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Otters have pouches in which they keep their favorite pebbles. ~Sea Otter Anatomy video by Oceans Today NOAA

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Today I learned that sea otters have pockets!

An endangered species, the adult sea otter is the smallest of the marine mammals. It’s a member of the weasel family, and the only marine mammal that doesn’t have blubber to keep it warm. Instead the sea otter relies on its thick fur to keep its body temperature around 100 degrees.

Sea otters have two layers of incredibly dense fur, more than a million fibers per square inch. Outer guard hairs are around 1 1/3 inches long and when properly groomed lay flat against the body.

Underneath the guard hair is another layer of fur that stays completely dry. The sea otter’s forepaws are very agile. They can rub, twist, and pull with a great amount of strength. The forepaws have retractable claws. The palms have tough pads that help with gripping.

Under each forearm are baggy pockets of loose skin. The sea otter uses these pockets to store food it has gathered. It also stores favorite rocks that it uses for cracking open mollusks and clams.

The forelegs are webbed and look sort of like flippers. The last digit is the longest, which makes swimming on its back easy, but walking on land awkward. The sea otter’s tail is very muscular, helping with steering and swimming. Sea urchins and crabs are easily cracked open with the four incisors on the sea otter’s lower jaw.

Molars are flattened and rounded used more for crushing food rather then cutting it. Sea otters have good eyesight, above and below the water. The nostrils and ears close when underwater. Sea otters have a good sense of smell and can hear very well. Whiskers sense vibrations in the water. This comes in handy when hunting for prey.

The sea otter has a very buoyant body. This is due to all the air trapped in its fur, and also to its large lung capacity, two and a half times greater than other animals its size.

The sea otter can hold its breath up to five minutes underwater. All these parts working together make the sea otter one furry fantastic creature.

I like that they're watertight.

When they want to take a nap, they wrap some seaweed around their tummies to anchor them in place... and then they can doze off in peace.

i love the favorite rock in the arm-pocket!

this is my favorite fun-fact about otters!  i did a long report on them in college and learned some adorable facts.

like they can only handle one baby, so if they have twins, a female friend or relative will step in and adopt one of the babies.  (adoption is rare in nature, but otters are into it.)

and their fur is so dense it is completely watertight.  they have more hairs in a square centimeter than we have on our entire heads!

and their mating ritual is unique: he must woo her with food (only abalone because she insists on the best!) for about three weeks, at which point, if she is satisfied, she gives the signal and they become partners for three days (during which he must also continue hunting for her) until she calls it quits and makes a run for it while he is diving down for more abalone.  but because they are floating around in kelp, she typically doesn't get very far by the time he resurfaces with her food, and so he sadly watches her wriggle her way through the kelp and out of his life forever!

First off, I love the factoid that they wrap seaweed around their bellies to anchor while they nap.

Second, why did I only learn today that otters like to keep a favorite rock in their pocket?

Did you know there's a British saying "wetter than an otter's pocket"?

Reddit comments:

Those are fascinating facts about the otter twins, the watertight fur, and the mating ritual!

Why sea otters hold hands and wrap pups in seaweed:


In a quiet cove of Monterey Bay in Northern California, a female raft of sea otters is hanging out in a kelp bed.

Time to Eat!! A two-year-old sea otter is starving! She disappears below the surface. Deeper and deeper she goes, looking for her favorite dish. At last! A bed of sea urchins!

Sea otters are known to eat 33 different types of prey – but each otter has its favorite 2 or 3, and usually sticks to these preferences its entire life. These favorites are in turn passed on to their young.

GASP!! She takes in a big gulp of fresh air – she’d been holding her breath underwater for four minutes!!

FOOD!! Quickly spinning the sea urchin in her paws, she breaks off the prickly spines. Using her teeth, she chomps open the body and licks out the insides.

The sea otter’s high metabolic rate helps them to stay warm – to fuel it each day, they have to eat 20-30% of their body weight in food! Still hungry, the otter dives below the surface again. This time she comes back with some rock crabs.

Sea otters are very resourceful – a trait that helps them to survive. So it won’t get away, she wraps one crab in a blade of kelp. That’ll keep it in place while she snacks on the other. Turning over in the water, she rinses the crumbs from her table belly and prepares for her 3rd course – rock oysters!

She pulls out a small, flat rock from the pouch under her armpit. Placing the rock on her belly, she produces an oyster. Banging the oyster on the rock repeatedly cracks it open – he rown version of oysters on the half-shell!

Time for some fur maintenance! Otters can spend 8 hours a day grooming their fur!! She gets to work untangling knots and cleaning out the outer guard hairs. They protect the inner layer and keep it dry. Rubbing and blowing air into the inner fur keeps it fluffy.

Vigorously rolling around, she turns somersaults over and over to move the air bubbles around in her fur. The bubbles trapped inside will insulate her from the cold water.

Lying on her back, holding her flippers out of the water to keep them warm, she lays a piece of kelp across her belly and prepares for a nap. The kelp will keep her in place so she doesn’t drift off to sea.

When she wakes up, it will be time for lunch …

Honey Badger Narrates: The Precious Sea Otter...

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