Temporal range: Middle Miocene to present
|Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra)|
|Subfamily:|| Lutrinae |
| Lutra |
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, mink, and wolverines, among other animals.
The word otter derives from the Old English word otor or oter. This, and cognate words in other Indo-European languages, ultimately stem from the Proto-Indo-European language root *wódr̥, which also gave rise to the English word "water".
An otter's den is called a holt or couch. Male otters are called dogs or boars, females are called bitches or sows, and their offspring are called pups.The collective nouns for otters are bevy, family, lodge, romp (being descriptive of their often playful nature) or, when in water, raft.
The feces of otters are typically identified by their distinctive aroma, the smell of which has been described as ranging from freshly mown hay to putrefied fish;these are known as spraints.
The gestation period in otters is about 60 to 86 days. The newborn pup is cared for by the bitch, dog and older offspring. Bitch otters reach sexual maturity at approximately two years of age and males at approximately three years. The holt is built under tree roots or a rocky cairn, more common in Scotland. It is lined with moss and grass.
After one month, the pup can leave the holt and after two months, it is able to swim. The pup lives with its family for approximately one year. Otters live up to 16 years; they are by nature playful, and frolic in the water with their pups. Its usual source of food is fish, and further downriver, eels, but it may sample frogs and birds.
Otters have long, slim bodies and relatively short limbs. Their most striking anatomical features are the powerful webbed feet used to swim, and their seal-like abilities holding breath underwater. Most have sharp claws on their feet and all except the sea otter have long, muscular tails. The 13 species range in adult size from 0.6 to 1.8 m (2.0 to 5.9 ft) in length and 1 to 45 kg (2.2 to 99.2 lb) in weight. The Asian small-clawed otter is the smallest otter species and the giant otter and sea otter are the largest. They have very soft, insulated underfur, which is protected by an outer layer of long guard hairs. This traps a layer of air which keeps them dry, warm, and somewhat buoyant under water.
Several otter species live in cold waters and have high metabolic rates to help keep them warm. European otters must eat 15% of their body weight each day, and sea otters 20 to 25%, depending on the temperature. In water as warm as 10 °C (50 °F), an otter needs to catch 100 g (3.5 oz) of fish per hour to survive. Most species hunt for three to five hours each day and nursing mothers up to eight hours each day.
For most otters, fish is the staple of their diet. This is often supplemented by frogs, crayfish and crabs.Some otters are experts at opening shellfish, and others will feed on available small mammals or birds. Prey-dependence leaves otters very vulnerable to prey depletion. Sea otters are hunters of clams, sea urchins and other shelled creatures. They are notable for their ability to use stones to break open shellfish on their stomachs. This skill must be learned by the young.
Otters are active hunters, chasing prey in the water or searching the beds of rivers, lakes or the seas. Most species live beside water, but river otters usually enter it only to hunt or travel, otherwise spending much of their time on land to prevent their fur becoming waterlogged. Sea otters are considerably more aquatic and live in the ocean for most of their lives.
Otters are playful animals and appear to engage in various behaviors for sheer enjoyment, such as making waterslides and then sliding on them into the water. They may also find and play with small stones. Different species vary in their social structure, some being largely solitary, while others live in groups – in a few species these groups may be fairly large.
|Lutra Brisson, 1762|
|Hydrictis Pocock, 1921|
|Lutrogale (Gray, 1865)|
|Lontra Gray, 1843|
|Pteronura Gray, 1837|
|Aonyx Lesson, 1827|
|Enhydra Fleming, 1828|
Genus † Megalenhydris
Genus † Sardolutra
Genus † Algarolutra
Genus † Cyrnaonyx
Genus † Teruelictis
Genus † Enhydriodon
Genus † Enhydritherium
Genus † Limnonyx
Genus † Lutravus
Genus † Sivaonyx
Genus † Torolutra
Genus † Tyrrhenolutra
Genus † Vishnuonyx
Genus † Siamogale
The European otter (Lutra lutra), also called the Eurasian otter, inhabits Europe, most of Asia and parts of North Africa. In the British Isles, they were common as recently as the 1950s, but became rare in many areas due to the use of chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticides, habitat loss and water pollution (they remained relatively common in parts of Scotland and Ireland). Population levels reached a low point in the 1980s, but are now recovering strongly. The UK Biodiversity Action Plan envisages the re-establishment of otters by 2010 in all the UK rivers and coastal areas they inhabited in 1960. Roadkill deaths have become one of the significant threats to the success of their re-establishment.
