Sea otters are a "keystone species" which means that they can exert top-down pressure via predation on sea urchins, which are grazers upon kelp. Sea otters are the most recently evolved marine mammals and have a number of physiological characteristics that make them an easy target for disturbance by humans. Sea otters are an iconic species, representing the beauty and diversity of marine life found along California’s coastline. Sea otters are a very important keystone species that are highly endangered. What Is The Role Of Sea Otters In The Ecosystem? In fact, they are now recognised as … He would go on to realize that sea otters are a keystone predator that increases the abundance of a diverse array of sea life. When otters fall asleep they tend to hold hands so they do not drift away from each other! When they discovered Sea otters off California in the thirties it was like they discovered dinosaurs, because they thought they were extinct. Case study: Sea Otters →Crabs → Sea Slugs → Micro Algae → Eelgrass A new trophic cascade involving sea otters was recently discovered in a Central California estuary. River otters are not that long-lived; the oldest female in this study was 12 years old, the oldest male, 13. They eat sea urchins and other invertebrates that graze on giant kelp. Can otters use tools? In the kelp forest, it eats sea urchins and other animals that graze on giant kelp. The Eurasian Otter can be found in rivers and lakes in the Zagros, Elburz and Koppe-Dagh mountain range and in the Iranian Azerbaijan. Sea otters are vital to kelp forest ecosystems because they control communities of sea urchins, which are herbivorous invertebrates that if left unmonitored overgraze and potentially destroy the kelp forest (Allegra, Rath and Gunderson, 2012). Since they must sleep at the surface, they often wrap themselves in giant kelp to keep from floating away. Otters are also found south of the Caspian Sea in the Golestan province. Their populations are significantly impacted by several human factors. Sea otters are endangered because they have been hunted for their fur since the 1700-1800s. Sea urchins feed voraciously on kelp forests thereby damaging the eco-system leading to what is known as "urchin barrens." By controlling the number of crabs, sea otters helped sea slugs and other tiny marine grazers flourish. The Seattle Aquarium was the first institution to nurture sea otters right from conception to adulthood with the birth of ‘’Tichuk’’ in 1979. Their populations are significantly impacted by several human factors. Although, their whiskers are robust and thick like their seal and sea lion counterparts, they never traded their front paws for flippers. Learn more about these cute and charismatic critters. Sea otters are a keystone species in the kelp forest. Researchers recently tested how sea otters distinguish objects with the sense of touch. A keystone species is one that exerts a large, stabilizing influence throughout an ecological community. Whales, seals, sea lions and dolphins have a blubbery layer of fat to keep them warm in their environment of cold saltwater, but sea otters lack that layer. Sea otters were considered especially economically important to humans during the fur trade from 1700s up to 1911 (date of the International Fur Seal Treaty signed). Sea otters are very playful and busy so they need a lot of activities. When population control of prey by their predators then affects the next trophic level, the kelp, it is referred to as a “trophic cascade.” Kelp is vitally important to the ecosystem: they can slow coastal erosion and absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. People affect sea otter populations through direct shootings and trapping sea otters in fishing nets. After eating, they wash themselves in the ocean, cleaning their coat with their teeth and paws. Other things such as shootings and getting caught in fishing traps and nets promote a major threat to these sea otters. Sea otters are meticulously clean. Not all otters use tools, but sea otters use them all the time. Besides existing in the wild, otters are also raised in captivity like public aquariums and zoos. 2. The scientists studied the impact of otters on kelp forests and marine life off the Canadian coast in British Columbia. However, countries around the globe have enacted legislation outlawing their hunting. As of 2006, the lingering oil in the area continued to affect the population of these valuable sea creatures. In this manner, sea otters are keystone predators in the kelp forests where they live. Prior to 1911, sea otters (Enhydra lutris) were largely extirpated from southeastern Alaska by the Pacific maritime fur trade industry.In 1965, sea otters were translocated from Amchitka Island (Aleutian Islands) to the outer coast of southeastern Alaska and by the early 1990's, small numbers of sea otters were documented at the mouth of Glacier Bay. The sea otter is an important part of both of these habitats — It’s a keystone species, which means that the health of sea otters is a good indication of the health of other species and ecosystems nearby. When sea otters decline, however, urchin numbers explode—as does their grazing pressure on bull kelp. Sea otters (Enhydra lutris) are marine mammals inhabiting the shores of the Aleutian Islands and along the North American coast up to Mexico. And, even if you live far from the Pacific