the coastal tribes of North America, where the otter is in any case greatly depleted, no longer rely as intimately on sea mammals for survival.[182] Since the mid-1970s, the beauty and charisma of the species have gained wide appreciation, and the sea otter has become an icon of environmental conservation.[165] The round, expressive face and soft, furry body of the sea otter are depicted in a wide variety of souvenirs, postcards, clothing, and stuffed toys.[183] Aquariums and zoos Sea otters can do well in captivity, and are featured in over 40 public aquariums and zoos.[184] The Seattle Aquarium
Seattle Aquarium
became the first institution to raise sea otters from conception to adulthood with the birth of Tichuk in 1979, followed by three more pups in the early 1980s.[185] In 2007, a YouTube
YouTube
video of two sea otters holding paws drew 1.5 million viewers in two weeks, and had over 20 million views as of January 2015[update].[186] Filmed five years previously at the Vancouver Aquarium, it was YouTube's most popular animal video at the time, although it has since been surpassed. The lighter-colored otter in the video is Nyac, a survivor of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.[187] Nyac died in September 2008, at the age of 20.[188] Milo, the darker one, died of lymphoma in January 2012[189] See also

California
California
Fur
Fur
Rush

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sea otter (Enhydra lutris nereis) census results, spring 2017 (Report). U.S. Geological Survey Data Series 1067. p. 9. Retrieved 17 December 2017.  ^ a b c d VanBlaricom pp. 18–29 ^ http://www.elkhornslough.org/sloughlife/mammals/sea_otter.htm ^ Love, p. 96 ^ a b Kenyon, p. 121 ^ Love, p. 76 ^ Kenyon, p. 119 ^ VanBlaricom, p. 29 ^ VanBlaricom, p. 30 ^ Nickerson, p. 57 ^ KQED, QUEST. "Otters vs. Climate Change – KQED/QUEST (2014)". Retrieved 6 June 2017.  ^ "Aquatic Species at Risk – Species Profile – Sea Otter". Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Archived from the original on 23 November 2007. Retrieved 29 November 2007.  ^ a b c d VanBlaricom, p. 33 ^ Nickerson, P. "Sea Otter
Otter
Frequently Asked Questions". Defenders of Wildlife. p. 65. Archived from the original on 9 July 2011. Retrieved 31 August 2011.  ^ "Parasite Shed in Cat
Cat
Feces Kills Sea Otters – California
California
Sea Grant" (PDF). www-csgc.ucsd.edu.  ^ Rogall, Gail Moede (8 April 2014). "Sea Otters Can Get the Flu, Too". U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved 11 April 2014.  ^ a b c d Silverstein, p. 35 ^ James R Gibson, "Feeding the Russian Fur
Fur
Trade",1969, page 17 ^ Brass E. (1911) Aus dem Reiche der Pelze, Bd III, Berlin ^ a b Silverstein, p. 37 ^ Gedney, Larry (6 May 1983). "The Aleut and the Otter". Retrieved 23 February 2008.  ^ Middleton, pg.8, ^ a b c Silverstein, p. 38 ^ Farris, pg.21, ^ Mathes, pg.326, ^ a b Middleton, pg.4 ^ Silverstein, p. 40 ^ VanBlaricom, p. 50 ^ VanBlaricom, p. 53 ^ VanBlaricom, p. 65 ^ Weise, Elizabeth (31 January 2007). "Damage of Exxon Valdez endures". USA Today. Associated Press. Retrieved 25 December 2001.  ^ Nickerson, pp. 47–48 ^ a b "Aleutian Sea Otter
Otter
population falls 70% in eight years". CNN. 6 July 2000. Retrieved 4 December 2007.  ^ a b "Sea Otters: Species Description". Alaska
Alaska
SeaLife Center. Retrieved 15 January 2007.  ^ Steve Rubenstein (2 October 2017). " Sea otter
Sea otter
census finds 3% decline". San Francisco Chronicle. p. C1.  ^ a b c Kreuder C; Miller MA; Jessup DA; et al. (July 2003). "Patterns of mortality in southern sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis) from 1998–2001". Journal of Wildlife Diseases. 39 (3): 495–509. doi:10.7589/0090-3558-39.3.495. PMID 14567210.  ^ "Parasite in cats killing sea otters". NOAA
NOAA
magazine. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 21 January 2003. Archived from the original on 25 December 2007. Retrieved 24 November 2007.  ^ "National Marine Sanctuaries Regulations". NOAA. Retrieved 19 March 2008.  ^ "Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary". City of Monterey. Archived from the original on 11 January 2008. Retrieved 19 March 2008.  ^ " Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary
Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary
History". NOAA. Retrieved 19 March 2008.  ^ a b c VanBlaricom, p. 34 ^ a b Love, pp. 93–98 ^ a b c Silverstein, p. 49 ^ Nickerson, p. 70 ^ Lyapunova R.G. (1963) Museum materials on the Aleuts. Catalog of the Museum of anthropology and ethnography. Academy of Sciences, USSR, vol. XXI. ^ Szpak, Paul; Orchard, Trevor J.; McKechnie, Iain; Gröcke, Darren R. (2012). "Historical Ecology of Late Holocene Sea Otters (Enhydra lutris) from Northern British Columbia: Isotopic and Zooarchaeological Perspectives". Journal of Archaeological Science. 39 (5): 1553–1571. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2011.12.006.  ^ Love, pp 34–35 ^ Chamberlain, B. (1888). Aino Folk Tales. London,: The folk-lore society, private printing. [permanent dead link] ^ F. A. Golder. (1905) Aleutian Stories. The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 18, No. 70. (July–September), pp. 215–222. ^ N. I. Barabash-Nikiforov (1947) Калан (Enhydra lutris L.) его биология и вопросы хозяйства (The sea otter (Engydra lutris L): biology and management), Published by: Natural Preservation Ministry of the RSFSR, Moscow. ^ Hatch, David R. (2002) Elakha: Sea Otters, Native People, and European Colonization in the North Pacific. In Changing Landscapes: Proceedings of the 5th and 6th Annual Coquille Cultural Preservation Conferences. Donald B. Ivy and R. Scott Byram, eds. Pp. 79–88. North Bend, OR: Coquille Indian Tribe. ^ Love, p. 97 ^ VanBlaricom p. 69 ^ "Seattle Aquarium's Youngest Sea Otter
Otter
Lootas Becomes a Mom". Business Wire. 19 April 2000. Archived from the original on 19 June 2009. Retrieved 9 March 2007.  ^ cynthiaholmes (19 March 2007). "Otters holding hands". YouTube. Retrieved 24 March 2008.  ^ "Vancouver sea otters a hit on YouTube". CBC News. 3 April 2007. Retrieved 15 January 2007.  ^ "Vancouver Aquarium's oldest sea otter, Nyac, passes". Vancouver Aquarium. 23 September 2008. Retrieved 28 October 2008.  ^ "Beloved sea otter Milo". Vancouver Aquarium. 12 January 2012. Retrieved 26 November 2014. 

