Marine Otter


Common Name: Marine Otter
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Mustelidae
Genus: Lontra
Species: Lontra felina



The marine otter's scientific name is Lontra felina. The generic name, lontra, means "otter". The specific name, felina, means "cat-like", referring to the South American nickname for the animal, “sea cat”. The marine otter is a member of the weasel family, Mustelidae, in the Mammalian Order of Carnivora. Other mustelids include ferrets and mink.

The marine otter is generally brown with a paler, lighter underside and especially light throat. Adults range in size from 3-4 feet and weigh about 7-13lbs. Marine otters are the smallest of the New World otters.


This species lives exclusively in marine habitats. Its range is restricted to the Southern Hemisphere, along the western coast of South America, including Peru and Chile. Rocky outcrops are preferred, and marine otters are agile climbers on these rocks. A variety of marine fish and crustaceans are consumed by the marine otter. Mollusks and crustaceans are occasionally eaten, but not at all as commonly as the sea otter of North America.


Marine otters usually live solitary lives, but monogamous pairs have been observed. Breeding occurs from December to January, with 2-4 kits born after a two month gestation. The young remain with their mother for about ten months. Small prey is eaten in the water, while larger prey is brought ashore. Caves are used by this species to rest, rear young and cache food.


The marine otter’s range once included the eastern and western coasts of South America. However, it is now completely extinct from most of its eastern range. Hunting for its fur initially decreased this species numbers, but now overfishing and pollution are the biggest threats to its existence.


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