Otters

Otters are semiaquatic to aquatic carnivores and can be found in every continent except Australia and Antarctica. There are 13 species, many of which are primarily fish eaters, though some are adapted to eat crustaceans. Most otter species swim and hunt primarily in fresh water, but the sea otter and marine otter prefer the sea as their names imply. Some fresh water otters, such as the Eurasian otter, may occasionally swim in the sea but they need fresh water to wash off the salt water from their fur.

Otters have thick brown to grey fur with two layers. The inner layer keeps them warm while the outer layer protects them. They have long flexible bodies with long strong tails that can be used as rudders. Depending on the species, the shape of the tail can range from almost cylindrical to being somewhat flattened, but they all taper off to the end. Their nose, eyes and ears are arranged in a straight line so they can easily keep them above water. Their nostrils and small round ears can be closed off when they dive. Otters can also blow bubbles, which enables them to smell objects under water.

A common misconception is that all otters spend most of the time in the water. While it is true that all otters prefer either fish or aquatic invertebrates, some species also spend a considerable time on land and prey on rodents and reptiles. Some can even climb trees.

(1) African Clawless Otter (Aonyx capensis)

Photo by Mark Paxton of Shamvura Camp

The African clawless otter, also known as the Cape clawless otter or groot otter, is the second-largest freshwater species of otter. African clawless otters are found near permanent bodies of water in savannah and lowland forest areas.

Conservation Status: Near Threatened

– Source from Wikipedia. The information above needs to be edited with our own words.

 

(2) Asian Small-Clawed Otter (Aonyx cinereus)

Photo by Moody Ferret

Asian small clawed otters are the smallest species of otter. They live in family groups led by the alpha female. They mainly eat crustaceans and other invertebrates, which they catch using their sensitive fingers. They can live in a wide variety of fresh water environments, such as rivers, swamps and mangroves. They are the most common species of otter in zoos and in the exotic pet market. They can often be seen playing with stones using their dexterous hand-like paws. 

Much like wolves, the alpha couple are the only ones allowed to mate. Once they die, the other group members disperse and look for a mate to start a new family. Asian small clawed otters can interbreed with smooth coated otters. A whole population of hybrids has been discovered in Singapore.

Size: 65.2-94 cm / 25.7-37 in (males)
Weight: 3-6 kg / 7-13 lb (males)
Range: Mangrove swamps and freshwater wetlands in south and southeast Asia.
Conservation Status: Vulnerable

(3) Eurasian Otter (Lutra lutra)

Photo by Bernard Landgraf

Eurasian otters have the largest range of all otter species, spanning from Ireland to Japan. They require areas with clean fresh water. While some live along the coast and swim in the sea, which is especially common in Scotland, they always need fresh water to clean their fur. Most Eurasian otters are active during the night, but in Scotland they can also be seen during daytime. 

Eurasian otters are territorial with males having larger territories than females. The male and female only come together for mating, which can happen any time of the year. They play with each other in the water before they mate. The female gives birth in a hidden holt, which is usually only accessible through an entrance under water. The cubs stay inside with their mother until they are big enough to learn to swim. Temporary holts where otters rest are generally simpler and less well hidden than birth holts.

Their favourite food is fish, especially eel and trout, but during the winter they have to rely more on frogs, insects, birds and small mammals. They also aren’t afraid to enter a hole in the ice to catch subglacial fish.

Size: 60-90 cm / 24-35 in (males) 59-70 cm / 22-28 in (females)
Weight: 7-12 kg / 15-26 lb (males) 3-8 kg / 7-17 lb (females)
Range: The waterways and coasts of Europe, many parts of Asia, and parts of northern Africa.
Lifespan: 15 years
Conservation Status: Near Threatened

(4) Congo Clawless Otter (Aonyx congicus)

Photo by IOSF1957

The Congo clawless otter is a subspecies of the African clawless otter, but is considered to be a separate species by the IUCN Otter Specialist Group.

Congo clawless otters are characterized by only partial webbing (between the toes of their black feet and no webbing on their front feet), and small, blunt, peg-like claws. They have very sensitive forepaws, which they use for foraging. Other otters have fully webbed feet and strong, well-developed claws. Clawless otters have slender, serpentine bodies with dense, luxurious fur and long tails. All otters have been exploited for their thick, velvety fur. Their head and body length measure to be about 600-1,000 mm (24–39 in.), and their tail length is between 400 and 710 mm (16–28 in.). These large otters can weigh between 14 and 34 kg (31 and 75 lb).

Conservation Status: Near Threatened

– Source from Wikipedia. The information above needs to be edited with our own words.

(5) Giant Otter (Pteronura brasiliensis)

Photo by Calle Eklund/V-wolf

Giant otters are the most social and noisiest of all otter species. They are capable of producing many different sounds. As their name implies, they are huge! These human-sized otters are not only the longest otters but also the longest mustelids. With their huge size they are top predators of the Amazon, even capable of killing caimans; though with difficulty. Their favourite prey are fish such as catfish and piranhas. 

Giant otters are some of the oddest looking otters, having unusually flat tails that are almost wing-like in shape. Like the hairy nosed otters, giant otters have noses that are almost entirely covered with hair. They also have some of the most well developed webbing between their digits, which makes them excellent swimmers. One of their most striking features is their throat spots, which form a unique pattern in each individual like a finger print and can be used to recognise each other.

