It’s Sea Otter Awareness Week!! While the title of cutest animal ever may be up for debate, we know that sea otters are definitely in the running. Sea otters are just as full of interesting characteristics as they are full of cuteness! Here are five fun facts you otter know:
- Sea otters have the densest fur in the animal kingdom, with up to one million hairs per square inch of their body! Since they don’t have a layer of blubber to keep them warm like most of their marine mammal cousins, these thick coats actually have the ability to trap air, forming a layer of cozy insulation to keep them otterly comfy. However, this type of fur also makes otters one of the most vulnerable during oil spills, as oil getting trapped in their fur can halt their ability to retain heat, leading—sadly—to hypothermia, and the possibility an otter could die.
- Don’t let these little furballs fool you—their appetites are huge. With boisterously high metabolisms, sea otters need to constantly fuel their little bodies to keep up with their constant energy output, and typically eat around a quarter of their weight in food on a daily basis. You may be asking, “How much is that, really?”Well, humans generally eat between three and four pounds of food each day. If you weigh 140 pounds, that’d be like you eating around 34 pounds of food every day. 34 pounds is equal to somewhere around 74 of the average six-inch subs from Subway. That’s a lot of sandwiches!
- Unlike their cousins in other otter subspecies, who only have to dive to the bottom of rivers, sea otters thrive in marine environments of much greater depth, and can dive up to 330 feet underwater while foraging for food. Because such a feat can be pretty stressful on the sinus cavity, a sea otter’s anatomy allows for it to actually close its ears and nostrils while underwater, making for a much smoother dive.
- Sea otters sleep on their backs and when it comes to living in tidal areas where it’s easy to float away from the rest of a group, these genius cousins of the weasel came up with a solution. They gather into groups and hold paws with one another to keep from drifting away, with mothers often holding babies on their stomachs for safekeeping. Now that’s what we call resting assured!
- Not only are they cute, intelligent and resourceful, but sea otters are also considered a ‘keystone species,’ meaning their role and impact on the environment is valued greater than others. Without sea otters, many of their prey—such as sea urchins—would devour the kelp forests that help keep carbon dioxide levels in these ecosystems at healthy low levels. Indirectly, sea otters play a crucial role in keeping these greenhouses gases from harming atmospheric conditions in coastal ecosystems. Talk about some real conservation heroes!