Houghton Mifflin English

Research Report

The Sea Otter

By Eric D.

What animal spends almost half of its day cleaning its fur? What animal eats while lying on its back? It's the sea otter, of course. There's lots of other interesting things to learn about the sea otter.

Drawing of Otter

The sea otter is a mammal that has thick, soft, brown-black fur with a bit of gray in it. On a large otter, there are about 650,000 hairs for each square inch of fur. The otter needs this thick fur to keep warm because it doesn't have blubber like other marine mammals do. Air gets trapped in the otter's fur coat. This helps the otter keep warm and prevents it from sinking in the water.

The sea otter is about four feet long. The males weigh about 654 pounds, and the females weigh about 45 pounds. Sea otters a have a strong sense of smell, sharp eyesight, and excellent hearing. They also have strong, sharp teeth to help them tear their food apart.

The sea otter lives in only a few places in the world. One place is in the shallow waters off Alaska. Other places are the Commander Islands, the Aleutian Islands, and the coast of northern Japan. Another place is in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California from Santa Cruz to Point Conception.

The sea otter has one pretty unusual feeding habit. It lies on its back with a rock on its stomach and smashes open its food on the rock with its paws. It's one of only a few animals that use tools. The sea otter likes to eat crabs, shrimp, sea urchins, turban snails, and abalone. It also likes to eat shellfish, mussels, and rock oysters.

The sea otter has some other unusual characteristics too. For example, it eats one quarter its size in seafood each day. It also spends almost half its day cleaning its fur. When sea otters sleep, they often wrap themselves in kelp, a kind of seaweed.

There are many factors causing the sea otter to be endangered. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, people wanted the otter's fur. In 1913 it was worth about $1000, so people killed a lot of sea otters to make money. Then laws were passed to stop the killing. Poachers, people who didn't obey the law, kept killing them. Today oil spills are killing sea otters. Their fur gets matted down with oil, and they drown. They also swallow the oil, and that makes them sick. Other dangers are chemical detergents and pollutants in the water. These poisons get into the otters' food and makes them sick.

As you can see, the sea otter is a very interesting animal. It is endangered now, but maybe someday it will come off the endangered animal list. It might if people try to save it.


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