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Marine Animal Encyclopedia

Sea Otter Enhydra lutris

Unlike other otters, the sea otter is able to spend its whole life in the ocean. It has a blunt head, a stocky body, webbed rear feet, and small front paws with sharp claws. It uses these to gather food and pick up large stones. At the surface, it floats on its back, using a stone that rests on its chest as an anvil to smash open its prey. Sea otters feed on mollusks, sea urchins, and crabs. While they can dive to 130 ft (40 m), they rarely venture more than mile (1 km) from the shore.

Sleeping securely

Sea otters often sleep in beds of giant kelp, using the seaweed to keep from drifting away. Their fur is the densest of any mammal. The hairs are packed so tightly that they prevent water penetration, ensuring that the otter’s skin never gets wet. This is a vital adaptation, because sea otters live in cold water and do not have insulating fat.

Sea Otterzoom image
  • Order Carnivora
  • Length 2–5 ft (0.7–1.6 m) including tail
  • Weight 33–100 lb (15–45 kg)
  • Habitat Inshore waters along rocky coasts
  • Distribution North Pacific from Japan to Alaska and California
Sea Otter habitat mapzoom image