Some researchers hypothesize that sea otters and their voracious appetites have played an important role in shaping the natural history of the California coastline and the Pacific Rim. When otters are not around, the urchin population can get too big. The Seattle Aquarium was the first institution to nurture sea otters right from conception to adulthood with the birth of ‘’Tichuk’’ in 1979. But the animals have not naturally repopulated to Oregon in the time since. Can otters use tools? Overall, southern sea otters have only recolonized about 13 percent of their historic range, according to the study. The specific role of the sea otters in the eco-system is as follows; 1. They sleep this way, often gathered in groups. Sea urchins feed voraciously on kelp forests thereby damaging the eco-system leading to what is known as "urchin barrens." Without sea otters, these grazing animals can destroy kelp forests and consequently the wide diversity of animals that depend upon kelp habitat for survival. 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. 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. 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. 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. They have a pouch in their arm to store items like food and perhaps their favorite rock. 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 … 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. They’re also considered a keystone species because of their critical importance to the health and stability of the nearshore marine ecosystem. Sea otters By: Rhiannon Martin, Mackenzie Gatton, and Dallas Haase 2. For example, Strobel said it’s important to know about behavior as sea otter populations expand to other areas in California, British Columbia, Washington and Oregon. As sea otters reclaimed their role as predators in this estuary, they helped restore balance to this important habitat connecting land to sea. Here are some viewing tips to help you enjoy watching sea otters and other marine wildlife in a safe and responsible way. 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. Want to watch cute sea otters romp, wrestle and play every day of the year? Some predators like the great white shark may kill the otters but not feed on them. Fortunately, sea otters feed on sea urchins resulting in the preservation of the kelp forests. River otters are not that long-lived; the oldest female in this study was 12 years old, the oldest male, 13. In the kelp forest, it eats sea urchins and other animals that graze on giant kelp. Sea otters are ‘’keystone species” because of their critical role in maintaining the health and stability of the nearshore marine ecosystems. The high metabolism comes from the food eaten by the sea otters. The males are polygynous as they may take up multiple female partners. Consequently, the sea otters die from hypothermia. 2. Sea otters are meticulously clean. Despite its common name, the North American river otter is equally comfortable in either coastal marine or freshwater habitats. In this manner, sea otters are keystone predators in the kelp forests where they live. In fact, they are now recognised as … When sea otters are underwater foraging for food, they make use of the loose skin under their armpits, using the area like pockets to store food as they continue their search. 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. We don’t want to be inadvertently killing them with our cars. Although, their whiskers are robust and thick like their seal and sea lion counterparts, they never traded their front paws for flippers. Sea otters feed on a large number of crabs to retain their body weight. Sea otters are critical to maintaining the balance of the near-shore kelp ecosystems. By repeatedly foraging these contaminated prey, the otters put themselves at risk of harmful diseases. Otters are crucial in keeping kelp forests healthy and thriving. 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 very playful and busy so they need a lot of activities. As top predators, sea otters are critical to maintaining the balance of nearshore ecosystems, such as kelp forests, embayments and estuaries. Since they have to consume at least 25% of their body weight each day to stay alive, sea otters prey on filter feeders such as mussels and clams. Sea otters have a profound impact on the coastal habitats which is why they are rightly known as keystone species. 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. Sea otters have low genetic diversity, which could endanger their health as a species, a UCLA-led team of life scientists has discovered. Crude oil normally penetrates the fur of the otter destroying the air layer that is trapped next to its skin. 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 (Enhydra lutris) are marine mammals inhabiting the shores of the Aleutian Islands and along the North American coast up to Mexico. Sea otters mate, sleep, groom, hunt, give birth, rest and play in the ocean! The otters need different things to do like playing in ice baths or figuring out how to use new toys. Sea otters are a very important keystone species that are highly endangered. Not all otters use tools, but sea otters use them all the time. Sea otters feed mostly on sea urchins, mollusks, crustaceans, and fish. When they discovered Sea otters off California in the thirties it was like they discovered dinosaurs, because they thought they were extinct. Although capable of walking on land, otters may spend their whole lives in water. 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 a keystone species in the kelp forest. In Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, sea otters often spend their time in kelp forests, where they feed on invertebrates like sea urchins. Sea otters are ‘’keystone species” because of their critical role in maintaining the health and stability of the nearshore marine ecosystems. Learn more about these cute and charismatic critters. Keystone species are species in an ecosystem thatare not necessarily abundant, but those that other species greatly depend on. For example, in a kelp forest, otters eat sea urchins, and urchins eat kelp. Similarly, their consumption of crabs in estuaries reduces predation on snails. All maps, graphics, flags, photos and original descriptions © 2021 worldatlas.com. Sea otters are an iconic species, representing the beauty and diversity of marine life found along California’s coastline. What Is The Role Of Sea Otters In The Ecosystem? Otters are some of the most adorable aquatic animals. Her survey found the most important factor in how indigenous communities felt about the sea otter’s recovery was the extent to which they felt agency or inclusion in decision-making. Sea otters (Enhydra lutris) are an easily recognized and beloved marine mammal. Their populations are significantly impacted by several human factors. That’s because these creatures are an important part of their ecosystems. 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. California Condor Facts: Animals Of North America, The Causes And Effects Of Ocean Pollution. These sea creatures also depend on a high metabolism rate to generate body heat. 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. Why Are Sea Otters Important? Why are Sea Otters Important? This turn can have devastating effects on marine life diversity. 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). However, this is not enough to keep the sea otters warm. Sea Otters as a Keystone Species . After eating, they wash themselves in the ocean, cleaning their coat with their teeth and paws. Sea otter use a variety of strategies for finding their food. Secondly, oil spills result in the death of sea otters. In the recent past, sea otters nearly became extinct due to large-scale commercial hunting for its pelt. 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