Furthermore, countries such as the United States, Russia, and Canada have set up marine protected areas where activities such as dumping of waste and oil drilling are prohibited. All maps, graphics, flags, photos and original descriptions © 2020 worldatlas.com. These latter resear… The sea otter spends most of its time in the water but, in some locations, comes ashore to sleep or rest. They are adapted to this kind of environment by possessing a dense fur coat which insulates the body from cold. Thus, to survive the cold temperatures and maintain warmth, the sea otters feed on food amounting to an average of 25% of their body weight every day. By controlling the number of crabs, sea otters helped sea slugs and other tiny marine grazers flourish. Subsequent generations of Californians didn’t know anything else, but as sea otters reclaim their historic range, I expect we will continue to discover far-reaching ecological effects that we hadn’t anticipated. The sea slugs’ grazing kept the eelgrass blades free from a smothering coat of algae. Sea otters and their pups aren't merely cute, they're also utterly (or otterly) fascinating. For some species, otters of all age classes have been observed sliding. A keystone species is one that is comparatively rare but has a strong influence on its environment. Sea otters are ‘’keystone species” because of their critical role in maintaining the health and stability of the nearshore marine ecosystems. Sea otters are ‘’keystone species” because of their critical role in maintaining the health and stability of the nearshore marine ecosystems. Eventually, the seagrasses become clean and healthy resulting in higher populations. In fact, sea otters have the world’s finest and densest fur—up to a million hairs per square inch! Sea otters are carnivores that feed on an array of marine species—mostly invertebrates like crabs, clams, urchins, snails and worms. Fourthly, sea otters are also threatened by predators that live underwater like orcas, sea lions, and bald eagles. Copyright © 2020 Sea Otter Savvy. “With the near extinction of sea otters during the fur trade, our coastal ecosystems were radically downgraded and simplified. Crude oil normally penetrates the fur of the otter destroying the air layer that is trapped next to its skin. Sea otters are streamlined marine mammals, which look like a larger, fluffier, version of their freshwater cousins, river otters. of food each day. Thus, the reduction in the numbers of the sea urchins, caused by the presence of sea otters, prevents the decimation of the kelp forests. Their small heads widen to long necks and shoulders, and they have flattened, well-muscled tails. Sea otters do an excellent job of eating large sea urchins over eight centimetres in diameter, but they tend to leave behind smaller urchins. Sea otters are mammals that spend most of their lives in the ocean. Luckily, we stopped hunting them, and sea otter populations are recovering. The high metabolism comes from the food eaten by the sea otters. Sea otter fur is the densest of all mammals, with about 100,000 hairs per square centimeter. Mating takes place between 15-30 minutes. Sea otters have webbed feet, water-repellent fur to … Webbed feet and powerful tails, which act like rudders, make otters strong swimmers. Specific otter play activities are useful for survival. These sea creatures also depend on a high metabolism rate to generate body heat. While we wish we could see you in person, we hope Sea Otter Play will keep everyone enthused and … Fortunately, sea otters feed on sea urchins resulting in the preservation of the kelp forests. Sea urchins feed voraciously on kelp forests thereby damaging the eco-system leading to what is known as "urchin barrens." The ‘’Exxon Valdez’ oil disaster that occurred in Prince William Sound on March 24, 1989, proved that the single greatest threat to the otter today is an oil spill. Places such as British Columbia, Aleutian Islands, and the Big Sur coast of California have had major improvements in the health of their coastal ecosystems due to the re-introduction of otters. Sea otters can sometimes be seen off sandy beaches — and even local harbors. Some otters dive deep and end up nabbing things like sea urchins and Dungeness crabs off the seafloor, while others find their favorite foods at mid-range depths of about 40 feet (12 meters), collecting small shellfish and worms. Sea Otter Play uses a premier virtual events platform called 6Connex. A keystone species is one that exerts a large, stabilizing influence throughout an ecological community. People affect sea otter populations through direct shootings and trapping sea otters in fishing nets. Watch this great short film to understand more about keystone species: While scuba diving in the Aleutian Islands, Dr. Estes noticed places where the seafloor was covered with sea urchins and no kelp remained. Places that are overrun with urchins are known as “urchin barrens”. In 2001, a female otter at the Monterey … Sea otters live in a cold ocean environment and rely on two traits to keep warm: a dense fur coat for insulation and very high metabolism to generate body heat. Take sliding, one of the most common otter amusements. Almost all otters have webbed feet, some more webbed than others, and they can close off their ears and nose as they swim underwater. What Is The Role Of Vultures In The Ecosystem And Wildlife Conservation? In the recent past, sea otters nearly became extinct due to large-scale commercial hunting for its pelt. Otters are part of the Mustelidae family, which is a family of … They eat sea urchins and other invertebrates that graze on giant kelp. Sea otters reside in the underwater which has extremely cold temperatures. Sea otters are an iconic