Retrieved 24 November
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. 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 animals, with male rafts being larger than female ones. To keep from drifting out to sea when resting and eating, sea otters may wrap themselves in kelp.
A male sea otter is most likely to mate if he maintains a breeding territory in an area that is also favored by females. The species exhibits a variety of vocal behaviors.
The cry of a pup is often compared to that of a seagull. Sea otters are polygynous: However, temporary pair-bonding occurs for a few days between a female in estrus and her mate. Births occur year-round, with peaks between May and June in northern populations and between January and March in southern populations. Birth usually takes place in the water and typically produces a single pup weighing 1.
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. Initially, the objects it retrieves are of little food value, such as brightly colored starfish and pebbles. Females perform all tasks of feeding and raising offspring, and have occasionally been observed caring for orphaned pups.
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. There are several documented cases in which male sea otters have forcibly copulated with juvenile harbor seals , sometimes resulting in death.
The sea otter population is thought to have once been , to ,,  stretching in an arc across the North Pacific from northern Japan to the central Baja California Peninsula in Mexico. The fur trade that began in the s reduced the sea otter's numbers to an estimated 1, to 2, 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 and Japan.
Currently, the most stable and secure part of the sea otter's range is Russia. After the years of the Great Hunt, the population in these areas, currently part of Russia, was only Of these, about 19, are at the Kurils, 2, to 3, at Kamchatka and another 5, to 5, at the Commander Islands. Alaska is the heartland of the sea otter's range. In , the population in Alaska was estimated at between , and , animals.
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 international protection treaty, with the last sea otter taken near Kyuquot in From to , 89 sea otters were flown or shipped from Alaska to the west coast of Vancouver Island.
This population increased to over 5, in with an estimated annual growth rate of 7. It is not known if this colony, which numbered about animals in , was founded by transplanted otters or was a remnant population that had gone undetected. The translocated population is estimated to have declined to between 10 and 43 individuals before increasing, reaching individuals in As of , the population was estimated at over 2, individuals, and their range extends from Point Grenville in the south to Cape Flattery in the north and east to Pillar Point along the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
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 and 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 mids.
The last native sea otter in Oregon was probably shot and killed in In and , a total of 95 sea otters were transplanted from Amchitka Island, Alaska to the Southern Oregon coast. However, this translocation effort failed and otters soon again disappeared from the state. This male is thought to have originated from a colony in Washington, but disappeared after a coastal storm.
It could have traveled to the state from either California or Washington. The historic population of California sea otters was estimated at 16, before the fur trade decimated the population, leading to their assumed extinction. Today's population of California sea otters are the descendants of a single colony of about 50 sea otters located near Bixby Creek Bridge in March by Howard G.
Sea otters were once numerous in San Francisco Bay. Cooper , a sea captain from Boston, by Mexican Governor Juan Bautista Alvarado along with a license to hunt sea otters, reportedly then prevalent at the mouth of Corte Madera Creek. In the late s, the USFWS relocated about southern sea otters to 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 majority of the San Nicolas sea otters swam back to the mainland. These are the first documented sightings of otters this far south in 30 years. When the USFWS implemented the translocation program, it also attempted to implement "zonal management" of the Californian population.
To manage the competition between sea otters and fisheries, it declared an "otter-free zone" stretching from Point Conception to the Mexican border.
In this zone, only San Nicolas Island was designated as sea otter habitat, and sea otters found elsewhere in the area were supposed to be captured and relocated.
These plans were abandoned after many translocated otters died and also as it proved impractical to capture the hundreds of otters which ignored regulations and swam into the zone. Although the southern sea otter's range has continuously expanded from the remnant population of about 50 individuals in Big Sur since protection in , from to , the otter population and its range contracted and since has made little progress. 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.
For southern sea otters to be considered for removal from threatened species listing, the U. 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.
Sea otters consume over prey species. In a few northern areas, fish are also eaten. 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.
Surprisingly, though, the diets of individuals were more specialized in these areas than in areas where food was plentiful. 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.
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 .
Reintroduction of sea otters to British Columbia has led to a dramatic improvement in the health of coastal ecosystems,  and similar changes have been observed as sea otter populations recovered in the Aleutian and Commander Islands and the Big Sur coast of California  However, some kelp forest ecosystems in California have also thrived without sea otters, with sea urchin populations apparently controlled by other factors.