Bibliography

Heptner, V. G.; Sludskii, A. A. (2002). Mammals of the Soviet Union. Vol. II, part 1b, Carnivores ( Mustelidae
Mustelidae
and Procyonidae). Washington, D.C. : Smithsonian Institution Libraries and National Science Foundation. ISBN 90-04-08876-8.  Kenyon, Karl W. (1969). The Sea Otter
Otter
in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife. ISBN 0-486-21346-3.  Love, John A. (1992). Sea Otters. Golden, Colorado: Fulcrum Publishing. ISBN 1-55591-123-4. OCLC 25747993.  Nickerson, Roy (1989). Sea Otters, a Natural History and Guide. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books. ISBN 0-87701-567-8. OCLC 18414247.  Silverstein, Alvin; Silverstein, Virginia and Robert (1995). The Sea Otter. Brookfield, Connecticut: The Millbrook Press, Inc. ISBN 1-56294-418-5. OCLC 30436543.  Middleton, John (2001). Maritime Activities And Their Perception Today. California
California
Academy of Science's Member Newsletter October/November 2001. San Francisco, California: California
California
Academy of Science. ISSN 1531-2224.  Farris, Glenn (2007). Mains'l Haul, a Journal of Pacific Maritime History, Vol 43. San Diego, California: Maritime Museum of San Diego. ISSN 1540-3386.  Mathes, Michael (2008). The Russian-Mexican Frontier. Jenner, California: Fort Ross
Fort Ross
Interpretive Association, Inc. ISBN 978-1-60643-951-7.  VanBlaricom, Glenn R. (2001). Sea Otters. Stillwater, MN: Voyageur Press Inc. ISBN 0-89658-562-X. OCLC 46393741. 

