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Otters – carnivores musteline leading water lifestyle. In nature, there are 17 species of otters. At the very close relationship with these animals consist sea otters, which are sometimes referred to as sea otters.
In general, the otter is not very large animals: body length in most species is less than 1 m and a weight of 10-12 kg. An exception is the giant otter of South America, which has a body length can reach up to 1.5 meters and weigh up to 30 kg! Otters have a characteristic appearance of the weasel: very elongated, flexible body, short legs with grasping claws, a short neck and a flattened head with small ears. The tail at them as long and muscular. Teeth otters small, but sharp. A distinctive feature of these animals are swimming webbed paws. Fur in all species of otters is very short and very thick. This fur is waterproof and highly valued. Painting of all kinds of otter brown with lighter belly and throat.
Otters live on every continent except Australia. These animals are very closely related to the water and settle on the banks of the river with a gentle current. However, the marine otter of South America prefers seashores and African Congolese otter inhabits in mountain rivers with rapid flow. Most often otters live in burrows, and sometimes occupy the cave near the water or make a den in the reeds. All otters live alone except for a brief period when the female raises the young. Only the giant otter family form a permanent group of 10-15 individuals. Otters occupy permanent stations, which are labeled and protect against the invading neighbors. In case of shortage of feed otters may roam, for example, common otter can pass the winter of 10-15 km per day, which is a lot for an animal with such short legs.
All kinds of otters feed primarily on fish, sometimes complementing the crustaceans, mollusks, bird eggs or ground rodents. These animals are quite voracious in search of food spend a lot of time. In the water, otters extremely agile: they swim quickly dive deep and can hold their breath for a few minutes. Under water, these animals move like creepers, bending the body, tumbling and turning over. Before the agility of otters can not stand no fish! Otters are so successful hunters that often satiated fish for the game – then release it, then again catch.
In the absence of fish otters love to tumble into the river and, in general, spend a lot of time in the water, even to clean it. His toilet otters are paying a lot of time, because of the purity of their fur depend on its heat-conducting properties. Otters temperate zone are not afraid frosts and even at low temperature, dive into the water.
Multiply otters once a year, usually the breeding season in the spring (at the northern species) or the beginning of the rainy season (in Africa Otters).
In common otters and other temperate zone observed an interesting phenomenon: after fertilization, embryo development stops (this is called latent, ie hidden phase), and then continues again.
The duration of the latent period can be up to 270 days! Thus, the female can bring posterity in January, and in April the following year. The litter is 2-4 cubs. They are born blind and helpless, receive their sight, only a month later. Young long stay with the mother, learning the difficult art of the water hunting.
Depending on the terrain, inhabited by some form of otters, its enemies are wolves, crocodiles, jaguars or birds of prey that can catch the otter, to move away from the river. But the main enemy is hungry otters. Deft otter can catch any fish but helpless in front of her absence. Therefore, these animals are found only in remote and untouched corners of nature, where the proximity of people and water pollution do not undermine fish stocks. Generally speaking otter is very badly affected by human hands. Unique otter, which is considered the socks (long-lasting) fur in the world did these animals subject to hunting insatiable. In many places, the population of this animal is undermined by fishing, and some species of otters are on the verge of extinction. Compounding situation and the fact that otters due to the nature of their biology can not be bred in captivity on a commercial scale (as mink, for example), although these animals are very smart and easily tamed. Only pervasive security can save these wonderful animals.