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Sea Otters Using Ice to Keep Warm

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Animal Updates | Mammals | Volunteering

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Hugh

Sea Otters Using Ice to Keep Warm
The Otter Days of Summer. Ollie, Chloe, Brook and Maggie hanging out on their ice patch.  | Hugh Ryono

The Otter Days Of Summer

While the rest of us endure the “Dog Days of Summer” our otters spend their days chilling out on their ice patch. However the reason why the otters enjoy the piles of ice that the staff regularly places in their exhibit may surprise you. The sea otters at the Aquarium of the Pacific like rolling around in the ice because it helps dry their fur. It may seem counter intuitive but grooming themselves while on the ice helps keep them warm. The ice actually absorbs the excess salt water off their pelts helping them to maintain its insulating qualities.

Since sea otters have no blubber layer they rely on their thick coat of fur to form a barrier to the cold sea water that they live in. This barrier forms an insulating air layer between their skin and fur in the same way that a down jacket helps keep us warm. If they don’t maintain the waterproof integrity of their coats, water can seep through and cause hypothermia. So sea otters have to constantly groom their fur to guard against this. Ice or snow is not something Southern Sea Otters would see in their natural environment. Our otters however have learned to use the ice patch in the exhibit as a towel to help dry themselves so that they can more thoroughly comb through their fur with their paws and teeth. You’ll even see them undulating their whole bodies on the ice to help get the water out. Of course sometimes they also just like to roll around in the ice because it’s fun.

Check out the images of the otters hanging out on their little ice oasis.

Sea Otters Using Ice to Keep Warm
Chloe using Maggie's furry back as a pillow. The ice patch helps the otters keep their fur pristine.  | Hugh Ryono
Sea Otters Using Ice to Keep Warm
Ollie in the foreground using her teeth and paws to groom her fur.  | Hugh Ryono
Sea Otters Using Ice to Keep Warm
Chloe undulating her whole body in the ice. The otters use the ice patch like a towel to remove excess salt water from their fur.  | Hugh Ryono

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