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Enhydra lutris (Sea otter).

Wikispecies
Wikispecies
has information related to Enhydra lutris

Enhydra lutris (Linnaeus, 1758) at the Integrated Taxonomic Information System Enhydra lutris (Linnaeus, 1758) at the World Register of Marine Species De Bestiis Marinis, or, The Beasts of the Sea (1751) (PDF), pp. 68–82, transcribed field notes from 18th-century German zoologist Georg Wilhelm Steller Precipice of Survival: The Southern Sea Otter
Otter
(Adobe Flash), a 48-minute program on the southern sea otter's history by the United States Geological Survey

v t e

Extant Carnivora
Carnivora
species

Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Chordata Class: Mammalia Infraclass: Eutheria Superorder: Laurasiatheria

Suborder Feliformia

Nandiniidae

Nandinia

African palm civet
African palm civet
(N. binotata)

Herpestidae (Mongooses)

Atilax

Marsh mongoose
Marsh mongoose
(A. paludinosus)

Bdeogale

Bushy-tailed mongoose
Bushy-tailed mongoose
(B. crassicauda) Jackson's mongoose
Jackson's mongoose
(B. jacksoni) Black-footed mongoose
Black-footed mongoose
(B. nigripes)

Crossarchus

Alexander's kusimanse
Alexander's kusimanse
(C. alexandri) Angolan kusimanse
Angolan kusimanse
(C. ansorgei) Common kusimanse
Common kusimanse
(C. obscurus) Flat-headed kusimanse
Flat-headed kusimanse
(C. platycephalus)

Cynictis

Yellow mongoose
Yellow mongoose
(C. penicillata)

Dologale

Pousargues's mongoose
Pousargues's mongoose
(D. dybowskii)

Galerella

Angolan slender mongoose
Angolan slender mongoose
(G. flavescens) Black mongoose
Black mongoose
(G. nigrata) Somalian slender mongoose
Somalian slender mongoose
(G. ochracea) Cape gray mongoose
Cape gray mongoose
(G. pulverulenta) Slender mongoose
Slender mongoose
(G. sanguinea)

Helogale

Ethiopian dwarf mongoose
Ethiopian dwarf mongoose
(H. hirtula) Common dwarf mongoose
Common dwarf mongoose
(H. parvula)

Herpestes

Short-tailed mongoose
Short-tailed mongoose
(H. brachyurus) Indian gray mongoose
Indian gray mongoose
(H. edwardsii) Indian brown mongoose
Indian brown mongoose
(H. fuscus) Egyptian mongoose
Egyptian mongoose
(H. ichneumon) Small Asian mongoose
Small Asian mongoose
(H. javanicus) Long-nosed mongoose
Long-nosed mongoose
(H. naso) Collared mongoose
Collared mongoose
(H. semitorquatus) Ruddy mongoose
Ruddy mongoose
(H. smithii) Crab-eating mongoose
Crab-eating mongoose
(H. urva) Stripe-necked mongoose
Stripe-necked mongoose
(H. vitticollis)

Ichneumia

White-tailed mongoose
White-tailed mongoose
(I. albicauda)

Liberiictus

Liberian mongoose
Liberian mongoose
(L. kuhni)

Mungos

Gambian mongoose
Gambian mongoose
(M. gambianus) Banded mongoose
Banded mongoose
(M. mungo)

Paracynictis

Selous' mongoose
Selous' mongoose
(P. selousi)

Rhynchogale

Meller's mongoose
Meller's mongoose
(R. melleri)

Suricata

Meerkat
Meerkat
(S. suricatta)

Hyaenidae (Hyenas)

Crocuta

Spotted hyena
Spotted hyena
(C. crocuta)

Hyaena

Brown hyena
Brown hyena
(H. brunnea) Striped hyena
Striped hyena
(H. hyaena)

Proteles

Aardwolf
Aardwolf
(P. cristatus)

Felidae

Large family listed below

Viverridae

Large family listed below

Eupleridae

Small family listed below

Family Felidae

Felinae

Acinonyx

Cheetah
Cheetah
(A. jubatus)

Caracal

Caracal
Caracal
(C. caracal) African golden cat
African golden cat
(C. aurata)

Catopuma

Bay cat
Bay cat
(C. badia) Asian golden cat
Asian golden cat
(C. temminckii)