They live in large family groups of up to about 10 individuals. When the older otters go hunting, the younger adults take care of the cubs. Cubs learn to hunt when they are weaned at the age of 9 months. They take about 2 years to mature.

Size: 1.5-1.8 m / 5-6 ft (males) 1.5-1.7 m / 5-5.5 ft (females)
Weight: 23-32 kg / 51-70 lb (males) 20-29 kg / 44-64 lb (females)
Lifespan: 9 years
Range: Northern inland areas of South America.
Conservation Status: Endangered

(6) Hairy-Nosed Otter (Lutra sumatrana)

Photo by Wildlife Alliance

Hairy nosed otters are the rarest of all otter species. They were once thought to be extinct until a living otter was spotted again in 2000, and they remain elusive and mysterious. As their name implies, their noses are almost entirely covered with hair. Hairy nosed otters can live alone or in groups of up to six individuals. 

They live in a variety of aquatic environments, such as flooded forests, forest streams and swamps, but primarily in canals. They can be active both day and night but seem to be the most active during the evening. They eat crustaceans, fish, water snakes, birds and amphibians. Breeding periods vary by region. In Vietnam it’s mainly in November and December and in Cambodia it can vary from November to March. Gestation is thought to be about 9 weeks.

They are threatened by hunting and habitat destruction. Fishermen often don’t like the otters since they can take fish out of their nets. Hairy nosed otters are very sensitive to water quality which makes it a challenge to keep them in captivity.

Size: 57.5-82.6 cm / 22.6-32.5 in (males)
Weight: 5-8 kg / 11-18 lb (males)
Lifespan: Not reported.
Range: Southeast Asia
Conservation Status: Endangered

(7) Marine Otter (Lontra felina)

Photo by Sakura1994

The marine otter is a rare and poorly known South American mammal. The scientific name means “otter cat”, and in Spanish, the marine otter is also often referred to as gato marino: “marine cat”.

Conservation Status: Endangered

– Source from Wikipedia. The information above needs to be edited with our own words.

(8) Neotropical Otter (Lontra longicaudis)

Photo by Carla Antonini

The neotropical otter or neotropical river otter is an otter species found in Central America, South America and the island of Trinidad. It is physically similar to the northern and southern river otter, which occur directly north and south of this species’ range.

Conservation Status: Near Threatened

– Source from Wikipedia. The information above needs to be edited with our own words.

(9) North American River Otter (Lontra canadensis)

Photo by Moody Ferret

The North American river otter, also known as the northern river otter or the common otter, is a semiaquatic mammal endemic to the North American continent found in and along its waterways and coasts.

Conservation Status: Least Concern

– Source from Wikipedia. The information above needs to be edited with our own words.

(10) Sea Otter (Enhydra lutris)

Photo by Moody Ferret

Sea otters are the heaviest and most advanced species of all Mustelidae. Being fully adapted to a marine lifestyle, they can live their entire lives in the sea and only come on land whenever they feel like it. While most marine mammals keep themselves warm with a layer of blubber, sea otters instead have thick fur, which is the densest fur of the entire animal kingdom. They frequently groom their fur and blow air into it in order to maintain its insulating properties.

Sea otters eat various marine invertebrates, but also fish and may even occasionally catch a bird. They are especially good at controlling sea urchin populations, which has earned them the title “keystone species”. Areas where sea otters were hunted to extinction experienced a dramatic rise in sea urchin populations which in turn meant a dramatic decrease in kelp. On the other hand, areas where sea otters thrive have intact kelp forests, which provide shelter for various fish species. 

A unique characteristic among carnivorans is that sea otters are capable of tool use. They can use stones to smash shellfish. An anvil stone is laid on the stomach and the shellfish is held in the paws and smashed against the stone until it cracks. Stones can be stored in special pouches in the arm pits. Most sea otters have a favourite stone that they keep until it’s worn out or broken. Abalones that are attached to rock walls may also be removed by smashing them with a sharp stone.

Another important part of their toolbox is kelp, which they use as an anchor. They wrap themselves and their pups in kelp in order not to drift off. They can even store live prey by wrapping it in kelp.

Size: 119-149 cm / 3.9-4.9 ft (males) 101-140 cm / 3.3-4.6 ft (females)
Weight: 23-45 kg / 59-100 lb (males) 14-27 kg / 30-60 lb (females)
Lifespan: 15-20 years
Range: Coastal waters of east Russia, Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, and California. Some reports of recolonization in Mexico and Japan.
Conservation Status: Endangered

(11) Smooth-Coated Otter (Lutrogale perspicillata)

Photo by Mike Prince | Original

The smooth-coated otter is the only extant representative of the genus Lutrogale. The species is found in most of the Indian subcontinent and eastwards to Southeast Asia, with a disjunct population in Iraq.

Conservation Status: Vulnerable

– Source from Wikipedia. The information above needs to be edited with our own words.

(12) Southern River Otter (Lontra provocax)

Photo by Paul Tavares

The southern river otter lives in Chile and Argentina. Although called a “river otter”, it inhabits both marine and freshwater environments. It sometimes is considered a subspecies of Lontra canadensis.

Conservation Status: Endangered

– Source from Wikipedia. The information above needs to be edited with our own words.

(13) Spotted-Necked Otter (Hydrictis maculicollis)

Photo by derekkeats | Original

The spotted-necked otter, or speckle-throated otter, is an otter native to sub-Saharan Africa.

Conservation Status: Near Threatened

– Source from Wikipedia. The information above needs to be edited with our own words.




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