19 September 2012

Enhydra lutis

My name is Daryl and I am a sea otter.

I was born that way.

Don't judge me.

I am the largest member of the weasel family, but amongst the smallest of marine mammals. My thick coat of fur is the densest in the animal kingdom. If I want to walk on land I can, but I totes prefer to live in the water.

My diet is mainly marine invertebrates: sea urchins, molluscs, crustaceans and some species of fish. I make a mean spaghetti marinara - you know what I’m saying.

I use rocks to dislodge prey and to open shells so I am one of the elite mammal species to use tools. For instance, to pry an abalone off its rock, I hammer the abalone shell using a large stone as many as 45 times in 15 seconds. That is a serious work rate, but those suckers can cling to rocks with a force equal to 4,000 times their body weight!

Although I can hold my breath for up to five minutes, most of my foraging dives only last between one and four minutes.

We spend ages grooming. Well, I do anyway. This involves cleaning the fur, untangling knots, removing loose fur, rubbing the fur to squeeze out water and introduce air, and blowing air into the fur. It might look like I am scratching a serious itch, but there ain’t no lice or other parasites on me. When I eat, I frequently roll in the water to wash food scraps from my fur. Cleanliness is next to godliness my aunty always used to screech.

Prior to 1741, there were 150,000–300,000 of my kind, but then we were hunted extensively for our fur. Our numbers fell to just one or two thousand, living in a fraction of our historic range!

An international ban in 1911 on hunting us, conservation efforts, and reintroduction programs into previously populated areas have contributed to our numbers rebounding, and we now live over around two-thirds of our former range.

Staus: seriously endangered
Best place to meet me: around the Kuril Islands of Russia or the Aleutian Islands of Alaska
Dislikes: orcas and drunken oil tanker captains

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