Felis

European wildcat
European wildcat
(F. silvestris) African wildcat
African wildcat
(F. lybica) Jungle cat
Jungle cat
(F. chaus) Black-footed cat
Black-footed cat
(F. nigripes) Sand cat
Sand cat
(F. margarita) Chinese mountain cat
Chinese mountain cat
(F. bieti) Domestic cat (F. catus)

Leopardus

Ocelot
Ocelot
(L. pardalis) Margay
Margay
(L. wiedii) Pampas cat
Pampas cat
(L. colocola) Geoffroy's cat
Geoffroy's cat
(L. geoffroyi) Kodkod
Kodkod
(L. guigna) Andean mountain cat
Andean mountain cat
(L. jacobita) Oncilla
Oncilla
(L. tigrinus) Southern tigrina
Southern tigrina
(L. guttulus)

Leptailurus

Serval
Serval
(L. serval)

Lynx

Canadian lynx (L. canadensis) Eurasian lynx
Eurasian lynx
(L. lynx) Iberian lynx
Iberian lynx
(L. pardinus) Bobcat
Bobcat
(L. rufus)

Otocolobus

Pallas's cat
Pallas's cat
(O. manul)

Pardofelis

Marbled cat
Marbled cat
(P. marmorata)

Prionailurus

Fishing cat
Fishing cat
(P. viverrinus) Leopard cat
Leopard cat
(P. bengalensis) Sundaland leopard cat (P. javanensis) Flat-headed cat
Flat-headed cat
(P. planiceps) Rusty-spotted cat
Rusty-spotted cat
(P. rubiginosus)

Puma

Cougar
Cougar
(P. concolor)

Herpailurus

Jaguarundi
Jaguarundi
(H. yagouaroundi)

Pantherinae

Panthera

Lion
Lion
(P. leo) Jaguar
Jaguar
(P. onca) Leopard
Leopard
(P. pardus) Tiger
Tiger
(P. tigris) Snow leopard
Snow leopard
(P. uncia)

Neofelis

Clouded leopard
Clouded leopard
(N. nebulosa) Sunda clouded leopard
Sunda clouded leopard
(N. diardi)

Family Viverridae
Viverridae
(includes Civets)

Paradoxurinae

Arctictis

Binturong
Binturong
(A. binturong)

Arctogalidia

Small-toothed palm civet
Small-toothed palm civet
(A. trivirgata)

Macrogalidia

Sulawesi palm civet
Sulawesi palm civet
(M. musschenbroekii)

Paguma

Masked palm civet
Masked palm civet
(P. larvata)

Paradoxurus

Golden wet-zone palm civet (P. aureus) Asian palm civet
Asian palm civet
(P. hermaphroditus) Jerdon's palm civet (P. jerdoni) Golden palm civet
Golden palm civet
(P. zeylonensis)

Hemigalinae

Chrotogale

Owston's palm civet
Owston's palm civet
(C. owstoni)

Cynogale

Otter
Otter
civet (C. bennettii)

Diplogale

Hose's palm civet
Hose's palm civet
(D. hosei)

Hemigalus

Banded palm civet
Banded palm civet
(H. derbyanus)

Prionodontinae (Asiatic linsangs)

Prionodon

Banded linsang
Banded linsang
(P. linsang) Spotted linsang
Spotted linsang
(P. pardicolor)

Viverrinae

Civettictis

African civet
African civet
(C. civetta)

Genetta (Genets)

Abyssinian genet
Abyssinian genet
(G. abyssinica) Angolan genet
Angolan genet
(G. angolensis) Bourlon's genet
Bourlon's genet
(G. bourloni) Crested servaline genet
Crested servaline genet
(G. cristata) Common genet
Common genet
(G. genetta) Johnston's genet
Johnston's genet
(G. johnstoni) Rusty-spotted genet
Rusty-spotted genet
(G. maculata) Pardine genet
Pardine genet
(G. pardina) Aquatic genet
Aquatic genet
(G. piscivora) King genet
King genet
(G. poensis) Servaline genet
Servaline genet
(G. servalina) Haussa genet
Haussa genet
(G. thierryi) Cape genet
Cape genet
(G. tigrina) Giant forest genet
Giant forest genet
(G. victoriae)

Poiana

African linsang
African linsang
(P. richardsonii) Leighton's linsang
Leighton's linsang
(P. leightoni)

