The otter, also known as sea otter in many places, is a mammal with about 13 different species. Known scientifically as the Lutra Canadensis, otters have a presence on virtually all continents with their major habitats being lakes, river banks, as well as streams.
Below are 10 other incredible facts about the otter, some of which you may not have known before:
1. Not All Otters Are Sea Otters
We mentioned before that otters are also known as sea otters in many places. While that’s true, not all otter species are sea otters in a strict sense. We also have river otters who are mostly found in freshwater and they are known for their swift movement on land and in water. They also swim belly down while paddling with their webbed feet.
Actual sea otters, on the other hand, reside almost exclusively in the ocean along coastlines. Unlike river otters, they move haphazardly on land and they paddle mostly with their hind feet. Sea otters are also much bigger than river otters.
2. Sea Otters Have Plenty Of Names
When talking about or describing otters, there are quite a number of names involved. For example, a group of otters have a range of names including family, bevy, lodge, romp, or raft. “Romp” is commonly used for a group of otters on land while “raft” is commonly used for a group of otters in the water.
Also, while male otters are called boars, female otters are called sows. Infant otters are commonly called pups but they are seldom called kits and kittens. Quite a number of names, right?
3. Otters Are Voracious Eaters
Otters have very insane appetites across all their 13 species. Scientists say they eat food with daily amounts weighing as much as 20-33% of their entire body weight. Little wonder they often spend up to five hours each day just preying around voraciously for food.
If we have sounded rather disapproving of their voracious diet so far, here is something more positive: Thanks to their near-gluttonous appetites, otters keep the sea urchin population at bay by eating them, thereby protecting kelp forests which have long suffered destruction from sea urchins. The consequence of that is an indirect reduction in the levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide.
4. Otters Have A Favorite Rock
We mentioned earlier that otters spend up to five hours foraging daily because of their appetite. They often take rocks along with them. They put these rocks in their pouches and use them to crack open captured shellfishes. Scientists say they all have a favorite rock that they go with for these very important expeditions and they usually store them in the pouches usually under their left arm.
5. Otters Sometimes Hold Hands While Sleeping
Some otters are known to hold hands while sleeping or resting. This is very common amongst mothers and their pups as they are usually found laying on their backs, floating on water, all while holding hands. Sounds like they know how to have a good time.
Besides the cuteness of it all, otters hold hands to keep them from floating away from one another. In fact, for mother and pups, the mother would sometimes hold the pup on her belly to keep it from floating away from her.
6. Sea Otters Have An Insanely Dense Fur
Did you know sea otters are covered with fur? You must have seen them in the pictures above, so of course, you do. Well, here is something you may not have known- otters have the thickest furs, not just of all otter species, but of all animals, period. Now, isn’t that something?
Experts say they have up to 1 million hair follicles per square inch making their fur a thousand times thicker and denser than human hair.
“Why do they need that much fur?” you might ask. Since they are the only aquatic mammals without blubber layers, all of that extra fur helps them with insulation as well as trapping much-needed air for their bodies. Not just natural air but also the air they are fond of blowing onto their pelts during grooming. These insanely dense furs would keep the bubbles in place.
7. Otters Have Irresponsible Fathers
Yes, you heard that right. In the world of otters, mothers often do all the work for their infant pups. Since they cannot swim until at least a month after birth, the mothers often have to blow air into their coats to make them buoyant enough for water. This activity is called grooming as referenced earlier.
Mothers also reportedly spend as much as 14 hours every day just looking for food for their pups. They do all of this on their own without any assistance from their fathers. Isn’t that just noble? You’d agree with us that there should be a “Mother’s Day” in the world of otters.
8. Otters Are Swift Swimmers
Otters have incredible swim speeds, with some reaching up to 7 miles per hour. To put that in perspective, that’s about 3 times faster than you, if you were an average swimmer. Researchers say they can hold their breath for up to 4 minutes, deliberately closing their nostrils to keep out water.
9. Male Otters Can Be…Rapey
Otters are often complimented as some of the cutest sea creatures and it’s hard to disagree with that especially when you have a look at them. However, there is an ugly side to them which is the fact that male otters would sometimes rape baby seals to death. Scientists prefer to call it “forced copulation.” Not only is it forced, it often ends in death for their victims. Ouch!
That’s not even all; they would rape the baby seals until they are dead in the water and they still wouldn’t stop. Male otters continually have sex with their dead victims for as long as a week. A necrophiliac-type thing. Eww!
10. Otters Aren’t Safe
When we say they aren’t safe, we don’t necessarily mean otters are under serious attack from their predators or something. What we mean is that they are an endangered species with five of them listed as endangered, the other five as near-threatened, and two as vulnerable. That leaves us with one- that one is the North American River Otter which is listed as “least concern.”
Threats to their existence include pollution, habitat destruction, overfishing (entanglement with dangerous fishing gear), as well as oil spills. Oil spills are considered the greatest threat due to their vulnerability to hypothermia upon contact with oil.
They are also threatened by a cat parasite known as toxoplasmosis, which is often found in cat droppings.
Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.