Marine otter

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Marine otter
Lfelina.jpg
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Mustelidae
Genus: Lontra
Species:
L. felina
Binomial name
Lontra felina
(Molina, 1782)
Marine Otter area.png
Marine otter range

The marine otter (Lontra felina) is a rare and relatively unknown South American mammal of the weasel family (Mustelidae). The scientific name means "otter cat", and in Spanish, the marine otter is also often referred to as gato marino: "marine cat". The marine otter (while spending much of its time out of the water) only lives in saltwater, coastal environments and rarely ventures into freshwater or estuarine habitats. This saltwater exclusivity is unlike most other otter species, except for the almost fully aquatic sea otter (Enhydra lutris) of the north Pacific.

Contents

Description

The marine otter is one of the smallest otters and the smallest marine mammal, [2] [3] measuring 87 to 115 cm (34 to 45 in) from the nose to the tip of the tail and weighs 3 to 5 kg (6.6 to 11.0 lb). The tail measures 30 to 36 cm (12 to 14 in). [4] [5] Its fur is coarse, with guard hairs measuring up to 2 cm (0.79 in) in length covering dense, insulating underfur. The marine otter is dark brown above and on the sides, and fawn on the throat and underside. [4]

The marine otter has webbed paws and strong claws. The ventral side (underside) of the paws are partially covered in fur. It has 36 teeth and a dental formula of 3.1.3-4.13.1.3.2. The teeth are developed for slicing instead of crushing. The marine otter does not display sexual dimorphism. [4]

Distribution and habitat

Marine otters are found in littoral areas of southwestern South America, close to shore and in the intertidal areas of northern Peru (from the port of Chimbote), along the entire coast of Chile, and the extreme southern reaches of Argentina. [1] Occasional vagrant sightings still occur as far afield as the Falkland Islands.

The marine otter mainly inhabits rocky shorelines with abundant seaweed and kelp, and infrequently visits estuaries and freshwater rivers. It appears to select habitats with surprisingly high exposure to strong swells and winds, unlike many other otters, which prefer calmer waters. Caves and crevices in the rocky shorelines may provide them with the cover they need, and often a holt will have no land access at high tide. Marine otters avoid sandy beaches.

Feeding

Little is known about the diet of marine otters, but their primary prey is believed to be crab, shrimp, mollusks, and fish. They also eat many types of crustaceans. [1]

Behavior and reproduction

Marine otters are most often seen individually or in small groups of up to three. They are difficult to spot, swimming low in the water, exposing only their heads and backs. It is not known whether they are territorial, as males are occasionally seen fighting, yet fights have also been observed even between mating pairs. Fighting takes place on prominent rocks above the waterline, which are also used for resting, feeding, and grooming. Marine otters have also been observed feeding cooperatively on large fish, but it is not known how common the practice is.

The otters are diurnal.

Marine otters may be monogamous or polygamous, and breeding occurs in December or January. Litters of two to five pups are born in January, February or March after a gestation period of 60 to 70 days. The pups remain with their mother for about 10 months of parental care, and can sometimes be seen on the mother's belly as she swims on her back, a practice similar to that of the sea otter. Parents bring food to the pups and teach them to hunt.

Conservation status

Marine otters are rare and are protected under Peruvian, Chilean, and Argentine law. In the past, they were extensively hunted both for their fur and due to perceived competition with fisheries. Hunting extirpated them from most of Argentina and the Falkland Islands. Poaching is still a problem, but one of unknown magnitude. It is unknown how many marine otters exist in the wild or what habitats should be preserved to encourage their recovery. Marine otters were listed under CITES Appendix I in 1976, and are listed as endangered by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Related Research Articles

Otter subfamily of mammals

Otters are carnivorous mammals in the subfamily Lutrinae. The 13 extant otter species are all semiaquatic, aquatic or marine, with diets based on fish and invertebrates. Lutrinae is a branch of the Mustelidae family, which also includes weasels, badgers, honey badgers, martens, minks, polecats, and wolverines.

La Plata dolphin species of mammal

The La Plata dolphin, franciscana or toninha is a species of dolphin found in coastal Atlantic waters of southeastern South America. It is a member of the river dolphin group and the only one that lives in the ocean and saltwater estuaries, rather than inhabiting exclusively freshwater systems. Commercialized areas that create agricultural runoffs and/or industrialized zones can affect the health of the La Plata dolphin, especially in regards to their contributions of waste and pollution, which can lead to habitat degradation and poisoned food among other concerns.