Viverra

Malabar large-spotted civet
Malabar large-spotted civet
(V. civettina) Large-spotted civet
Large-spotted civet
(V. megaspila) Malayan civet
Malayan civet
(V. tangalunga) Large Indian civet
Large Indian civet
(V. zibetha)

Viverricula

Small Indian civet
Small Indian civet
(V. indica)

Family Eupleridae

Euplerinae

Cryptoprocta

Fossa (C. ferox)

Eupleres

Eastern falanouc
Eastern falanouc
(E. goudotii) Western falanouc (E. major)

Fossa

Malagasy civet
Malagasy civet
(F. fossana)

Galidiinae

Galidia

Ring-tailed mongoose
Ring-tailed mongoose
(G. elegans)

Galidictis

Broad-striped Malagasy mongoose
Broad-striped Malagasy mongoose
(G. fasciata) Grandidier's mongoose
Grandidier's mongoose
(G. grandidieri)

Mungotictis

Narrow-striped mongoose
Narrow-striped mongoose
(M. decemlineata)

Salanoia

Brown-tailed mongoose
Brown-tailed mongoose
(S. concolor) Durrell's vontsira (S. durrelli)

Suborder Caniformia
Caniformia
(cont. below)

Ursidae (Bears)

Ailuropoda

Giant panda
Giant panda
(A. melanoleuca)

Helarctos

Sun bear
Sun bear
(H. malayanus)

Melursus

Sloth bear
Sloth bear
(M. ursinus)

Tremarctos

Spectacled bear
Spectacled bear
(T. ornatus)

Ursus

American black bear
American black bear
(U. americanus) Brown bear
Brown bear
(U. arctos) Polar bear
Polar bear
(U. maritimus) Asian black bear
Asian black bear
(U. thibetanus)

Mephitidae

Conepatus (Hog-nosed skunks)

Molina's hog-nosed skunk
Molina's hog-nosed skunk
(C. chinga) Humboldt's hog-nosed skunk
Humboldt's hog-nosed skunk
(C. humboldtii) American hog-nosed skunk
American hog-nosed skunk
(C. leuconotus) Striped hog-nosed skunk
Striped hog-nosed skunk
(C. semistriatus)

Mephitis

Hooded skunk
Hooded skunk
(M. macroura) Striped skunk
Striped skunk
(M. mephitis)

Mydaus

Sunda stink badger
Sunda stink badger
(M. javanensis) Palawan stink badger
Palawan stink badger
(M. marchei)

Spilogale (Spotted skunks)

Southern spotted skunk
Southern spotted skunk
(S. angustifrons) Western spotted skunk
Western spotted skunk
(S. gracilis) Eastern spotted skunk
Eastern spotted skunk
(S. putorius) Pygmy spotted skunk
Pygmy spotted skunk
(S. pygmaea)

Procyonidae

Bassaricyon (Olingos)

Eastern lowland olingo
Eastern lowland olingo
(B. alleni) Northern olingo
Northern olingo
(B. gabbii) Western lowland olingo
Western lowland olingo
(B. medius) Olinguito
Olinguito
(B. neblina)

Bassariscus

Ring-tailed cat
Ring-tailed cat
(B. astutus) Cacomistle
Cacomistle
(B. sumichrasti)

Nasua (Coatis inclusive)

White-nosed coati
White-nosed coati
(N. narica) South American coati
South American coati
(N. nasua)

Nasuella (Coatis inclusive)

Western mountain coati (N. olivacea) Eastern mountain coati (N. meridensis)

Potos

Kinkajou
Kinkajou
(P. flavus)

Procyon

Crab-eating raccoon
Crab-eating raccoon
(P. cancrivorus) Raccoon
Raccoon
(P. lotor) Cozumel raccoon
Cozumel raccoon
(P. pygmaeus)

Ailuridae

Ailurus

Red panda
Red panda
(A. fulgens)

Suborder Caniformia
Caniformia
(cont. above)

Otariidae (Eared seals) (includes fur seals and sea lions) ( Pinniped
Pinniped
inclusive)

Arctocephalus

South American fur seal
South American fur seal
(A. australis) Australasian fur seal (A. forsteri) Galápagos fur seal
Galápagos fur seal
(A. galapagoensis) Antarctic fur seal
Antarctic fur seal
(A. gazella) Juan Fernández fur seal
Juan Fernández fur seal
(A. philippii) Brown fur seal
Brown fur seal
(A. pusillus) Guadalupe fur seal
Guadalupe fur seal
(A. townsendi) Subantarctic fur seal
Subantarctic fur seal
(A. tropicalis)

