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Smooth-Coated Otter: Habitat, Adaptations & Facts

Instructor: Lauren Posey

Lauren has taught intermediate reading in an English Language Institute, and she has her Master's degree in Linguistics.

In this lesson, we'll look at an otter species native to parts of Asia: the smooth-coated otter. You'll learn about its habitat, as well as some adaptations and interesting facts about its behavior.

Trained Fishermen

If you were going fishing, what equipment would you take with you? How about a trained otter? If you're a fisherman in India, Bangladesh, or Pakistan, an otter might be part of your fishing routine! Fishermen in these areas train smooth-coated otters (Lutrogale perspicillata) to chase fish into their nets. Actually, these fishermen are taking advantage of the otters' natural behavior. Smooth-coated otters hunt in groups, and they herd the fish together, so they are easier to catch. The same strategy works well for the fishermen, and they train the otters where to herd the fish.

Smooth-coated otters are trained to help fishermen in some areas
Smooth-coated otter

Habitat

Smooth-coated otters are found across southern and southeast Asia, from Indonesia across southern China into India and Pakistan. There are also smooth-coated otters in Iraq.

Like other otters, smooth-coated otters are semi-aquatic, which means they are equally comfortable in the water and on land. This species is found in swamps, mangrove forests, and estuaries as well as by lakes and rivers. They are also seen regularly in rice paddies. Rice grows in flooded fields, so these are great areas for otters to hunt and swim.

Smooth-coated otters avoid open banks and prefer areas with plenty of cover. They like rocky shores where they can find caves to use as dens. They also like areas with a lot of vegetation in and around the water. This makes swamps, mangroves, and rice paddies excellent places for this species. In some areas, smooth-coated otters move into flooded forests during the wet season, and then back out to the main river system when the floodwaters dry up.

Adaptations

Smooth-coated otters have both physical and behavioral adaptations or features that help them survive in their environment. Their webbed feet and waterproof coat help them swim and not become waterlogged. Like other semi-aquatic creatures, they can seal off their ears and nose when they dive underwater, so their sinuses stay dry.

You saw above that these otters sometimes move into flooded areas and back out. This is also an adaptation. When they move, they are following the movement of fish. Once they are in areas with fish, they cooperate to herd the fish together and make them easier to catch. In addition, they usually breed during the wet season, when fish are more abundant. All of these are adaptations that ensure all otters in the group have access to enough food.

Interesting Facts

Reproduction

Smooth-coated otters live in small family groups made up of a mated pair and their offspring. Even once the babies are adults they will sometimes stay with the parents as a family group. These otters can breed after they are about two years old. They have a gestation period (the length of time the female carries the babies before giving birth) of about two months, and typically have two to five babies at a time.

Baby smooth-coated otters are born blind. They don't open their eyes at all until they are almost a month old! After their eyes are open, it is another month before they learn to swim, and they are not completely independent until they are a little over four months old.

Smooth-coated otters live in small groups
Smooth-coated otter group

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