The North American river otter (Lontra canadensis) became one of the major animals hunted and trapped for fur in North America after European contact. River otters eat a variety of fish and shellfish, as well as small land mammals and birds. They grow to one meter (3 to 4 ft) in length and weigh from five to 15 kilograms (10 to 30 lb).
In some areas, this is a protected species, and some places have otter sanctuaries that help sick and injured otters to recover.
Sea otters (Enhydra lutris) are classified as marine mammals and live along the Pacific coast of North America. Their historic range included shallow waters of the Bering Strait and Kamchatka, and as far south as Japan. Sea otters have about 26,000 to 165,000 hairs per square centimeters of skin, 1.0 to 1.5 m (3.3 to 4.9 ft) in length and weigh 30 kg (66 lb). Although once near extinction, they have begun to spread again, from remnant populations in California and Alaska.a rich fur for which humans hunted them almost to extinction. By the time the 1911 Fur Seal Treaty gave them protection, so few sea otters remained that the fur trade had become unprofitable. Sea otters eat shellfish and other invertebrates (especially clams, abalone, and sea urchins). Otter populations are affected by the density of prey they hunt. Because the otter food source is easier to excavate from rocky-bottom habitats, as opposed to soft-bottom habitats, more otters tend to live in waters with rocky bottoms with access to shallow-burrowing prey. They frequently carry a rock in a pouch under their forearm and use this to smash open shells, making them one of the relatively small number of animals that use tools. They grow to
Unlike most marine mammals (such as seals or whales), sea otters do not have a layer of insulating blubber.As with other species of otter, they rely on a layer of air trapped in their fur, which they keep topped up by blowing into the fur from their mouths. They spend most of their time in the water, whereas other otters spend much of their time on land.
The giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis) inhabits South America, especially the Amazon river basin, but is becoming increasingly rare due to poaching, habitat loss, and the use of mercury and other toxins in illegal alluvial gold mining. This gregarious animal grows to a length of up to 1.8 m (5.9 ft), and is more aquatic than most other otters.
Otters have been hunted for their pelts from at least the 1700s, although it may have begun well before then. Early hunting methods included darts, arrows, nets and snares but later, traps were set on land and guns used.
There has been a long history of otter pelts being worn around the world. In China it was standard for the royalty to wear robes made from them. People that were financially high in status also wore them. The tails of otters were often made into items for men to wear. These included hats and belts. Even some types of mittens for children have been made from the fur of otters.
Otters have also been hunted using dogs, specifically the otterhound.From 1958 to 1963, the 11 otter hunts in England and Wales killed 1,065 otters between them. In such hunts, the hunters notched their poles after every kill. The prized trophy that hunters would take from the otters was the penis bone, which would be worn as a tie-pin.
Traffic (the wildlife trade monitoring network) reported that otters are at serious risk in Southeast Asia and have disappeared from parts of their former range. This decline in populations is due to hunting to supply the demand for skins.
For many generations, fishermen in southern Bangladesh have bred smooth-coated otters and used them to chase fish into their nets. Once a widespread practice, passed down from father to son throughout many communities in Asia, this traditional use of domesticated wild animals is still in practice in the district of Narail, Bangladesh.
Norse mythology tells of the dwarf Ótr habitually taking the form of an otter. The myth of "Otter's Ransom"is the starting point of the Volsunga saga.
In Irish mythology, the character Lí Ban was turned from a woman into a mermaid, half human and half salmon, and given three hundred years of life to roam the oceans. Her lapdog assumed the form of an otter and shared her prolonged lifetime and her extensive wanderings.
In some Native American cultures, otters are considered totem animals.
