Sea otters belong to the weasel family. Although they are the heaviest members of the Mustelidae family, they are the smallest marine mammals. Sea otters do not have blubber to keep warm and that is why they have extremely thick fur, which is made up of two layers – an undercoat and guard hair. Air gets trapped between these two layers of fur and this helps to keep sea otters warm in cold waters.
If the sea otter’s fur gets soiled due to oil and other substances, it cannot keep itself warm. This is the reason why you will find sea otters grooming themselves meticulously. We have found heaps more fun Sea Otter facts for kids to share with you all.
Photo credit: Mike Baird under CC license 2.0
Sea Otters and the Environment
Sea otters are considered as keystone species. In other words, they have an important role to play in their environment. They maintain the right balance of kelp along the shores they inhabit. If sea otters were not around, the undersea animals would eat up the kelp forests along the shore that offer food and protection to various other marine animals.
Indirectly sea otters help to reduce the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. You may already know that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. Sea otters maintain kelp forests along the shores and these forests are known to trap carbon dioxide.
Where’s the Food?
Sea otters are carnivorous mammals. They consume abalone, sea urchins, snails, mussels, crabs, octopi, fish and several other marine invertebrates. To get to their prey, sea otters dive to the bottom of the coastal bed. A sea otter can stay underwater anywhere from under a minute to 5 minutes.
After collecting the food, the sea otter returns to the surface of the water where it rolls onto its back and rests the food on its chest. It holds the food with its forepaws and eats it. If the prey has a hard shell, this clever mammal breaks open the shell by hitting it against a rock. Eating always takes place in the water.
A sea otter is known to eat about 25 – 30 per cent of its body weight in a single day.
My Pacific Home
Sea otters live long the coastal waters of the northern Pacific Ocean. They inhabit the shallow coastal waters of Canada, Japan, Russia, California and Washington. Most wild sea otters inhabit the coasts of Alaska, though they also have been spotted along the coast of Mexico.
Babies and More
Sea otters breed throughout the year and have a gestation period of about 6 to 8 months. Usually, the female gives birth to a single pup, but sometimes she also gives birth to twins. If twins are born, it is common for the mother to abandon one pup.
Females have their first pup when they are about 4 to 5 years old. At birth, the pup weighs anywhere from 3 pounds to 5 pounds and has a light brown coloring. Mothers look after their pups while floating on their backs. They hold their pups close to their chest, so that they can nurse them. Sea otter pups learn to swim and hunt very quickly after their birth.
Interesting Facts about Sea Otters
- An adult male sea otter can weigh between 70 and 90 pounds, while the female weighs between 30 and 60 pounds
- An adult sea otter is around 4.5 feet in length
- Sea otters are known to have the thickest and densest fur among all marine mammals. They have anywhere from 850,000 to 1 million hairs per square inch!
- Sea otters tend to wrap themselves with kelp. This prevents them from drifting away while floating on their backs
- Sea otters are notoriously clean. After eating, they wash themselves thoroughly in the ocean waters
- The sea otter is listed as an endangered species, as it has been hunted mercilessly for its thick fur
- Sea otters in the wild are not protected to prevent them from going extinct
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