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SEA OTTERS - Keystone Species. By: Sunanda Tah. Species Profile. KINGDOM: Animalia PHYLUM: Chordata CLASS: Mammalia ORDER: Carnivora FAMILY: Mustelidae GENUS: Enhydra SPECIES: Lutris. Scientific Name: Enhydra lutris Common Names: Sea Otter Loutre De Mer

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by sunanda tah


-Keystone Species

By: Sunanda Tah

species profile
Species Profile

KINGDOM: Animalia

PHYLUM: Chordata

CLASS: Mammalia

ORDER: Carnivora

FAMILY: Mustelidae

GENUS: Enhydra


species profile1
Scientific Name: Enhydra lutris

Common Names:

Sea Otter

Loutre De Mer

Nutria Del Kamtchatka

Nutria Marina

The sea otter’s historic range stretched from Japan, and down along the coast of Siberia. Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and California also had many sea otters. Currently sea otters can be found in some parts of California, Alaska, Canada, and Russia.

Species Profile
species profile2
Species Profile

Habitat and Type of System

  • Sea Otters, are marine animals. They live in a aquatic system.
  • They inhabit near shore coastal waters of less than 54 metres in depth.
  • They can be found in both, rocky and soft-bottom habitats.
  • The typical characteristics of sea otter habitats, are rocky shores, barrier reefs, tidewater stones, and dense kelp forests.
species profile3
Species Profile


The current population (from 2010) of sea otters is approximately 2700.


The trend from the past decade is that from 1990,the sea otter population was extremely low, then in 2007, the population, was really high (3000), however from 2008 to 2010, the population gradually decreased to 2700

why sea otters became endangered
Why Sea Otters Became Endangered
  • They were killed for their extremely valuable fur.
  • The 18th and 19th century were among the most destructive for sea otters, since they were hunted down for fur trade.
  • Sea otters, are known for their fur. They have the thickest fur of any mammal.
  • Since 1977, sea otters have been protected by the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
major threats to sea otters
Major Threats to Sea Otters
  • Pollution
  • Toxic Algae
  • Interaction with Fishing Gear
major threats to sea otters1
Disease-causing agents and toxic chemicals running off the U.S. West Coast may be killing hundreds of southern sea otters each year

Some scientists believe that the chemicals weaken sea otters’ immune systems, making them more susceptible to infectious diseases

Major Threats to Sea Otters

Threat Number 1: Pollution

major threats to sea otters2
Major Threats to Sea Otters

Threat Number 1: Pollution Continued

  • The deaths could erase decades of conservation efforts that have helped restore the population to about 2,500.
major threats to sea otters3
Major Threats to Sea Otters

Threat Number 2: Toxic Algae Bloom

  • Microcystin toxicosis, caused by cyanobacterium of the genus Microcystis, known as blue-green algae are dangerous to sea otters. Liver samples of sea otters tested positive for the toxin.
  • Unusually high number of Microcystis blooms have been recently spotted.
major threats to sea otters4
Major Threats to Sea Otters

Threat Number 2: Toxic Algae

Sea otters feed along the shoreline. Species such as clams and mussels are capable of having both biological and chemical pollutants in their digestive tissue.

sea otters are most at risk of blue-green algae poisoning

Scientists are looking for causes of toxic algae growth, so that they can help the sea otters.

major threats to sea otters5
Major Threats to Sea Otters

Threat Number 3: Interaction with Fishing Gear



Live Fish Trap

Sea otters are not being targeted, but fishing equipment is very harmful to them.

Two major fishing equipment that harm sea otters, are gill nets, and live fish traps

major threats to sea otters6
Major Threats to Sea Otters

Threat Number 3: Interaction with Fishing Gear- Gill Nets

Gill nets are one of the equipments used to capture fish. They are single walled nets made of nylon

The nets hang like curtains in the water with weights on the bottom and floaters on the top.

major threats
Major Threats

Gill Nets Continued

  • Since sea otters live in water, the nets have killed them the most.
  • Sea otters have been killed by getting entangled in the nets.
major threats1
Major Threats

Threat Number 3-Fishing Gear- Live Fish Traps

Live fish traps, catch fish live, they have large openings that lead down to a much smaller chamber, which allow fish to swim in but they can’t swim out.