Callorhinus

Northern fur seal
Northern fur seal
(C. ursinus)

Eumetopias

Steller sea lion
Steller sea lion
(E. jubatus)

Neophoca

Australian sea lion
Australian sea lion
(N. cinerea)

Otaria

South American sea lion
South American sea lion
(O. flavescens)

Phocarctos

New Zealand sea lion
New Zealand sea lion
(P. hookeri)

Zalophus

California
California
sea lion (Z. californianus) Galápagos sea lion
Galápagos sea lion
(Z. wollebaeki)

Odobenidae ( Pinniped
Pinniped
inclusive)

Odobenus

Walrus
Walrus
(O. rosmarus)

Phocidae (Earless seals) ( Pinniped
Pinniped
inclusive)

Cystophora

Hooded seal
Hooded seal
(C. cristata)

Erignathus

Bearded seal
Bearded seal
(E. barbatus)

Halichoerus

Gray seal (H. grypus)

Histriophoca

Ribbon seal
Ribbon seal
(H. fasciata)

Hydrurga

Leopard
Leopard
seal (H. leptonyx)

Leptonychotes

Weddell seal
Weddell seal
(L. weddellii)

Lobodon

Crabeater seal
Crabeater seal
(L. carcinophagus)

Mirounga (Elephant seals)

Northern elephant seal
Northern elephant seal
(M. angustirostris) Southern elephant seal
Southern elephant seal
(M. leonina)

Monachus

Mediterranean monk seal
Mediterranean monk seal
(M. monachus) Hawaiian monk seal
Hawaiian monk seal
(M. schauinslandi)

Ommatophoca

Ross seal
Ross seal
(O. rossi)

Pagophilus

Harp seal
Harp seal
(P. groenlandicus)

Phoca

Spotted seal
Spotted seal
(P. largha) Harbor seal
Harbor seal
(P. vitulina)

Pusa

Caspian seal
Caspian seal
(P. caspica) Ringed seal
Ringed seal
(P. hispida) Baikal seal
Baikal seal
(P. sibirica)

Canidae

Large family listed below

Mustelidae

Large family listed below

Family Canidae
Canidae
(includes dogs)

Atelocynus

Short-eared dog
Short-eared dog
(A. microtis)

Canis

Side-striped jackal
Side-striped jackal
(C. adustus) African golden wolf
African golden wolf
(C. anthus) Golden jackal
Golden jackal
(C. aureus) Coyote
Coyote
(C. latrans) Gray wolf
Gray wolf
(C. lupus) Black-backed jackal
Black-backed jackal
(C. mesomelas) Red wolf
Red wolf
(C. rufus) Ethiopian wolf
Ethiopian wolf
(C. simensis)

Cerdocyon

Crab-eating fox
Crab-eating fox
(C. thous)

Chrysocyon

Maned wolf
Maned wolf
(C. brachyurus)

Cuon

Dhole
Dhole
(C. alpinus)

Lycalopex

Culpeo
Culpeo
(L. culpaeus) Darwin's fox
Darwin's fox
(L. fulvipes) South American gray fox
South American gray fox
(L. griseus) Pampas fox
Pampas fox
(L. gymnocercus) Sechuran fox
Sechuran fox
(L. sechurae) Hoary fox
Hoary fox
(L. vetulus)

Lycaon

African wild dog
African wild dog
(L. pictus)

Nyctereutes

Raccoon
Raccoon
dog (N. procyonoides)

Otocyon

Bat-eared fox
Bat-eared fox
(O. megalotis)

Speothos

Bush dog
Bush dog
(S. venaticus)

Urocyon

Gray fox
Gray fox
(U. cinereoargenteus) Island fox
Island fox
(U. littoralis)

Vulpes (Foxes)

Bengal fox
Bengal fox
(V. bengalensis) Blanford's fox
Blanford's fox
(V. cana) Cape fox
Cape fox
(V. chama) Corsac fox
Corsac fox
(V. corsac) Tibetan sand fox
Tibetan sand fox
(V. ferrilata) Arctic fox
Arctic fox
(V. lagopus) Kit fox
Kit fox
(V. macrotis) Pale fox
Pale fox
(V. pallida) Rüppell's fox
Rüppell's fox
(V. rueppelli) Swift fox
Swift fox
(V. velox) Red fox
Red fox
(V. vulpes) Fennec fox
Fennec fox
(V. zerda)

