Spotted necked Otter


Common Name: Spotted-necked Otter
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Mustelidae
Genus: Lutra
Species: Lutra maculicollis

photo Helen Bateman



The Spotted Necked Otter's scientific name is Lutra maculicollis. The generic name, lutra, is Latin for "otter". The specific name, maculicollis, means "spotted-neck", referring to the splotchy brown coloration on the whitish throat fur of this species.  Spotted-necked otters belong to the weasel family, Mustelidae, which they share with minks and weasels.

photo Helen Bateman

Spotted-necked otters, like other species of the genus Lutra, are generally brown in color. However, the spotted-necked otter does not have a light underside, with the exception of its neck. This species, like its name implies, has brown splotches on the white underside of its neck. Adults of this species range from 6-10lbs in weight and about three feet in length.


This species is found throughout central and southern Africa, usually inhabiting shallow rivers, creeks and streams. The diet of spotted-necked otters is primarily composed of fish. Amphibians, insects and mollusks are also eaten. Unlike the other two species of African otters, the cape clawless otter and Congo clawless otter, the spotted necked otter has webbing and claws on all four of its limbs. The spotted necked otter also catches prey differently than the clawless otter species, by using its mouth to attack prey, not its forepaws.

photo M Noonan


Spotted-necked otters live in groups of about 20, with a few breeding pairs and their offspring. Hunting is performed individually.
While it has been suggested that there is a peak time (summer) for breeding and parturition, studies in captivity suggest that this species is not really seasonal in its breeding. On the other hand, there is some recent information from a study in Tanzania that have observed pups throughout the year, but did see more during the summer. In any event, gestations is 63-70 days, and the females give birth to 1-3 pups.  Males do not participate in rearing the young. The pups will remain with their mother for over one year. 


The spotted-necked otter is threatened by pollution and habitat destruction, as are the other two African otter species. Water clarity is another necessity for this species to flourish. Murky waters handicap the hunting methods of the spotted necked otter, which uses sight to find prey.


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