Sea otter A species of marine mammal from the northern and eastern coasts of the North Pacific Ocean

The sea otter is a marine mammal native to the coasts of the northern and eastern North Pacific Ocean. Adult sea otters typically weigh between 14 and 45 kg, making them the heaviest members of the weasel family, but among the smallest marine mammals. Unlike most marine mammals, the sea otter's primary form of insulation is an exceptionally thick coat of fur, the densest in the animal kingdom. Although it can walk on land, the sea otter is capable of living exclusively in the ocean.

Bush dog species of canid found in Central and South America

The bush dog is a canid found in Central and South America. In spite of its extensive range, it is very rare in most areas except in Suriname, Guyana and Peru; it was first identified by Peter Wilhelm Lund from fossils in Brazilian caves and was believed to be extinct. The bush dog is the only living species in the genus Speothos, and genetic evidence suggests that its closest living relative is the maned wolf of central South America or the African wild dog. The species is listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN.

Antarctic fur seal species of mammal

The Antarctic fur seal, is one of eight seals in the genus Arctocephalus, and one of nine fur seals in the subfamily Arctocephalinae. Despite what its name suggests, the Antarctic fur seal is mostly distributed in Subantarctic islands and its scientific name is thought to have come from the German vessel SMS Gazelle, which was the first to collect specimens of this species from Kerguelen Islands.

South American sea lion species of mammal

The South American sea lion, also called the Southern Sea Lion and the Patagonian sea lion, is a sea lion found on the Ecuadorian, Peruvian, Chilean, Falkland Islands, Argentinean, Uruguayan, and Southern Brazilian coasts. It is the only member of the genus Otaria. Its scientific name was subject to controversy, with some taxonomists referring to it as Otaria flavescens and others referring to it as Otaria byronia. The former eventually won out, although that may still be overturned. Locally, it is known by several names, most commonly lobo marino (es)/lobo marinho (pt) and león marino (es)/leão marinho (pt) and the hair seal.

South American fur seal Species of mammal

The South American fur seal breeds on the coasts of Peru, Chile, the Falkland Islands, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil. The total population is around 250,000. However, population counts are sparse and outdated. Although Uruguay has long been considered to be the largest population of South American fur seals, recent census data indicates that the largest breeding population of A. a. australis are at the Falkland Islands followed by Uruguay. The population of South American fur seals in 1999 was estimated at 390,000, a drop from a 1987 estimate of 500,000 - however a paucity of population data, combined with inconsistent census methods, makes it difficult to interpret global population trends.

Kodkod Small wild cat

The kodkod, also called güiña, is the smallest cat in the Americas. It lives primarily in central and southern Chile and marginally in adjoining areas of Argentina. Its area of distribution is small compared to the other South American cats. Since 2002, it has been listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List as the total effective population may comprise less than 10,000 mature individuals, and is threatened due to persecution and loss of habitat and prey base.

Asian small-clawed otter Species of mammal

The Asian small-clawed otter, also known as the oriental small-clawed otter or simply small-clawed otter, is a semiaquatic mammal native to South and Southeast Asia. It is a member of the otter subfamily (Lutrinae) of the weasel family (Mustelidae), and is the smallest otter species in the world. Its paws are a distinctive feature; its claws do not extend beyond the fleshy end pads of its partially webbed fingers and toes. This gives it a high degree of manual dexterity so that it can use its paws to feed on molluscs, crabs and other small aquatic animals.

North American river otter one of the only two species of otter in North America, along with the sea otter

The North American river otter, also known as the northern river otter or the common otter, is a semiaquatic mammal endemic to the North American continent found in and along its waterways and coasts. An adult North American river otter can weigh between 5.0 and 14 kg. The river otter is protected and insulated by a thick, water-repellent coat of fur.

Giant otter species of mammal

The giant otter or giant river otter (Pteronura brasiliensis) is a South American carnivorous mammal. It is the longest member of the Mustelidae, or weasel family, a globally successful group of predators, reaching up to 1.7 metres (5.6 ft). Atypical of mustelids, the giant otter is a social species, with family groups typically supporting three to eight members. The groups are centered on a dominant breeding pair and are extremely cohesive and cooperative. Although generally peaceful, the species is territorial, and aggression has been observed between groups. The giant otter is diurnal, being active exclusively during daylight hours. It is the noisiest otter species, and distinct vocalizations have been documented that indicate alarm, aggression, and reassurance.

South American gray fox species of mammal

The South American gray fox, also known as the Patagonian fox, the chilla or the gray zorro, is a species of Lycalopex, the "false" foxes. It is endemic to the southern part of South America.

