Southern Sea Otter Research Paper

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Melody Chai Dr. Jill Sohm & Dr. Nicole Sintov ENST 100 11 November 2014 Southern Sea Otter The Southern Sea otter has played an integral role in California’s ecosystem for billions of years and their population grew up to 18,000 in the early 1700s (Gerber). Southern Sea otters are a keystone species that help increase biodiversity in their environment as well as controlling population of other species such as sea urchins. In the 18th century, sea otters were being heavily hunted for their fur and their populations dwindled to the point where it was thought that the species went extinct in CA (Gerber). Miraculously in 1938, a herd of 50 southern sea otter was spotted at Bixby Creek and from then on there have been more efforts to help…show more content…
In the past, the otters lived from northern California to Baja California, but the present day populations only inhabit along the California coast from Ano Nuevo to Point Sur. The Southern Sea Otter are usually found in temperate waters along the coast with soft or rocky ocean bottom. Otters prefer to live in waters that are around 30 meters deep because it takes them less time to find food, but they dive up to 45 meters if they had to (Allegra et al). Sea otters have to eat around 20-30% of their body weight to maintain their body heat, which is vital because sea otters are the only marine mammals that cannot rely on blubber to keep them insulated. The typical diet includes clams, mussels, sea urchins, marine snails, crabs and abalone, but research has found that individuals tend to focus on certain prey species and this specific prey preference is passed from mother to pup. This specialization in prey makes it easier for the sea otter population to adapt when their food is scarce, making the sea otter a more efficient…show more content…
In 1972, the Marine Mammal Protection Act listed the Southern Sea Otter as depleted and a year later the Endangered Species Act listed the otters as endangered, which gave the otters protection until their species were no longer almost extinct (Gerber). There is speculation that the population declined from late 1970s to around 1985 because fisheries were starting up and were accidentally trapping and killing sea otters in their nets. Under more protection, the southern sea otter population grew steadily with slight declines for a couple of years here an there but it is estimated that there are currently around 2,700 otters living along the California

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