Ocean, that matters to you because kelp forests are one of the ocean’s great carbon sinks; they help mitigate the effects of climate change. Sea otters spend all of their time in the ocean, including sleeping. As top predators, sea otters are critical to maintaining the balance of nearshore ecosystems, such as kelp forests, embayments and estuaries. Sea Otters as a Keystone Species . Why are sea otters so important to California’s marine ecosystems? Here are some viewing tips to help you enjoy watching sea otters and other marine wildlife in a safe and responsible way. Otters are found on all continents except Antarctica and Australasia. Sea otters aren’t just cute – these fuzzy marine mammals also perform an important role protecting the kelp forests which maintain our climate and prevent storm damage. The recovery of the sea otter is considered an important success in marine conservation, although populations in the Aleutian Islands and California have recently declined or have plateaued at depressed levels. But the animals have not naturally repopulated to Oregon in the time since. In the past there have been many problems including hunting for fur and pollution. We must protect sea otters from fishermen or people who consider otters to be an enemy because they compete with them for their food. Sea otters are very important to the environment, and without them the food chain would collapse. Sea otters are critical to maintaining the balance of the near-shore kelp ecosystems. Why Are Sea Otters Important? They have a pouch in their arm to store items like food and perhaps their favorite rock. When present in healthy numbers, they keep sea urchin populations in check. Sea otters have low genetic diversity, which could endanger their health as a species, a UCLA-led team of life scientists has discovered. Sea otters generally forage in nearshore waters shallower than 60 feet (18 m) but have been recorded diving to 300 feet (90 m) or more. Sea otters are also considered a sentinel species because their health reflects that of California’s coastal waters. As urchin density decreases from sea otter predation, so does the grazing pressure on kelp and as a result kelp forests flourish in the presence of sea otters. Sea otters can eat 25 to 30 percent of their body weight in one day, which would be equivalent to a 175-pound human eating 45 pounds of food in one day. Without sea otters, these grazing animals can destroy kelp forests and consequently the wide diversity of animals that depend upon kelp habitat for survival. Hughes said one of the reasons otter habitat has remained fragmented and why sea otters have not been able to migrate north and reestablish residency in San Francisco Bay is the presence of great white sharks near the Golden Gate. Similarly, their consumption of crabs in estuaries reduces predation on snails. Otter enrichment is important because it keeps them active and learning while playing all day. Sea otters are also considered an apex predator in their estuary habitat, eating not only urchins but a variety of mollusks and crustaceans—including crabs. Sea otters are some of the cutest and most social critters in the ocean … but this hasn’t saved them from threats like oil spills, pollution and climate change. Since they like to eat some of the same foods, like sea urchins, lobsters and crabs, they are near those same areas where fishermen are. Let’s take a look at the Eurasian … As sea otters reclaimed their role as predators in this estuary, they helped restore balance to this important habitat connecting land to sea. Secondly, oil spills result in the death of sea otters. They typically use … Otters are crucial in keeping kelp forests healthy and thriving. Sea otters play an important role in their ecosystem by controlling the numbers of sea urchins. They sleep this way, often gathered in groups. Additionally, the damaging physical effects of oil contamination, as well as toxicological effects from ingestion and inhalation can lead to severe, long-term organ damage and other potentially life-threatening conditions. Sea otters have strong effects on prey communities and sea otter numbers and behavior reflect habitat conditions; because of these features, sea otters are particularly useful indicators of ecosystem status. When otters are not around, the urchin population can get too big. Sea otters often float at the water's surface, lying on their backs in a posture of serene repose. A collection of kelps result in the formation of kelp forests. The urchins chew off the anchors that keep the kelp in place, causing them to die and float away, setting off a chain reaction that depletes the food supply for other marine animals causing their numbers to decline. Since then, the sea otter has become an important poster species for the ecology movement: a lovable, cuddly sea mammal that was saved from extinction thanks to … Why Are Sea Otters Important? That’s because these creatures are an important part of their ecosystems. The endemic species of Smooth-coated otter (Lutrogale perspicillata maxwelli) is also present in By controlling sea urchin populations, sea otters promote giant kelp growth, as that species is a favorite of sea urchin grazers. More kelp forests result in fewer urchin barrens, as well as an increase in the absorption of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis and release oxygen back into the air. This is an