Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Sea Otters

The heaviest members of the weasel family, sea otters are also the second smallest marine mammals. Unlike other marine mammals, they do not have a layer of blubber to help them keep warm. Instead, sea otters have the densest fur in the animal kingdom which insulates them. As discussed in class, sea otters are a keystone species. As predators, sea otters are critical to maintaining the balance of the near-shore kelp ecosystems. Without sea otters, the undersea animals they prey on would devour the kelp forests off the coast that provide cover and food for many other marine animals. 

Sea otters eat urchins, abalone, mussels, clams, crabs, snails and about 40 other marine species. They eat approximately 25% of their weight in food each day to support their high metabolism. They live in shallow coastal waters off of the northern Pacific. Their historic range stretches from Japan, along the coast of Siberia and down to the Alaskan, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and California coast. Otters tend to spend much of their lives in the water and can dive up to 330 feet when foraging for food . Sea otters often rest in coastal kelp forests, draping the kelp over their bodies to keep them from drifting away. They are also one of the few mammals other than primates known to use tools; they use small rocks or other objects to pry shellfish from rocks and to hammer them open. 

In my presentation, I plan to discuss more in depth how important sea otters are to kelp forests and to their surrounding community. I found multiple articles which examine what would happen if otters continue to decline, which appears to be happening due to the possibility of whale predation. Another important factor I came across was fur trade. 

These are just some details I plan to include and some sources I plan to use are:



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