By:  and 
Edited by: William F. PerrinBernd Würsing, and J.G.M. Thewissen



The otters (Mustelidae; Lutrinae) provide a unique look into the evolution of marine living by mammals. This is because most extant marine mammals have been so highly modified by long periods of selection for life in the sea that they bare little resemblance to their terrestrial ancestors. Marine otters, by contrast, are recent expatriates from terrestrial and freshwater habitats, and some species still live in both environments. Contrasts within this group, and among the otters, terrestrial mammals, and the more highly adapted pinnipeds and cetaceans potentially offer deep insight into mammalian adaptations to life in the sea. Among the marine mammals, sea otters also provide the clearest understanding of predation and ocean ecosystem function. This is due in part to serendipitous opportunities provided by history and in part by the relative ease with which shallow coastal systems where sea otters live can be observed and studied. These two qualities of the otters are what make them interesting to marine mammalogy. Thus, our contribution to this volume on the marine mammals is built around these themes.

Publication type Book chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Title Otters
ISBN 0-12-551340-2
Edition First
Year Published 2002
Language English
Publisher Academic Press
Publisher location San Diego, CA
Contributing office(s) Alaska Science Center
Description 17 p.
Larger Work Type Book
Larger Work Subtype Monograph
Larger Work Title Encyclopedia of marine mammals
First page 842
Last page 858
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