Without these keystone species, ecosystems could fail or drastically change. Sea otters are considered the "old man of the sea" because of their fabulous whiskers! These sea creatures also depend on a high metabolism rate to generate body heat. 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 a keystone species, meaning they have a larger role in maintaining the health of their ecosystems than other species. For these reasons, the sea otter remains classified as an endangered species. Some predators like the great white shark may kill the otters but not feed on them. To achieve this, the sea otters that are carnivorous feed on various marine species such as crabs, clams, urchins, snails, and worms. Economic Importance. Nonetheless, the managers of this estuary have recently reintroduced sea otters that have resulted in the sudden increase in the seagrass beds. Since they must sleep at the surface, they often wrap themselves in giant kelp to keep from floating away. But when sea otters decline, urchin numbers explode and grab onto kelp like flies on honey. They are adapted to this kind of environment by possessing a dense fur coat which insulates the body from cold. They eat sea urchins and other invertebrates that graze on giant kelp. 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 … Sea otters (Enhydra lutris) are an easily recognized and beloved marine mammal. Without sea otters, sea urchins can overpopulate the sea floor and devour the kelp forests that provide cover and food for many other marine animals. The sea otter is an important part of both of these habitats — It’s a keystone species, which means that the health of sea otters is a good indication of the health of other species and ecosystems nearby. A collection of kelps result in the formation of kelp forests. Otters are crucial in keeping kelp forests healthy and thriving. Places such as British Columbia, Aleutian Islands, and the Big Sur coast of California have had major improvements in the health of their coastal ecosystems due to the re-introduction of otters. Crude oil normally penetrates the fur of the otter destroying the air layer that is trapped next to its skin. Sea otters feed on a large number of crabs to retain their body weight. 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. 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. They have furry bodies, whiskered faces, and a propensity to lay on their backs and float on the water, a behavior that humans perceive as evidence of fun-loving. Sea otters are some of the cutest and most social critters in the ocean … but this hasn’t saved them from threats like oil spills, pollution and climate change. Sea otters are an iconic species, representing the beauty and diversity of marine life found along California’s coastline. Sea otter pups are born in water and float like corks, but they cannot swim for several weeks. 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. It is your job to research why sea otters are so important to their ecosystem and associated food web. What Is The Role Of Sea Otters In The Ecosystem? They provide crucial habitat and food for other marine organisms and also help to contain coastal erosion. Kelp forests are large marine environments where tall algae called kelp is the dominant producer. However, this is not enough to keep the sea otters warm. “Sea otters exhibit strong top-down control of grazers, particularly sea urchins, and thus indirectly increase kelp population spatial occupancy and productivity,” Martone and her colleagues wrote in a summary of their research they presented Tuesday.. 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. Because otters are such good predators, the sea slugs that are typically eaten by crabs have the chance to do their job in removing excess algae from seagrass. In particular, they … This knowledge can also be important for rehabilitation programs, she said. As sea otters reclaimed their role as predators in this estuary, they helped restore balance to this important habitat connecting land to sea. They have a pouch in their arm to store items like food and perhaps their favorite rock. Similarly, their consumption of crabs in estuaries reduces predation on snails. For example, in a kelp forest, otters eat sea urchins, and urchins eat kelp. Held every year during the last week in September, Sea Otter Awareness Week spotlights the important role of sea otters in … The endemic species of Smooth-coated otter (Lutrogale perspicillata maxwelli) is also present in Additionally, kelp forests protect coastlines from storm surge and absorb vast amounts of harmful carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Sea otters, in addition to being tender animals, are extremely important for the care of marine forests and for increasing biodiversity. Among the widespread species of seagrasses is the Zostera, also known as the eelgrass that has been on the decline in the recent past due to the large population of crabs that have been feeding on them. Sea otters can eat 25 to 30 percent of their body weight in one day, which would be equivalent to a 175-pound human eating 45 pounds of food in one day. Why Are Sea Otters Important? Sea otters reside in the underwater which has extremely cold temperatures. They have thick fur that generates heat to keep their bodies warm. Such an increase is a result of the food web that forms within this ecosystem formed by the sea otters, crabs, and sea slugs. Sea otters play an important role in their ecosystem by controlling the numbers of sea urchins. 