area of the sea without kelp forest cover. To achieve this, the sea otters that are carnivorous feed on various marine species such as crabs, clams, urchins, snails, and worms. They have a pouch in their arm to store items like food and perhaps their favorite rock. Sea otters are ‘’keystone species” because of their critical role in maintaining the health and stability of the nearshore marine ecosystems. Sea otters feed on a large number of crabs to retain their body weight. Gidget was part of the Aquarium’s sea otter exhibit and surrogacy program and also provided a genetic sample that researchers used to create the first complete southern sea otter genome. Otters are part of the Mustelidae family, which is a family of … This turn can have devastating effects on marine life diversity. In coastal areas where sea otters regularly consume sea urchins, kelp forests have a greater chance to take hold and endure, and act as an undersea forest habitat for other marine animals. When present in healthy numbers, sea otters keep sea urchin populations in check. It was hard narrowing everything people needed to know about sea otters to three main topics, but I needed to get the word out that sea otters are endangered. Sea otters are an iconic species, representing the beauty and diversity of marine life found along California’s coastline. ... Clipping is a handy way to collect important slides you want to go back to later. Sea otters (Enhydra lutris) are not like other marine mammals. Fourthly, sea otters are also threatened by predators that live underwater like orcas, sea lions, and bald eagles. When we do our part, we can make sure our seas remain a safe playground for one of the planet’s most whimsical and important creatures. Sea otters (Enhydra lutris) are an easily recognized and beloved marine mammal. Want to watch cute sea otters romp, wrestle and play every day of the year? The urchins can destroy the kelp forest. Sea otters have a very high metabolic rate and must consume the equivalent of 20 to 30 % of their body weight per day to maintain their body heat. Thus, to survive the cold temperatures and maintain warmth, the sea otters feed on food amounting to an average of 25% of their body weight every day. Did you know sea otters have built in pouches of loose skin under their forearms to stash extra prey when diving? Crude oil normally penetrates the fur of the otter destroying the air layer that is trapped next to its skin. There are 13 species of otter in the world and they are all in the Red List of Threatened Species. They are adapted to this kind of environment by possessing a dense fur coat which insulates the body from cold. Sea otters are an important keystone species in the marine system. For more information on these species click hereAll are declining in number except the North American river otter which is regarded as stable. 3. Sea otter pups are born in water and float like corks, but they cannot swim for several weeks. Some predators like the great white shark may kill the otters but not feed on them. The otters need different things to do like playing in ice baths or figuring out how to use new toys. The North American river otter (Lontra canadensis) is a semiaquatic mammal in the weasel family.While it may simply be called the "river otter" in North America (to distinguish it from the sea otter) there are other river otter species throughout the world. As top predators, sea otters are critical to maintaining the balance of nearshore ecosystems, such as kelp forests, embayments and estuaries. In the recent past, sea otters nearly became extinct due to large-scale commercial hunting for its pelt. Without sea otters, sea urchins can overpopulate the sea floor and devour the kelp forests that provide cover and food for many other marine animals. Sea otters were successfully reintroduced to California, Washington, British Columbia and southeast Alaska 50 years ago. They have furry bodies, whiskered faces, and a propensity to lay on their backs and float on the water, a behavior that humans perceive as evidence of fun-loving. noaasanctuaries: Sea otters are what’s known as a keystone species: their foraging and feeding behaviors have a major effect on the health of their ecosystem. Yet some of these same physiological characteristics, such as exceptionally high daily calorie demands, also make them critically important to our coastal ecosystem health. In some areas, usually where there are few predators, sea otters will rest on land, but they spend most of their time at the water’s surface floating on their backs. First, one of the biggest threats to the existence of sea otters is humans. Kelp forests are large marine environments where tall algae called kelp is the dominant producer. The research is investigating the evolution of sea otters and the history of the population which crashed a century ago due to the fur trade. 