I got a sea otter postcard from Oregon! Right off the bat I’ve gotta commend these guys for their dining choice – fresh-caught crab? Feast away, little buddy, you deserve it! So let’s talk about sea otters, shall we? Sea otters are marine mammals and members of the weasel family. Besides being notable for their utter adorableness (“otter” adorableness? It’s a stretch, I know…), they’re also known for having super thick fur, the thickest of any animal! They can have as many as a million hairs per square inch where the fur is densest – that’s about 155,000 per square cm, for my metric folks. To put that into perspective… the human head has about 100,000 hairs total. Maybe 150,000 for me – I have this mini-afro going on. How ‘bout it, though? Their fur is comprised of two layers, set in a way that keeps their skin from getting wet. Sound a bit familiar? The Highland cattle I posted about a little over a month ago have a very similar feature. Anyway, sea otters’ diet consists of invertebrates (animals with no backbone), including crabs, sea urchins, squid and octopus. Northern sea otters (like those around Alaska and Canada) also eat fish, while the southern ones (around California) do not. On that note, there is a vast difference between the northern and southern populations – there are roughly 100,000 in the northern areas, and only about 3,000 in the south. This is a product of major exploitation from the fur trade. Fortunately, many conservation efforts and bans on hunting have been put in place for these little guys. It’s important for us to conserve these species because of how they contribute to the ecosystem. For example: they eat sea urchins, which consume loads of kelp at the roots and clear out kelp forests. Kelp forests help us because they absorb carbon from the atmosphere. With the slow decomposition rate of kelp, the absorbed carbon stays contained for a long time. So you “otter” really love these guys! (I know, that one is probably overused…) Thank you tons for this awesome postcard, Larry & Nancy!