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. When present in healthy numbers, they keep sea urchin populations in check. Sea otter use a variety of strategies for finding their food. They’re also considered a keystone species because of their critical importance to the health and stability of the nearshore marine ecosystem. By repeatedly foraging these contaminated prey, the otters put themselves at risk of harmful diseases. Every sea otter’s return is good news for nature. They are native to the northern coastlines of the Pacific Ocean, from northern Japan to Baja, Mexico. 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. 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. Sea urchins feed voraciously on kelp forests thereby damaging the eco-system leading to what is known as "urchin barrens." Additionally, the damaging physical effects of oil contamination, as well as toxicological effects from ingestion and inhalation can lead to severe, long-term organ damage and other potentially life-threatening conditions. They sleep this way, often gathered in groups. As top predators, sea otters are critical to maintaining the balance of nearshore ecosystems, such as kelp forests, embayments and estuaries. Sea otters mate, sleep, groom, hunt, give birth, rest and play in the ocean! Hughes said one of the reasons otter habitat has remained fragmented and why sea otters have not been able to migrate north and reestablish residency in San Francisco Bay is the presence of great white sharks near the Golden Gate. Photograph: Noel Hendrickson/Getty Images. In this manner, sea otters are keystone predators in the kelp forests where they live. Case study: Sea Otters →Crabs → Sea Slugs → Micro Algae → Eelgrass A new trophic cascade involving sea otters was recently discovered in a Central California estuary. Sea otters, in turn, are equally voracious predators of sea urchins. Sea otters (Enhydra lutris) are marine mammals inhabiting the shores of the Aleutian Islands and along the North American coast up to Mexico. For example, they transfer marine-derived nitrogen to the terrestrial ecosystem. By controlling the number of crabs, sea otters helped sea slugs and other tiny marine grazers flourish. In the past there have been many problems including hunting for fur and pollution. There are 13 species of otter in the world and they are all in the Red List of Threatened Species. Sea otters By: Rhiannon Martin, Mackenzie Gatton, and Dallas Haase 2. What Is The Importance Of Insects In The Ecosystem? Keystone species are species in an ecosystem thatare not necessarily abundant, but those that other species greatly depend on. Otters are part of the Mustelidae family, which is a family of … The males are polygynous as they may take up multiple female partners. When we do our part, we can make sure our seas remain a safe playground for one of the planet’s most whimsical and important creatures. And, even if you live far from the Pacific Ocean, that matters to you because kelp forests are one of the ocean’s great carbon sinks; they help mitigate the effects of climate change. Otter enrichment is important because it keeps them active and learning while playing all day. Despite its common name, the North American river otter is equally comfortable in either coastal marine or freshwater habitats. They eat sea urchins and other invertebrates that graze on giant kelp. We don’t want to be inadvertently killing them with our cars. Sea otters (Enhydra lutris) are not like other marine mammals. 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 spend all of their time in the ocean, including sleeping. The specific role of the sea otters in the eco-system is as follows; ‘’Kelps’’ are brown algae seaweeds growing rapidly underwater covering 25% of the world’s coastlines. Sea otters play an important role in maintaining kelp beds because they eat sea urchins, which can destroy kelp if their populations get too big. Consequently, the sea otters die from hypothermia. by seaottersdotcom | May 23, 2013 | sea otters. Sea otters are ‘’keystone species” because of their critical role in maintaining the health and stability of the nearshore marine ecosystems. Sea otters aren’t just cute – these fuzzy marine mammals also perform an important role protecting the kelp forests which maintain our climate and prevent storm damage. 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. Sea otters are also considered an apex predator in their estuary habitat, eating not only urchins but a variety of mollusks and crustaceans—including crabs. Coveted for their extremely dense and insulating fur, sea otter pelts sold for as much as $1,125 each and were made into hats, coats and various other garments. Sea otters are critical to maintaining the balance of the near-shore kelp ecosystems. 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