Otter See, Otter Do

Are sea otters… copycats?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science… saying…

Actually, they’re more like badgers, but regardless, they’re adorable AND endangered. How can we make sure rescued otters can take care of themselves in the wild?

Enter Alexander Saliveros and colleagues from the University of Exeter. They gave twenty otters in captivity different foraging puzzles containing food to simulate wild prey. Then, they gave the otters natural food such as dead mussels, crabs, and fish. They observed how the otters reacted to and discovered how to eat the prey.

Results? Otters learned whether the prey was safe to eat by watching each other. However, they figured out how to access the meat largely on their own. 

Understanding how wild otters choose food is important for conservation efforts. The researchers believe captive otters could be taught to use their spork-like claws to survive in nature!

Because–wait for it–they can’t do it all on their own, they need each OTTER!

Reference: Saliveros, A. M., Bowden-Parry, M., McAusland, F., & Boogert, N. J. (2022). Captive Asian short-clawed otters (Aonyx cinereus) learn to exploit unfamiliar natural prey. Royal Society Open Science, 9(6).