Family Mustelidae

Lutrinae (Otters)

Aonyx

African clawless otter
African clawless otter
(A. capensis) Oriental small-clawed otter
Oriental small-clawed otter
(A. cinerea)

Enhydra

Sea otter
Sea otter
(E. lutris)

Hydrictis

Spotted-necked otter
Spotted-necked otter
(H. maculicollis)

Lontra

North American river otter
North American river otter
(L. canadensis) Marine otter
Marine otter
(L. felina) Neotropical otter
Neotropical otter
(L. longicaudis) Southern river otter
Southern river otter
(L. provocax)

Lutra

Eurasian otter
Eurasian otter
(L. lutra) Hairy-nosed otter
Hairy-nosed otter
(L. sumatrana)

Lutrogale

Smooth-coated otter
Smooth-coated otter
(L. perspicillata)

Pteronura

Giant otter
Giant otter
(P. brasiliensis)

Mustelinae (including badgers)

Arctonyx

Hog badger
Hog badger
(A. collaris)

Eira

Tayra
Tayra
(E. barbara)

Galictis

Lesser grison
Lesser grison
(G. cuja) Greater grison
Greater grison
(G. vittata)

Gulo

Wolverine
Wolverine
(G. gulo)

Ictonyx

Saharan striped polecat
Saharan striped polecat
(I. libyca) Striped polecat
Striped polecat
(I. striatus)

Lyncodon

Patagonian weasel
Patagonian weasel
(L. patagonicus)

Martes (Martens)

American marten
American marten
(M. americana) Yellow-throated marten
Yellow-throated marten
(M. flavigula) Beech marten
Beech marten
(M. foina) Nilgiri marten
Nilgiri marten
(M. gwatkinsii) European pine marten
European pine marten
(M. martes) Japanese marten
Japanese marten
(M. melampus) Sable
Sable
(M. zibellina)

Pekania

Fisher (P. pennanti)

Meles

Japanese badger
Japanese badger
(M. anakuma) Asian badger
Asian badger
(M. leucurus) European badger
European badger
(M. meles)

Mellivora

Honey badger
Honey badger
(M. capensis)

Melogale (Ferret-badgers)

Bornean ferret-badger
Bornean ferret-badger
(M. everetti) Chinese ferret-badger
Chinese ferret-badger
(M. moschata) Javan ferret-badger
Javan ferret-badger
(M. orientalis) Burmese ferret-badger
Burmese ferret-badger
(M. personata)

Mustela (Weasels and Ferrets)

Amazon weasel
Amazon weasel
(M. africana) Mountain weasel
Mountain weasel
(M. altaica) Stoat
Stoat
(M. erminea) Steppe polecat
Steppe polecat
(M. eversmannii) Colombian weasel
Colombian weasel
(M. felipei) Long-tailed weasel
Long-tailed weasel
(M. frenata) Japanese weasel
Japanese weasel
(M. itatsi) Yellow-bellied weasel
Yellow-bellied weasel
(M. kathiah) European mink
European mink
(M. lutreola) Indonesian mountain weasel
Indonesian mountain weasel
(M. lutreolina) Black-footed ferret
Black-footed ferret
(M. nigripes) Least weasel
Least weasel
(M. nivalis) Malayan weasel
Malayan weasel
(M. nudipes) European polecat
European polecat
(M. putorius) Siberian weasel
Siberian weasel
(M. sibirica) Back-striped weasel
Back-striped weasel
(M. strigidorsa) Egyptian weasel
Egyptian weasel
(M. subpalmata)

Neovison (Minks)

American mink
American mink
(N. vison)

Poecilogale

African striped weasel
African striped weasel
(P. albinucha)

Taxidea

American badger
American badger
(T. taxus)

Vormela

Marbled polecat
Marbled polecat
(V. peregusna)

Marine life portal Mammals portal Animals portal Biology portal

Taxon identifiers

Wd: Q41407 ADW: Enhydra_lutris ARKive: enhydra-lutris EoL: 328583 Fossilworks: 46078 GBIF: 2433670 iNaturalist: 41860 ITIS: 180547 IUCN: 7750 MSW: 14001090 NCBI: 34882 Species+: 7275 WoRMS: 242598

Authority control

LCCN: sh85119235 GND: 41692

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