Monday, December 8, 2008

Otter

Otters are long bodied, semi aquatic members of the weasel family, Mustelidae. This group includes the sea otter, genus Enhydra, the river otters, Lutra; the giant otter, Pteronura, of South America; the African clawless otter, Aonyx; and the small clawed otters of Asia, Amblonyx and Africa, Paronyx, both of which are often classified with the clawless otter.

The river otters, Lutra, comprise 11 or 12 species found on all the continents except Australia and Antartica and include the North America otter, L. Canadensis, and European otter, L. lutra. They have broad snouths, small ears, short legs with fully webbed, and a thick but tapering tail. Their underfur is short and dense, brownish or grayish in color, and is overlain with darker, coarser guard hairs. Male river otters reach about 1 m (3 ft) in length, plus a 50 cm (19 in) tail; they weigh up to about 14 kg (30 lb). Females are smaller.

River Otters feed and small land mammals. Northern populations of river otters mate in summer, and the young are not born until 91/2 to 121/2 months later. This prolonged gestation is due to the delayed implantation, or attachment, of the newly developing embryo to the wall of the uterus.

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