Sea otters swim into this equipment and become ensnared in these traps, and die or either become really hurt. Many southern sea otters have died this way.

classification map
Classification Map

Indication-Where Species from Food Web Fit

The species in the food web can all fit in the phylum of chordata.

Green algae and phytoplankton do not fit in chordata

Phylum for green algae is chlorophyta

Phylum for the phytoplankton in the food web is Haptophyta.

Kingdom for the animals would be Animalia

Kingdom for green algae and phytoplankton would be Protista

classification map1
Classification Map

Phylum: Chordata

Chordata is a phylum that includes familiar species. This phylum even includes humans. In the Chordata phylum, there are three subphylums. All chordates, have the following features during some point in their life. Humans may only show these features in the embryo.

classification map2
Classification Map

The four features are:

Pharyngeal slits: series of openings connecting the inside of the throat to the outside of the neck.

Dorsal nerve cord: a bundle of nerve fibres which go down all the way to the back. This connects the brain with the lateral muscles and other organs.

Notochord: It is a cartilaginous rod that supports the nerve cord

Post-anal tail- an extension of the body

classification map3
Classification Map

1) Examples of Species that have Phylum Chordata: Killer Whale

Killer whales are found in oceans, from the Arctic and Antarctic regions to tropical seas. They currently are an endangered species. There are five types of killer whales.

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Cetacea

Family: Delphinidae

Genus: Orcinus

Specie: orca

Scientific name: Orcinus orca

classification map4
Classification Map

2) Polar Bear

Polar bears are threatened species, since they are under the vulnerable category. They mainly live in the ice covered waters of the circumpolar Arctic, and their range is limited by the southern extent of sea ice.

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Ursidae

Genus: Ursus

Species: maritimus

Scientific name: Ursus maritimus

classification map5
Classification Map

3) Snow Leopard

Snow Leopards, are endangered species. They live in the high mountains of central Asia. The main areas where they live are Altai, Tian Shan, Kun Lun, Pamir, Hindu Kush, Karakorum and Himalayan ranges.

Kingdom: animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Felidae

Genus: Panthera

Specie: uncial

Scientific name: Panthera uncia


Extinction of Sea Otters

If sea otters become extinct, there will be many consequences such as:

Kelp forests will become endangered, and even destroyed.

Sea otters eat sea urchins and other animals that graze on giant kelp. Without sea otters, grazing animals will destroy the kelp forests and animals that live there.

consequences continued
Consequences Continued

Marine organisms, that come under sea otters in the food web, will be at risk of dying. Sea otters, keep healthy kelp forests, which support thousands of organisms, if they are destroyed, then many marine organisms will be at risk.

consequences continued1
Consequences Continued

In California, wildlife viewing is one of the most popular activities, and this attracts many tourists and residents. Without sea otters, this attraction will not be valuable anymore

consequences continued2
Consequences Continued
  • Sea otters are keystone species, without them, it will be very difficult for scientists to determine ocean trends.
consequences continued3
Consequences Continued

Sea otters are getting many diseases. Since humans and sea otters eat many of the same seafood items, human health might be at risk too. Along with marine ecosystem health

Therefore, if sea otters become extinct human life will be at risk, since there will be many diseases coming from seafood.

personal response
Personal Response

Is Biodiversity Important?

Biodiversity is the number of different organisms, living in an area. Biodiversity is everywhere on earth. Greater amounts of biodiversity are better for humans, and animals. For instance, greater biodiversity means that there will be a number of different species, and that will ensure natural sustainability for all life forms. For example, if there are high amounts of biodiversity, there will be more species, and therefore sustainability will not be an issue.

personal response1
Personal Response

The reason for this is because, there will be more natural resources available, than with lower amounts of biodiversity. Another reason, why biodiversity is important is because with high amounts of biodiversity there will be healthier ecosystems. Also, if there is a lot of biodiversity then ecosystems will be able to recover from many disasters very quickly.

