Sea otters are relatively small, adorable marine mammals found in the coastal waters of the eastern and northern North Pacific Ocean. With the alluring face, playful behavior, and impressive intelligence of these beloved sea animals, it’s no wonder why they have captured the hearts of many people worldwide. Nevertheless, beyond the cute appearance, they play an important role in the marine ecosystem by eating invertebrates that can harm kelp forests. So, without these beloved marine mammals, the ecosystem would cease to exist or be significantly different.

This article about sea otters will delve into the fascinating world of playful and intelligent mammals, including their appearance, habitat, diet, reproduction, and much more. Whether you are a seasoned marine biology enthusiast or want to learn more about these adorable creatures, this article has something for everyone.

Appearance

As we’ve said in brief, sea otters are small marine mammals, measuring 40–65 inches long and weighing 16–40 kg (35–90 pounds) when fully grown. However, they are better known for their thick, luxurious fur, with up to 1 million hairs per square inch. Their streamlined body shape with a round head, small ears, and large, expressive eyes also stand out.

Besides, these wonderful creatures are popular for their short, sturdy legs with webbed feet. Sea otters also have tails that they use with incredible ease to propel themselves through the water.

Diet

Sea otters eat both plants and animals. However, their diet consists mostly of marine invertebrates such as clams, mollusks and crustaceans, mussels, crabs, sea urchins, and some fish species.

Sea otters can also eat fish and other small marine animals.

Sea Otter eating
Sea Otter eating

To forage for food, they use their forepaws instead of teeth, which other marine mammals use.

Habitat

Sea otters are found in coastal areas of the Pacific Ocean, from Russia to California. They prefer shallow waters near the shore, where they can find plenty of food and shelter. If you visit a kelp forest, you will likely find them there. They prefer this place because of the dense underwater vegetation that provides sufficient protection from most daring predators.

Reproduction

Sea otters have a strong social bond and are known to hold hands while they sleep to stay together. Males have several female partners that are often members of their friendly social groupings.

Sea otters sleeping while holding hands together
Sea otters sleeping while holding hands together

Male sea otters can be aggressive when it comes to mating. They typically grasp the female, bite down on her nose and hold on. This often results in a few injuries.

Female sea otters give birth to a single pup after a gestation period of between four and 12 months. What causes this long variation in the gestation period? Sea otters can delay implantation for up to eight months.

Pups are born weighing around 1.4 to 2.3 kilograms, and twins occur in 2% of births. The young ones are completely dependent on their mothers for survival.

In California populations, nursing lasts for between six and eight months. It lasts for twelve months in Alaska.

Threats

Sea otters are vulnerable to several threats, including habitat loss, oil spills, diseases, ocean acidification, and predation by killer sharks, especially in the North, and whales. They are also at risk of being caught in fishing gear, which can lead to injury or death. In addition, sea otters face competition for food and habitat from other marine species.

Facts About the Sea Otter

  • Sea otters have the densest fur of any mammal, with up to 1 million hairs per square inch.
  • They are excellent swimmers and divers and can hold their breath for up to 5 minutes.
  • Sea otters use tools like rocks to help them open food sources like clams and mussels.
  • They are social animals and often live in groups called rafts.
  • Sea otters play an important role in their ecosystem by eating marine invertebrates that can harm kelp forests.
  • Sea otters were nearly hunted to extinction for their valuable fur, but their populations have recovered thanks to conservation efforts.

In conclusion, sea otters are a fascinating species that many people worldwide love. They are worth protecting with their cute appearance, high intelligence, and important role in the marine ecosystem.

Sea otters face many challenges, including habitat destruction, overfishing, pollution, and hunting. It is up to all of us to protect and conserve sea otters and their habitats so that future generations can continue to enjoy them. By learning more about sea otters and taking action to protect them, we can ensure that they will be able to thrive for future generations.

FAQs

What are the three interesting things about sea otters?

Let’s look at the two most interesting facts about sea otters here. First, they use rocks to crack open the shells of their prey, such as crabs and clams. Second, they have a strong social bond and are known to hold hands while they sleep to stay together. 
Lastly, they are known for their vocalizations and can make over 20 sounds, including whistles, chirps, and barks.

Why are sea otters going extinct?

Sea otters are classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and are protected under the Endangered Species Act in the United States. They are at risk of extinction due to various factors, including habitat destruction, pollution, and hunting.
Conservation efforts are being made to protect sea otters and their habitats. However, more needs to be done to ensure the long-term survival of this species.

Are sea otters aggressive?

Sea otters are generally not aggressive marine mammals. In fact, they are known for their social and playful behavior and are often described as being curious and friendly.
However, like any animal, sea otters can become aggressive if they feel threatened or if their territory is invaded. Male sea otters can also be aggressive during mating.

How long can a sea otter hold its breath?

Sea otters are adapted to live in the water and can hold their breath for extended periods. The length of time that an otter can hold its breath depends on various factors, including the age and size of the individual and the activity they are engaged in at different times.
Most scientists believe that Sea otters can hold their breath for up to 5 minutes.