Neotropical otter A species of mammals belonging to the weasel, badger, otter, marten, mink, and wolverine family of carnivores

The neotropical otter or neotropical river otter is an otter species found in Central America, South America and the island of Trinidad. It is physically similar to the northern and southern river otter, which occur directly north and south of this species' range. The length of the neotropical otter can range from 36–66 centimetres (14–26 in), plus a tail of 37–84 centimetres (15–33 in). Body weight ranges from 5–15 kilograms (11–33 lb). Otters are members of the family Mustelidae, the most species-rich family in the order Carnivora.

Aquatic mammal Mammals that live both on land and in the water

Aquatic and semiaquatic mammals are a diverse group of mammals that dwell partly or entirely in bodies of water. They include the various marine mammals who dwell in oceans, as well as various freshwater species, such as the European otter. They are not a taxon and are not unified by any distinct biological grouping, but rather their dependence on and integral relation to aquatic ecosystems. The level of dependence on aquatic life varies greatly among species. Among freshwater taxa, the Amazonian manatee and river dolphins are completely aquatic and fully dependent on aquatic ecosystems. Semiaquatic freshwater taxa include the Baikal seal, which feeds underwater but rests, molts, and breeds on land; and the capybara and hippopotamus which are able to venture in and out of water in search of food.

Hairy-nosed otter species of mammal

The hairy-nosed otter is a semiaquatic mammal endemic to Southeast Asia and one of the rarest and least known otter species. It is threatened by loss of natural resources and poaching.

Southern river otter species of mammal

The southern river otter is a species of otter that lives in Chile and Argentina. Although called a "river otter", it inhabits both marine and freshwater environments. It sometimes is considered a subspecies of Lontra canadensis. The southern river otter is listed as endangered, due to illegal hunting, water pollution, and habitat loss.

Spotted-necked otter otter native to sub-Saharan Africa

The spotted-necked otter, or speckle-throated otter, is an otter native to sub-Saharan Africa.

Cameroon clawless otter subspecies of mammal

The Cameroon clawless otter is a subspecies of the African clawless otter in the family Mustelidae. It is found in Cameroon, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, and possibly Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, Rwanda, or Uganda. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forest, subtropical or tropical mangrove forest, subtropical or tropical swamps, subtropical or tropical moist montane forest, subtropical or tropical moist shrubland, subtropical or tropical seasonally wet or flooded lowland grassland, rivers, intermittent rivers, shrub-dominated wetlands, swamps, freshwater lakes, intermittent freshwater lakes, freshwater marshes, intermittent freshwater marshes, freshwater spring, inland deltas, saline lakes, intermittent saline lakes, saline marshes, intermittent saline marshes, shallow seas, subtidal aquatic beds, rocky shores, sandy shores, estuarine waters, intertidal flats, intertidal marshes, coastal saline lagoons, coastal freshwater lagoons, water storage areas, ponds, aquaculture ponds, seasonally flooded agricultural land, and canals and ditches. It is threatened by habitat loss.

The Cape clawless otter is a subspecies of African clawless otter found in sub-Saharan Africa near permanent bodies of freshwater and along the seacoast. It is the largest of the Old World otters and the third largest otter after the giant otter and the sea otter.

<i>Semicossyphus darwini</i> species of fish

Semicossyphus darwini is a species of ray-finned fish native to the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean. Common names include the Chilean sheepshead wrasse, the goldspot sheepshead or the Galapagos sheepshead wrasse.

References

  1. 1 2 3 Valqui, J.; Rheingantz, M.L. (2015). "Lontra felina". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species . IUCN. 2015 (errata version published in 2017): e.T12303A117058682. doi: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2015-2.RLTS.T12303A21937779.en . Retrieved 2 June 2018.{{cite iucn}}: error: |doi= / |page= mismatch (help)
  2. "The Hunt: Race Against Time (Coasts)". BBC . Retrieved 6 December 2015.
  3. "Chilean marine otter: Meet the sea cat". BBC Wildlife . Immediate Media Company. 30 March 2011. Retrieved 31 May 2018.
  4. 1 2 3 Jefferson, Thomas A.; Webber, Marc A.; Pitman, Robert L. (2015). Marine Mammals of the World: A Comprehensive Guide to their Identification. San Diego: Academic Press. pp. 539–541. ISBN   0124095925.
  5. "Marine Otter - Lontra felina". Encyclopedia of Life. n.d. Retrieved 31 May 2018.