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. 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. In California, great white sharks are their primary predator  but there is no evidence that the sharks eat them. Urban runoff transporting cat feces into the ocean brings Toxoplasma gondii , an obligate parasite, which has killed sea otters.
Geological Survey and the CDC, northern sea otters off Washington have been infected with the H1N1 flu virus and "may be a newly identified animal host of influenza viruses". 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. In the early 18th century, Russians began to hunt sea otters in the Kuril Islands  and sold them to the Chinese at Kyakhta.
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. 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 prices they would have paid for one tenth the cost of Bering's expedition.
Russian fur-hunting expeditions soon depleted the sea otter populations in the Commander Islands, and by , 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. In , 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 , the indigenous peoples of Alaska were granted civil rights equivalent to a townsman status in the Russian Empire.
Other nations joined in the hunt in the south. Along the coasts of what is now Mexico and California , Spanish explorers bought sea otter pelts from Native Americans and sold them in Asia. As word spread, people from all over Europe and North America began to arrive in the Pacific Northwest to trade for sea otter furs.
Russian hunting expanded to the south, initiated by American ship captains, who subcontracted Russian supervisors and Aleut hunters  in what are now Washington, Oregon, and California. Between and , 72 American ships were involved in the otter hunt in California, harvesting an estimated 40, skins and tails, compared to only 13 ships of the Russian-American Company, which reported 5, otter skins taken between and It had stopped in the Aleutian Islands, by , as a conservation measure imposed by the Russian-American Company.
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.
The most significant threat to sea otters is oil spills ,  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. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesperson wrote:.
As a playful, photogenic, innocent bystander, the sea otter epitomized the role of victim 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. Increasing the size and range of sea otter populations would also reduce the risk of an oil spill wiping out a population.
In the Aleutian Islands, a massive and unexpected disappearance of sea otters has occurred in recent decades. In the s, the area was home to an estimated 55, to , sea otters, but the population fell to around 6, animals by 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.
Another area of concern is California, where recovery began to fluctuate or decline in the late s. This number still keeps them on track for removal from the endangered species list, although just barely. Sea otter habitat is preserved through several protected areas in the United States , Russia and Canada.
In marine protected areas, polluting activities such as dumping of waste and oil drilling are typically prohibited. 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.
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. 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.
Aleut sea otter amulet in the form of a mother with pup. Aleut carving of a sea otter hunt on a whalebone spear. Articles depicting sea otters were considered to have magical properties.
For many maritime indigenous cultures throughout the North Pacific, especially the Ainu in the Kuril Islands, the Koryaks and Itelmen of Kamchatka, the Aleut in the Aleutian Islands, the Haida of Haida Gwaii  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 of coastal British Columbia used the warm and luxurious pelts as chiefs' regalia.
Sea otter pelts were given in potlatches to mark coming-of-age ceremonies, weddings, and funerals. Among the Ainu , the otter is portrayed as an occasional messenger between humans and the creator.
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.
Since the mids, the beauty and charisma of the species have gained wide appreciation, and the sea otter has become an icon of environmental conservation. Sea otters can do well in captivity , and are featured in over 40 public aquariums and zoos. The lighter-colored otter in the video is Nyac, a survivor of the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. A species of marine mammal from the northern and eastern coasts of the North Pacific Ocean. Not to be confused with the marine otter or Eurasian otter sometimes called sea otter.
For other uses, see Sea otter disambiguation. International Union for Conservation of Nature. The sea otter Enhydra lutris: Retrieved 27 September University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. Retrieved 24 November Mustelidae based on mitochondrial cytochrome b sequences". Resolving relationships, tempo and biogeographic history of a mammalian adaptive radiation".
Biol Rev Camb Philos Soc. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Archived from the original PDF on 10 July Retrieved 10 July The Reader's Digest Association, Inc. Retrieved 23 November Southern sea otter Enhydra lutris nereis ". Archived from the original on 8 December Retrieved 23 February Archived from the original PDF on 16 February Retrieved 13 December The Journal of Experimental Biology.
Retrieved 31 December Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre. Retrieved 5 December Retrieved 15 January The Johns Hopkins University Press. It was so bizarre': Exposing the 'aberrant' nature of a sea otter's sex life". Marine Mammals of the Holarctic, Proceedings of conference. Archived from the original on 6 February Sea Otter Research Expedition".
Archived from the original on 17 September Retrieved 11 December Archived from the original on 8 January Micro dress right with minidresses, Media related to Dresses at Wikimedia Commons. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For the general concept of dress, see Clothing.
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