The otter is held to be a clean animal belonging to Ahura Mazda in Zoroastrian belief, and taboo to kill.
In popular Korean mythology, it is told that people who see an otter (soodal) will attract 'rain clouds' for the rest of their lives.[ citation needed ]
In the Buddhist Jataka tales, The Otters and The Wolf, two otters agreed to let a fox settle their dispute in dividing their caught fish but it was taken away by the cunning fox.
In Japanese, otters are called "kawauso" (獺、川獺). In Japanese folklore, they fool humans in the same way as foxes (kitsune) and tanuki.
In the Noto region, Ishikawa Prefecture, there are stories where they shapeshift into beautiful women or children wearing checker-patterned clothing. If a human attempts to speak to one, they will answer "oraya" and then answer "araya," and if anybody asks them anything, they say cryptic things like "kawai."There are darker stories, such as one from Kaga Province (now Ishikawa Prefecture) in which an otter that lives in the castle's moat shapeshifts into a woman, invites males, and then kills and eats them.
In the kaidan, essays, and legends of the Edo period like the "Urami Kanawa" (裏見寒話), "Taihei Hyaku Monogatari" (太平百物語), and the "Shifu Goroku" (四不語録), there are tales about strange occurrences like otters that shapeshift into beautiful women and kill men.
In the town of Numatachi, Asa District, Hiroshima Prefecture (now Hiroshima), they are called "tomo no kawauso" (伴のカワウソ) and "ato no kawauso" (阿戸のカワウソ). It is said that they shapeshift into bōzu (a kind of monk) and appear before passers-by, and if the passer-by tries to get close and look up, its height steadily increases until it becomes a large bōzu.
In the Tsugaru region, Aomori Prefecture, they are said to possess humans. It is said that those possessed by otters lose their stamina as if their soul has been extracted.They are also said to shapeshift into severed heads and get caught in fishing nets.
In the Kashima District and the Hakui District in Ishikawa Prefecture, they are seen as a yōkai under the name kabuso or kawaso. They perform pranks like extinguishing the fire of the paper lanterns of people who walk on roads at night, shapeshifting into a beautiful woman of 18 or 19 years of age and fooling people, or tricking people and making them try to engage in sumo against a rock or a tree stump.It is said that they speak human words, and sometimes people are called and stopped while walking on roads.
In the Ishikawa and Kochi Prefectures, they are said to be a type of kappa, and there are stories told about how they engage in sumo with otters.In places like the Hokuriku region, Kii, and Shikoku, the otters are seen as a type of kappa. In the Kagakushū, a dictionary from the Muromachi period, an otter that grew old becomes a kappa.
In an Ainu folktale, in Urashibetsu (in Abashiri, Hokkaido), there are stories where monster otters shapeshift into humans, go into homes where there are beautiful girls, and try to kill the girl and make her its wife.
In China, like in Japan, there are stories where otters shapeshift into beautiful women in old books like In Search of the Supernatural and the Zhenyizhi (甄異志).
Weasels are mammals of the genus Mustela of the family Mustelidae. The genus Mustela includes the least weasels, polecats, stoats, ferrets and mink. Members of this genus are small, active predators, with long and slender bodies and short legs. The family Mustelidae, or mustelids, is often referred to as the "weasel family". In the UK, the term "weasel" usually refers to the smallest species, the least weasel (M. nivalis), the smallest carnivoran species.
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.
The Asian small-clawed otter, also known as the oriental small-clawed otter and the small-clawed otter, is an otter species native to South and Southeast Asia. It has short claws that do not extend beyond the pads of its webbed digits. With a total body length of 730 to 960 mm, it is the smallest otter species in the world.
Kasa-obake are a mythical ghost or yōkai in Japanese folklore. They are sometimes, but not always, considered a tsukumogami that old umbrellas turn into. They are also called "karakasa-obake" (から傘おばけ), "kasa-bake" (傘化け), and "karakasa kozō" (唐傘小僧).
