- Genus/Species: Enhydra lutris
- Conservation Status: Endangered
- Location: Northern Pacific Ocean
World’s Smallest Marine Mammal
Sea otters are the world’s smallest among marine mammals. They rarely come ashore and spend most of their time in forests of kelp, a type of sea weed that is found off the west coast of America, Alaska and Russia. The sea otter’s fur is the densest of any animal on Earth – an estimated one million hairs per square inch! Its fur actually consists of two layers, an undercoat and longer guard hairs. This system traps a layer of air next to their skin so their skin does not get wet.
Sea otters are about 4 feet long and weigh around 50 to 60 pounds- you can say they are around the size of an average eight or nine year old kid. They spend much of their lives in the water and can dive up to 330 feet when foraging for food. Sea otters mainly eat urchins, abalone, mussels, clams, crabs, snails and about 40 other marine species. It is the only marine mammal to catch fish with its forepaws and not its mouth. Sea otters eat approximately 25% of their weight in food each day
Toxic oil spills pose a very real danger to sea otters. Unlike other marine mammals they do not have a blubber layer. Therefore, they rely on their fur to keep warm. If their fur is oiled, it loses its insulating qualities and sea otters soon get chilled. Otters are also affected by the oil fumes or poisoned by eating food exposed to oil. If an oil spill occurs in the area where there are sea otters, most of them will die. You can help save sea otters by symbolically adopting one through conservation agencies like Defenders of Wildlife.
Did You Know?
- To crack open hard shells, the inventive sea otter floats on its back and hits the shell on a rock that it balances on its belly.
- When resting or sleeping sea otters float on their backs wrapped in kelp and often holding paws with another individual so they don't drift apart.
- Sea otters are obsessive about keeping their fur clean. They groom themselves practically non-stop when they’re not eating or sleeping.
- The sea otter is the only marine mammal capable of flipping over boulders on the sea floor. It does this to search for food.