species, representing the beauty and diversity of marine life found along California’s coastline. In contrast, Dr. Estes noticed that places with healthy sea otter populations often had healthy kelp forest habitat as well. Otters have some interesting relatives. Sea otters are good at floating on the waters surface, as air trapped in their fur makes them more buoyant. Sea otters play a small role in mitigating global climate change, but their impact points to a larger lesson: wildlife conservation can save vegetation needed to reduce CO2. Hughes discovered that sea otters were feeding on crabs that in turn were feeding on sea slugs. Sea otters dive to rocky reefs, where they collect invertebrates and also a large rock. By controlling the size and number of sea urchins (sea urchins are one of their favorite foods, and they eat the larger ones first), sea otters created the opportunity for kelp to grow and flourish, which in turn created habitat for numerous other kelp forest dwellers. Fragmentation and recovery from fur trade hunting created opportunity for scientific study. The otters’ playful juggling of rocks has been reported many times. Sea otter fur is the densest of any mammal at about 1 million hairs per square inch (We have 100,000 hairs on our entire head). A collection of kelps result in the formation of kelp forests. Seagrass meadows are significant to the ecosystem as they result in the protection of the coastal regions and preservation of the habitat for fish. As sea otters reclaimed their role as predators in this estuary, they helped restore balance to this important habitat connecting land to sea. Sea otters have circular, furry faces with short noses, rounded eyes and ears, and … With the reduced crabs in the meadows, the population of the sea slugs increase and feed on the algae seen growing on the leaves of the seagrass. Sea Otters play an important role in the ecosystem, and may even be mitigating some of the harmful environmental impacts of human activity. By controlling the number of crabs, sea otters helped sea slugs and other tiny marine grazers flourish. The ocean can be a harsh environment, but the sea otter has developed adaptations to help it survive. Luckily their coat … Since they have to consume at least 25% of their body weight each day to stay alive, sea otters prey on filter feeders such as mussels and clams. However, otters can hold their breath for deep dives to the ocean floor. Sea otters also have thick, brown fur that insulates them against the cold waters of the Pacific Ocean. One of the results of Dr. Estes’ research was to designate sea otters as a “keystone species”. Both wild and captive otters will slide down the same mud or ice path repeatedly. Some predators like the great white shark may kill the otters but not feed on them. They use the rock as a table against which they smash their shelled prey to … The Deep Sea Ecosystem: Life In The Dark And Cold Waters. However, countries around the globe have enacted legislation outlawing their hunting. On land, the otters face threats from bears and coyotes. These filter feeders indiscriminately sieve particles out of the water resulting in them accumulating high concentrations of pollutants and disease pathogens. When sea otter populations are healthy, urchin populations are kept in check, and kelp is abundant. They like to swim on their back and sides and can see just as well underwater as they can above. If you haven't been swept up by the otter craze that's sweeping America, the time is now! A sea otter rests on its back with its head, arms and flippers in the air, and looks like two lumps close together. They also rely on kelp to provide them cover from predators, and a habitat for the animals they hunt. Case study: Sea Otters →Crabs → Sea Slugs → Micro Algae → Eelgrass. However, this is not enough to keep the sea otters warm. Not all otters use tools, but sea otters use them all the time. Unlike most marine mammals that use blubber to stay warm in the cold ocean waters, sea otters rely on their extremely thick fur. North American river otters, also called Canadian otters, have long, muscular, streamlined bodies with short legs and fully webbed feet bearing non-retractable claws. Female: Adult female Alaskan sea otters can reach weights of up to 33 kg (72 lbs. OTTER MOMS ARE TOTALLY GAME FOR ADOPTION. Sea otters have a symbiotic relationship with kelp forests. Otters eat a great deal because their bodies burn energy quickly. The giant otter is the longest of the otters, sometimes reaching 7 feet from nose to tail, and weighing up to 85 pounds, but sea otters are much stouter and large male sea otters in particular are bulkier and heavier than giant otters. Their appetite for these invertebrate species exerts a strong influence on prey size and number and how they live and move in their habitat. Facts about otters Otters and play. Diet A sea otter has a metabolic rate much higher than most mammals of similar size, and must consume large quantities of food. The males are polygynous as they may take up multiple female partners. Sea otters feed mostly on sea urchins, mollusks, crustaceans, and fish. Such an increase is a result of the food web that forms within this ecosystem formed by the sea otters, crabs, and sea slugs. The truth is, we don’t even really know what we’re missing.” -Lilian Carswell, US Fish and Wildlife Service Southern Sea Otter Recovery Coordinator, High metabolism means they control numbers of their prey species. The complexity of trophic cascades can vary extensively from place to place, but this basic pattern is the foundation for understanding how sea otters fit into a healthy coastal environment. Others believe otters only use these slides for low-energy travel, maintaining