Zoo Miami is home to a new litter of highly endangered Giant Otters!
The two male giant otter pups (Pteronura brasiliensis) were born on December 19 and are doing well so far. These little guys, now about two feet (60 cm) long and weighing approximately four pounds (.9 kg), will be truly giant as adults. They may grow to be nearly six feet (1.8 m) long and weigh close to 75 pounds (34 kg)!
Sea Otters May Help Combat Harmful Runoff Pollution Off the California Coast
by Jaymi Heimbuch
As a keystone species, the importance of sea otters for the health of coastal ecosystems can’t be understated. A new study shows that they may even play an indirect but key role in helping coastlines cope with agricultural run-off.
The study by University of California, Santa Cruz, published in mid-August, shows that by eating crabs, sea otters are helping sea grasses thrive even in the face of pollution…
… is a marine mammal native to the coasts of the northern and eastern North Pacific Ocean. These animals inhabit offshore environments, and dive to the sea floor to forage for invertebrates such as sea urchins, molluscs and crustaceans.
Female sea otters provide all the parental care for the young. They have two abdominal nipples, and float on their backs to nurse their pups. While the mother is foraging, the pup will remain on the surface. It will start diving after two months. It learns from its mothers how to forage and what prey items to look for.
…a rare species of otter that occurs along the coast of western South America, from northern Peru to Cape Horn and Isla de Los Estados. Like its common name suggests L.felina spends most of its life out in the ocean, however it also inhabits freshwater and esturarine habitats as well unlike the Sea Otter (E.lutris). Like sea otters marine otters are nimble in the water and will dive for fish, cephalopods, crustaceans and molluscs. It will emerge from the sea to rocky islets to rest and eat, individuals will claim rocks and will defend them from other otters. Despite this, they are not territorial and they have even been seen fishing cooperatively.
Lontra felina is currently listed as endangered by the IUCN, and faces threats from hunting for its pelts and habitat loss. Its also threatened by water pollution and over-fishing of its prey species.
Scientists studying the decline and recovery of seagrass beds in one of California’s largest estuaries have found that recolonization of the estuary by sea otters was a crucial factor in the seagrass comeback. Led by researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz, the study will be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of August 26…
A lesser known member of the otter family, the marine otter prefers the sea over fresh water rivers and estuaries. It bears more resemblance to the river otter, but lives and behaves more like a sea otter. They are smaller than most otters, reaching a total length of up to about 3.5 feet. Their fur is coarser and shorter than sea otters.
Unlike most otters, they prefer areas with intense winds and heavy waves, and avoid sandy beaches. They live on the rocky shores of Argentina, Peru and Chile. Their diets consist mostly of fish, crab and mollusks. Their teeth are more adapted to cut rather than crush.
Hunted for their fur, they were nearly wiped out, but today have slowly recovered under government protection. They are listed as endangered.
What Otters’ Penis Shrinkage Could Mean for Humans
by Marc Lallanilla
Scientists are concerned about the deformed sex organs of England’s otters — and what it might mean for humans.
The furry mammals are found in rivers throughout Britain, but male otters aren’t what they used to be. An alarming number of them now have shrunken penis bones (baculum), as well as undescended testicles (cryptorchidism) and cysts on sperm-carrying tubes, according to a new report written by Cardiff University scientists.
The results are based on analyses of samples from 755 otter carcasses collected around England and Wales between 1992 and 2009…
California sea otters, hunted to near extinction and more recently denied the chance to roam freely in the southern part of their coastal range, may now swim wherever they choose under a new policy announced by the federal Fish and Wildlife Service.
The otters, whose numbers dropped below 15 at their low point two decades ago, have rebounded to a population of about 2,800. When that number reaches 3,090, the federal government could begin the process of taking the southern sea otter off the endangered species list, which categorizes the animal as threatened.
The formal end of the otter-free zone off the coast of California, announced this week, is a victory for environmental groups that objected to any efforts to control the natural migration of the species, which ranged from the western coast of Mexico to San Francisco before the animals’ glossy pelts made them a target of 19th-century fur traders…
Early humans linked to large-carnivore extinctions
Hominins could have triggered broad changes to the numbers and diversity of meat-eaters in Africa, researcher says.
by Jeff Tollefson (26 April 2012)
Animal lovers around the world know modern otters as cute, playful and unthreatening. But the mustelid’s giant cousins in ancient Africa may have engaged in a life-and-death competition with humanity’s ancestors — and come out on the losing end.
The demise of the gigantic ‘bear otter’ (Enhydriodon dikikae) was part of a broader decline in large-carnivore diversity in Africa, which accelerated around 2 million years ago — roughly the time that the first representatives of the genus Homo appeared on the scene. Lars Werdelin, a curator at the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm has been building a case that our forebears had something to do with the change. Although direct evidence of any causal connection is sorely lacking, Werdelin says, the transition in the carnivore fossil record coincides nicely with advances in tool-making and dietary shifts among early hominins.
“The way I see it, this is one of the first ways in which we manipulated our environment on a large scale,” says Werdelin, who presented his latest findings at a symposium on human evolution and climate change at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York. Werdelin argues that hominins may have competed indirectly with some of these carnivores by occupying prime habitat, thus forcing the animals to change their behavior without ever coming into direct contact with them. In some cases, the hominins may have out-competed carnivores directly by forcing them to surrender fresh kills. Regardless, the emergence of early humans could have cascaded through the food chain — ultimately wiping out many of Africa’s larger meat-eaters…