personal response2
Personal Response

A healthy biodiversity provides many natural services for people. For instance, if the ecosystems are healthy then there will be many advantages such as: climate stability, less pollution, the water will be healthier and soils will be richer with nutrients. The reason why there will be less pollution with high amounts of biodiversity, is because plants absorb greenhouse gases which help decrease global warming.

personal response3
Personal Response

Therefore, by more plants there will be more greenhouse gases absorbed. Also, if there is a lot biodiversity there will be more to learn from, and there will be more tourism opportunities. The reason why there will be more tourism opportunities is because there will be more animals and plants to look at and discover.

personal response4
Personal Response

Biodiversity is very important for humans, as well as plants and animals. However, with increased biodiversity, humans will have more medicine. For example, many of the medicinal drugs come from plants therefore, with more plants there will be more medicine produced.

personal response5
Personal Response

Also, with increased biodiversity, scientists might even be able to come up with new medicinal drugs that might help treat major diseases such as cancer. In conclusion, biodiversity is very important, to all living species on earth.


Species Profile

1911., treaty, w. s., California, o. 1., then, a. s., & range, t. e. (n.d.). Saving Sea Otters | Monterey Bay Aquarium. Monterey Bay Aquarium. Retrieved October 19, 2011, from

Defenders of Wildlife - Protection of endangered species, imperilled species, habitats. (n.d.). Defenders of Wildlife - Protection of endangered species, imperilled species, habitats. Retrieved October 19, 2011, from


Species Profile

Enhydralutris. (n.d.). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved October 19, 2011, from

Oregon Zoo Animals: Sea Otter. (n.d.). Oregon Zoo | Portland, Oregon. Retrieved October 21, 2011, from


Major Threats

Sea Otter Recovery Threatened by Pollution, Researchers Say. (n.d.). Daily Nature and Science News and Headlines | National Geographic News. Retrieved October 21, 2011, from

Endangered sea otters threatened by toxic algae. (n.d.). American Veterinary Medical Association. Retrieved October 21, 2011, from


Food Web

Algae. (n.d.). lenntech. Retrieved October 19, 2011, from

Plankton and the Benthos: From the Top to the Bottom. (n.d.). NEW Science at Coastal Carolina University. Retrieved October 19, 2011, from


Food Web

SCDNR - Blue Crab. (n.d.). South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. Retrieved October 19, 2011, from

Animal scientific names. . (n.d.). Scientific name. Scientific names. Plant and animal scientific names. Retrieved October 19, 2011, from


Food Web

ScienceDirect - Soil Biology and Biochemistry : Detritivorous earthworms directly modify the structure, thus altering the functioning of a microdecomposer food web. (n.d.). ScienceDirect - Home. Retrieved October 19, 2011, from

Sea Otter: Classification, Characteristics, Reproduction, Habitat, Behaviour, Facts of sea otter. (n.d.). All The Sea : Information on Sea and Sea Life. Retrieved October 19, 2011, from


Classification Map

Phylum Chordata. (n.d.). ucmp. Retrieved October 19, 2011, from

Killer Whales: Scientific Classification. (n.d.). SeaWorld/Busch Gardens ANIMALS - HOME. Retrieved October 19, 2011, from

Enhydra lutris. (n.d.). The IUCN Red List of Threatned Species. Retrieved October 19, 2011, from


Personal Response

Shah, A. (n.d.). Why Is Biodiversity Important? Who Cares? — Global Issues. Global Issues : social, political, economic and environmental issues that affect us all — Global Issues. Retrieved October 21, 2011, from



Peterson, R. L. (1966). Family Mustelidae. The mammals of eastern Canada (pp. 231-241). London: Oxford University Press.

Folkens, P. A., & Reeves, R. R. (2002). Sea otter . Guide to marine mammals of the world (pp. 42-48). New York: A.A. Knopf :.

Banfield, A. W. (1974). Family Mustelidae/Weasels and Their Allies. The mammals of Canada (pp. 338-344). Toronto: Published for the National Museum of Natural Sciences, National Museums of Canada by University of Toronto Press.