that otters generally do not climb to the top of a slope for another slide. This digital environment mimics the experience one would have at a physical event, while in the virtual world. Their favorite foods are often found buried in the sand or nestled in rocks. Sea otters feast upon molluscs such as clams and mussels collected from dives to the sea floor. Without Sea Otters Kelp Forests Are Consumed By Urchins (credit: Mike Kenner), The Sea Otter's Big Appetite Helps Control Sea Urchins (credit: Joe Tomoleoni), Without Sea Otters Eel Grass Is Covered In Thick Algae (credit: Brent Hughes), With Sea Otters Sea Slugs Are Able To Consume Algae (credit: Brent Hughes). Their dense, short under-fur is overlain by darker, coarse guard hairs that help repel wa… They provide crucial habitat and food for other marine organisms and also help to contain coastal erosion. As of 2006, the lingering oil in the area continued to affect the population of these valuable sea creatures. Tips for spotting a sea otter. To achieve this, the sea otters that are carnivorous feed on various marine species such as crabs, clams, urchins, snails, and worms. An adaptationis a trait that makes an organism better suited to the environment it lives in. In the 1970s, a scientist named Dr. James Estes recognized that he could study the influence of sea otters on other species in their environment by comparing the coastal habitats in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands where sea otters had recovered to similar places where sea otters were absent. Sea otters are mammals, and therefore breathe air. This type of relationship between a predator (sea otter), herbivore (urchin), and plant (kelp) is known as a trophic cascade. Studies show that the presence of otters increased the carbon storage of kelp forests from 4.4 to 8.7 megatons. They eat shellfish, spiny sea urchins, crabs, shrimp and small fishes. Sea otters are a keystone species and play a critical role in the food web of the kelp forest, so much so that even terrestrial species are influenced by sea otter activity. By studying how sea otters were foraging in the Elkhorn Slough—what prey species they were eating and where they were feeding—Dr. At the age of 7 years, otters can breed successfully. Additionally, the damaging physical effects of oil contamination, as well as toxicological effects from ingestion and inhalation can lead to severe, long-term organ damage and other potentially life-threatening conditions. The organisms sea otters had evolved alongside suddenly lost the main predator that kept them in check. This metabolism needs to be continually stoked with energy in the form of food, and sea otters must consume as much as 25% of their body weight each day in order to stay warm and survive. Wild sea otters typically have a … The specific role of the sea otters in the eco-system is as follows; ‘’Kelps’’ are brown algae seaweeds growing rapidly underwater covering 25% of the world’s coastlines. As sea otters reclaimed their role as predators in this estuary, they helped restore balance to this important habitat connecting land to … Sea otters feed on a large number of crabs to retain their body weight. These small urchins also readily devour kelp, and if their numbers swell, they begin to thin out kelp forests. By repeatedly foraging these contaminated prey, the otters put themselves at risk of harmful diseases. They have thick fur that generates heat to keep their bodies warm. Otters can stay submerged for five to eight minutes, depending on the species, because their heart rate slows, and they use less oxygen. We've … First, one of the biggest threats to the existence of sea otters is humans. They’re also considered a keystone species because of their critical importance to the health and stability of the nearshore marine ecosystem. By Sharon Omondi on December 12 2019 in Environment. Sea otters eat urchins and other invertebrates that graze on kelp. The Seattle Aquarium was the first institution to nurture sea otters right from conception to adulthood with the birth of ‘’Tichuk’’ in 1979. The grazers in turn kept the eelgrass blades clean and healthy. They cleverly use rocks as ‘tools’ to smash the shells by placing the rock upon their chest while floating on their backs and bashing the mollusc against it repeatedly. Wrapping pups in seaweed: Sea otter pups are born without the ability to swim. Without sea otters, sea urchins can overpopulate the sea floor and devour the kelp forests that provide cover and food for many other marine animals. A keystone species is one that exerts a large, stabilizing influence throughout an ecological community. Because sea otters do not have any insulating fat, the fur is responsible for heat maintenance. Since then, this kind of comparative study has been carried out in other parts of Alaska, Canada, Washington state, Russia and California. ), and female California sea otters weigh on average 20 kg (44 lbs.) What Is The Importance Of Insects In The Ecosystem. The grazers in turn kept the eelgrass blades clean and healthy. Which guild an otter occupies has to do with the depth at which it likes to find food. They have four legs to move easily on land, and a long tail to swim through the water. Secondly, oil spills result in the death of sea otters. Sea otters (Enhydra lutris) are marine mammals inhabiting the shores of the Aleutian Islands and along the North American coast up to Mexico. What makes sea otters special? The sea otter can usually be found in kelp beds, and looks very much like lumps of kelp. Besides existing in the wild, otters are also raised in captivity like public aquariums and zoos. Adult sea otters may eat as much as 9 kg (20 lbs.) 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