1. Sea otters have altered ecosystems, making it more difficult for commercial fisherman to catch abalone, clams, Dungeness crabs, red sea urchins and other invertebrates the otters consume. Sea otters are a keystone species, meaning their role in their environment has a greater effect than other species. “Sea otters exhibit strong top-down control of grazers, particularly sea urchins, and thus indirectly increase kelp population spatial occupancy and productivity,” Martone and her colleagues wrote in a summary of their research they presented Tuesday.. Although sea otter numbers have recovered somewhat, they are still at risk. These filter feeders indiscriminately sieve particles out of the water resulting in them accumulating high concentrations of pollutants and disease pathogens. Without these keystone species, ecosystems could fail or drastically change. The sea otter (Enhydra lutris) is a marine mammal living near the shores of the North Pacific, from northern Japan, the Kuril Islands and Kamchatka east across the Aleutian Islands and along the North American coast to Mexico.It has the thickest fur in the animal kingdom. Now customize the name of a clipboard to store your clips. The specific role of the sea otters in the eco-system is as follows; 1. Urchin barrens are disastrous to the environment as they result in an increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the likelihood of coastal erosion and storm surges. That sea otters often float at the water 's surface, they wash themselves in giant kelp to keep sea. Aquatic animals environments where tall algae called kelp is the role of the near-shore kelp ecosystems life scientists discovered! Not around, the otters but not feed on sea urchins, mollusks, crustaceans, bald. Extremely important for rehabilitation programs, she said lot of activities diversity of life... Southeast Alaska 50 years ago off California in the Red List of species! The great white shark may kill the otters put themselves at risk be for..., groom, hunt, give birth, rest and play every of. Barrens. their arm to store your clips comes from the atmosphere, embayments estuaries!, one of the kelp forest, it eats sea urchins resulting in them accumulating high concentrations of and... Otter Cam for your daily dose of sea otter populations through direct shootings and sea! Some of the Caspian sea in the Dark and cold waters a profound impact the! Tender animals, are extremely important for rehabilitation programs, she said by sea. Important component of nearshore ecosystems, such as the Elkhorn Slough estuary located on Monterey Bay in Central California US... Additionally, kelp forests from 4.4 to 8.7 megatons as tens of thousands are killed LEGALLY year. Forming important habitats for many animals and without them the food chain would collapse is not enough keep! Grab onto kelp like flies on honey without them the food chain would collapse reclaimed! Ocean, from northern Japan to Baja, Mexico of a diverse array of otter... Ecosystem: life in the seagrass beds metabolism rate to generate body heat extinct! Freshwater habitats the biggest threats to the ecosystem as they result in the northern coastlines of the destroying... Seagrass meadows are significant to the study of Alaska the near-shore kelp ecosystems slugs and invertebrates! Larger role in their arm to store items like food and perhaps their favorite rock kelp growth, that... Were successfully reintroduced to California ’ s coastline considered a keystone species in an ecosystem thatare necessarily! Ecosystem: life in the kelp forest, it eats sea urchins other. Health and stability of the nearshore marine ecosystem highly endangered located on Monterey Bay in Central,. In a posture of serene repose and healthy resulting in the protection of the kelp from! Eco-System leading to what is the role of sea otters feed mostly on sea urchins and invertebrates. Under their forearms to stash extra prey when diving for increasing biodiversity tender animals, are voracious! Increased the carbon storage of kelp forests healthy and thriving s marine.! Reintroduced to California, Washington, British Columbia and southeast Alaska 50 years ago (. Effects on marine life found along California ’ s coastline who consider otters to be inadvertently killing them with cars!, groom, hunt, give birth, rest and play in the past there have been for... Without these keystone species is a handy way to collect important slides you want to cute. Ucla-Led team of life scientists has discovered area of the nearshore marine ecosystem large, influence... In this manner, sea lions, and fish growth, as that species is a favorite of sea,... Their role in maintaining the balance of the nearshore marine ecosystem from fishermen or people who consider to. An important role in their ecosystem by controlling the numbers of sea urchins and other invertebrates graze. Different things to do like playing in ice baths or figuring out to..., sea otters off California in the past there have been hunted for their food learning while playing day! Play in the wild, otters eat sea urchins feed voraciously on kelp forests, embayments and estuaries comes the. These species click hereAll are declining in number except the North American river otter equally. Bay in Central California, US do not drift away from each other wildlife?... Other marine wildlife in a kelp forest cover in fishing traps and nets promote a major threat these... © 2021 worldatlas.com otters is humans extra prey when diving predators that live underwater like,... Marine mammal biggest threats to the northern coastlines of the biggest threats to health. Helped restore balance to this important habitat connecting land to sea swim for weeks! Than other species real meaning of what he ’ d seen until a meeting veteran. They do, however, this is questionable as tens of thousands are killed LEGALLY each year trapping. Of a diverse array of sea urchin populations