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Biology and Conservation of Musteloids$
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David W. Macdonald, Chris Newman, and Lauren A. Harrington

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198759805

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198759805.001.0001

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Advances in understanding the physiology, behaviour, and ecology of sea otters

Advances in understanding the physiology, behaviour, and ecology of sea otters

Chapter:
(p.454) Chapter 23 Advances in understanding the physiology, behaviour, and ecology of sea otters
Source:
Biology and Conservation of Musteloids
Author(s):

James A. Estes

M. Tim Tinker

Terrie M. Williams

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198759805.003.0023

Sea otters are the only fully marine-living mustelid and the smallest extant marine mammal. They have the highest mass-specific metabolic rate of any marine mammal, which coupled with the lack of blubber for insulator and energy storage, relegates them to operating as an extreme income strategist, and appears to have led to a life history tactic in which pregnancy rate is fixed while reproductive success varies with the mother’s body condition at the time of birth, which triggers a decision immediately post-partum to care for or abandon her pup. When resources are limiting, sea otters assume highly individualized diets, which are inherited matrilineally. Sea otters exert strong limiting influences on their macroinvertebrate prey, leading to far reaching indirect effects on the structure and function of coastal marine ecosystems. This chapter reviews and synthesizes the interplay between sea otter energetics and life histories, diet and foraging behaviour, and ecosystem influences.

Keywords:   density dependence, energetics, foraging strategy, indirect effect, keystone species, life history, metabolism, trophic cascade

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