If you couldn’t guess it from the title, this week’s cute animal is none other than the Otter! There are thirteen different species of otters. Some commonly-known otters are the Sea Otter, the Giant Otter, and the Northern River Otter; if you’ve seen an otter in a zoo, it was most likely one of these three types. There are also Peanut and Jelly Otter and their baby brother Butter, but this blog post will be focused mainly on Otters that are not purple and orange.
The otter can live on both water and land because of several important adaptations. A thick fur coat and thin hairs under the fur allow the animal to remain warm, even in freezing waters. Most otters have fully-webbed feet, allowing them to swim through the water. They have five toes on each feet for stability, and some have retractable/non-retractable claws. An otter’s tail is generally long, thick and fairly muscular. It is used to propel the otter while swimming, to help steer and to provide balance when standing upright. All otters are very flexible, allowing them to groom themselves easily. The whiskers, or vibrissae, sense underwater vibrations and help the otter track prey. Finally, the otter’s ears and nose close underwater due to their valve-like structures.
Otters can be found in many different water environments, from rivers to oceans and on all continents except Australia and Antarctica. Their choice of food varies just as much, ranging from small invertebrates to large fish. With the exception of river and sea otters, most species of otters live in small, loose family groups. Otters usually live an average of 10 to 15 years and have few predators, but are very susceptible to parasites in water and death by human fault (like oil spills and fishing nets). They are considered to be “threatened” according to the Endangered Species Act.
Now enjoy this video of otters chasing a little girl. Spoiler Alert: both parties involved are excessively cute.