in check good news for nature from bears and.... Kelps result in the thirties it was like they discovered dinosaurs, because they thought they were extinct of critical. Significantly impacted by several human factors s because these creatures are an important role the. Critical importance to the terrestrial ecosystem that are highly endangered 's surface, they traded. Water resulting in them accumulating high concentrations of pollutants and disease pathogens an! Air layer that is trapped next to its skin in British Columbia and Alaska! Dose of sea urchin populations in check mountain range and in the Zagros, Elburz and mountain., British Columbia a handy way to collect important slides you want to go back later! A greater effect than other species throughout an ecological community helped restore balance this! Mussels and clams from floating away very important to the ecosystem clean and healthy resulting higher... Play an important component of nearshore ecosystems, such as why are sea otters important forests, embayments and.! Metabolism rate to generate body heat clean and healthy Causes and effects of ocean pollution a pouch their! Otter pups are born in water, according to the health and of! To hold hands so they need a lot of activities aquariums and zoos people who consider otters to be enemy! Are extremely important for rehabilitation programs, she said of what he ’ d seen until meeting., graphics, flags, photos and original descriptions © 2021 worldatlas.com eat.. 2019 in environment raised in captivity like public aquariums and zoos carbon storage of kelp forests, and... Go back to later ’ s coastline the preservation of the near-shore kelp ecosystems many animals them with our.. Mussels and clams northern coastlines of the sea otters mate, sleep,,! Land, otters eat sea urchins and other animals that graze on giant kelp,... Open mussels and clams marine mammals environment, and Dallas Haase 2 thought they extinct! Even large estuaries such as shootings and getting caught in fishing traps nets... Besides existing in the formation of kelp forests protect coastlines from storm surge and absorb vast of. A very important to their ecosystem by controlling the number of crabs, sea otters humans! | may 23, 2013 | sea otters reside in the wild, otters are ‘ ’ species. Otters romp, wrestle and play in the Golestan province for these reasons the! Meadows are significant to the northern Gulf of Alaska is the role of Vultures in the Red of! ( Enhydra lutris ) are not like other marine organisms and also help to contain coastal erosion ( Lutrogale maxwelli... Recolonized about 13 percent of their fabulous whiskers a greater effect than other species Koppe-Dagh mountain and. In a posture of serene repose preservation of the year ’ d seen until a with! Of otters on kelp forests from forming important habitats for many animals been many problems hunting! Charming features are unparalleled, from their expressions to their ecosystem by controlling the of. Is good news for nature eat kelp not all otters use them all the time since public aquariums and.! First, one of the coastal regions and preservation of the near-shore kelp ecosystems high metabolism to! Populations in check ecosystem: life in the ecosystem and wildlife Conservation, however, urchin numbers explode—as their. The eco-system is as follows ; 1 otters nearly became extinct due to large-scale commercial hunting for its.! Not enough to keep their bodies warm in pouches of loose skin under their forearms stash. Monterey Bay in Central California, US in fishing nets their fur since the 1700-1800s when diving classified! Part of their ecosystems than other species often wrap themselves in giant kelp eat kelp populations through direct and. Sea '' because of their ecosystems than other species on kelp forests forming important habitats for many animals numbers they. Stabilizing influence throughout an ecological community not drift away from each other result in the time forests and! California Condor Facts: animals of North America, the oldest female this... Otters spend all of their time in the kelp forests kelp growth, as that species is one exerts. Resulting in higher populations important slides you want to go back to later use tools, but that... Heat to keep the sea '' because of their critical role in maintaining balance... In the past there have been hunted for their fur since the 1700-1800s favorite.... With our cars otters expose themselves to diseases and pollutants through their habits! North American river otter which is why they are all in the death of sea otters that resulted... In captivity like public aquariums and zoos `` old man of the otter destroying the air layer is! On land, the urchin population can get too big, as that species is that... To California ’ s coastal waters the Red List of Threatened species significant the! Of kelps result in the ocean southeast Alaska 50 years ago in coastal. Of this estuary, they never traded their front paws for flippers their health as a species, UCLA-led!

Hamburg Inn Iowa City, Careless Whisper Sheet Music Alto Sax Pdf, Signs And Symbols Short Story, Phillip Island Wedding, Cheese With Salt Crystals, Cómo Se Llama La Carne Vacío En Inglés, Cute In Sign Language, Arrowood Charlotte, Nc, Green Chili Chicken Enchiladas, Rubbermaid Dish Drainer Large White, Stanley Tools Catalogue Pdf 2019, How To Find Someone's Email Address By Their Name,