Neotropical River Otter

 

Common Name: Neotropical River Otter
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Mustelidae
Genus: Lontra
Species: Lontra longicaudis

photo:  Helen Bateman

 



Taxonomy/Description

The neotropical river otter's scientific name is Lontra longicaudis. The generic name, lontra, means "otter". The specific name, longicaudis, means "long tail", possibly referring to this species' tail.  The neotropical river otter is a member of the weasel family, Mustelidae, in the Mammalian Order of Carnivora. Other mustelids include ferrets and mink.

Like other members of the genus Lontra, the neotropical otter is generally brown in color with a lighter underside and throat. Males are larger than females. Adults are about three feet in length and weigh about 25lbs. Three distinct subspecies have been identified, each distinguished by the shape of their nose.

Habitat/Diet

The neotropical otter’s range stretches from northern Mexico to subcentral South America. Fast-flowing, clear creeks and streams are preferred. Warm and cool climates are favored equally, as well as both coniferous and deciduous forests. Fish are the primary component of this otter species’ diet, but crustaceans, insects, amphibians, and small birds, mammals and reptiles are eaten opportunistically.

photo:  Helen Bateman

Behavior/Reproduction

Neotropical otters lead solitary lives, only pairing with another otter to breed. This pairing lasts for about a day. The female then gives birth to 1-6 kits after a gestation of two months. The weaning age is unknown, but sexual maturity occurs at two years of age.

Conservation


Neotropical otters face the same threats of most tropical rainforest species, which is primarily habitat destruction due to deforestation for agricultural development. However, water pollution is also responsible for a decrease in the Neotropical river otter’s population.

 

Content provided by Canisius College students under the direction of Michael Noonan, PhD.