Umibōzu is a paranormal phenomenon or yōkai from Japanese folklore. Other names include Umihōshi or Uminyūdō. Little is known of the origin of umibōzu but it is a sea-spirit and as such has multiple sightings throughout Japan. Normally, umibōzu appears to sailors on calm seas which quickly turn tumultuous. It either breaks the ship on emergence or demands a bucket or barrel from the sailors and proceeds to drown them. The only safe way to escape an umibōzu is to give it a bottomless barrel and sail away while it is confused.
The bakeneko is a type of Japanese yōkai, or supernatural creature. It is often confused with the nekomata, another cat-like yōkai. The distinction between them is often ambiguous, but the largest difference is that the Nekomata has two tails, while the Bakeneko has only one.
Ameonna is a Japanese yōkai thought to call forth rain, illustrated in Toriyama Sekien's Konjaku Hyakki Shūi as a woman standing in the rain and licking her hand.
Nure-onna is a Japanese yōkai which resembles a reptilious creature with the head of a woman and the body of a snake. They are also known to be a paranormal phenomenon at sea under the name of nureyomejo. In legends, they are often said to consume humans, but they have no single appearance or personality.
Inugami Gyōbu (隠神刑部) or Gyōbu-danuki (刑部狸) is a bake-danuki told about in legends passed down in Matsuyama, Iyo Province. He is known due to appearing in the "Tale of the Matsuyama Disturbance and the Eight Hundred and Eight Tanuki", which is considered one of the big three tanuki tales along with the Shojoji no Tanuki-bayashi and Bunbuku Chagama.
Ayakashi (アヤカシ) is the collective name for yōkai that appear above the surface of some body of water.
Ikuchi is a yōkai of the sea in Japanese legend. It is described in Tankai (譚海) by Sōan Tsumura and in Mimibukuro by Negishi Shizumori among other written works of the Edo period.
Misaki are a collective term for spirit-like existences in Japan like gods, demons and spirits, among other supernatural entities. Their name comes from a kannushi's vanguard.
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.
Umi zatō (海座頭) is a Japanese yōkai that in the Gazu Hyakki Yagyō by Toriyama Sekien and in various emakimono such as the Matsui Library's Hyakki Yagyō Emaki.
The sea otter, Enhydra lutris, is a member of the Mustelidae that is fully aquatic. Sea otters are the smallest of the marine mammals, but they are also the most dexterous. Sea otters are known for their ability to use stones as anvils or hammers to facilitate access to hard-to-reach prey items. Furthermore, out of the thirteen currently known species of otters, at least 10 demonstrate stone handling behaviour, suggesting that otters may have a genetic predisposition to manipulate stones. Tool use behavior is more associated with geographic location than sub-species. Most behavioral research has been conducted on Enhydra lutris nereis, the Californian otter, and some has been conducted on Enhydra lutris kenyoni, the Alaska sea otter. Sea otters frequently use rocks as anvils to crack open prey, and they are also observed to rip open prey with their forepaws. While lying on their backs, otters will rip apart coral algae to find food among the debris. The frequency of tool use varies greatly between geographic regions and individual otters. Regardless of the frequency, the use of tools is present in the behavioral repertoire of sea otters and is performed when most appropriate to the situation.
Yamawaro or yamawarawa (山童) is a yōkai (spirit) said to appear in mountains in Western Japan, starting in the Kyushu region. According to mythology, it is sometimes said that they are kappa that have come to dwell in the mountains.
The tsurubebi is a fire yōkai that appears in the Gazu Hyakki Yagyō by Toriyama Sekien.
The noderabō is a Japanese yōkai from Toriyama Sekien's Gazu Hyakki Yagyō and is thought to be a yōkai that appears at abandoned temples.
The ouni (苧うに) is a yōkai depicted in the Gazu Hyakki Yagyō by Toriyama Sekien.
The waira (わいら) is a Japanese yōkai from Japanese emaki such as the Hyakkai Zukan by Sawaki Suushi and the Gazu Hyakki Yagyō (1776) by Sekien Toriyama.
|Look up otter in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
|Wikispecies has information related to lutrinae .|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Lutrinae .|
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article otter .|