InfoNatura Logo
# English Only
Animals and Systems of Latin America.
NatureServe Logo
Enhydra lutris - Sea Otter
Summary Text | Overview Map |  West Caribbean Map  |  East Caribbean Map |  Range Map

<< Previous | Next >>
Record 1 of 1 selected.
Scientific Name: Enhydra lutris
Authority: (Linnaeus, 1758)
English Common Name: Sea Otter
Spanish Common Name(s): None Known
Portuguese Common Name(s): None Known

Click Here for Image Report
© Larry Master

View Image Report

Class Order Family
Mammalia Carnivora Mustelidae

Taxonomic Comments: See Wilson et al. (1991) for a review of taxonomic history. There has been some disagreement as to whether the recognition of subspecies is warranted. A recent range-wide review of geographic variation of skull characters concluded that three subspecies should be recognized (lutris, nereis, and the newly described kenyoni) (Wilson et al. 1991). Subspecies nereis appears to have monophyletic mtDNA, but lutris and kenyoni do not (Cronin et al. 1996). The low level of divergence of sequences of haplotypes on mtDNA suggests that there are no major phylogenetic breaks or long-term barriers to gene flow among sea otter populations (Cronin et al. 1996).

Lidicker and McCollum (1997) examined allozyme variation and found that despite historical population depletion, otters from California have suffered only a small loss in genetic variability. MtDNA data also indiciate that population bottlenecks probably did not result in major losses of genetic variation in individual populations or the species as a whole (Cronin et al. 1996). However, based on microstatellite DNA and mtDNA, Larson et al. (2002) reported that the levels of genetic diversity observed within sea otter populations were relatively low when compared with other mammals and mayy be the result of fur trade exploitation.

Global Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Category: EN - Endangered  
CITES Status: Appendix II
General Status Comments: CITES_COM: Subspecies nereis (Southern Sea Otter) is listed in Appendix I.

Coastal waters usually within 2 km of shore, especially shallows with kelp beds and abundant shellfish. In rough weather, takes refuge among kelp, or in coves and inlets. Often comes ashore in Alaska, rarely does so in California. In California, juvenile males spend little time in near-shore kelp beds; often remain far offshore (Siniff and Ralls (1988). In California, young are born in the water or on land; births may usually occur ashore in Alaska.
Population Status

Distribution Status in Latin America

Extirpated Mexico


  • Bodkin, J. L., D. Mulcahy, and C. J. Lensink. 1993. Age-specific reproduction in female sea otters (ENHYDRA LUTRIS) from south-central Alaska: analysis of reproductive tracts. Can. J. Zool. 71:1811-1815.

  • Brody, A. J., K. Ralls, and D. B. Siniff. 1996. Potential impact of oil spills on California sea otters: implications of the EXXON VALDEZ spill in Alaska. Marine Mammal Science 12:38-53.

  • Cronin, M. A., J. Bodkin, B. Ballachey, J. Estes, and J. C. Patton. 1996. Mitochondrial-DNA variation among subspecies and populations of sea otters (ENHYDRA LUTRIS). Journal of Mammalogy 77:546-557.

  • DeGrange, A. R., and M. M. Vacca. 1989. Sea otter mortality at Kodiak Island, Alaska, during summer 1987. J. Mamm. 70:836-838.

  • Doroff, A. M., J. A. Estes, M. T. Tinker, D. M. Burn, and T. J. Evans. 2003. Sea otter population declines in the Aleutian archipelago. Journal of Mammalogy 84:55-64.

  • Estes, J. A. 1990. Growth and equilibrium in sea otter populations. J. Animal Ecology 59:385-401.

  • Estes, J. A. 1990. Indices used to assess status of sea otter populations: a reply. J. Wildlife Management 54:270-272.

  • Estes, J. A., D. O. Duggins, and G. B. Rathbun. 1989. The ecology of extinctions in kelp forest communities. Conservation Biology 3:252-264.

  • Estes, J.A. 1980. ENHYDRA LUTRIS. Mammalian Species, 133:1- 8.

  • Gallo-Reynoso, J.-P., and G. B. Rathbun. 1997. Status of sea otters (ENHYDRA LUTRIS) in Mexico. Marine Mammal Science 13:332-340.

  • Garshelis, D. L., et al. 1990. Indices used to assess status of sea otter populations: a comment. J. Wildlife Management 54:260-269.

  • Jones, J. K., Jr., R. S. Hoffman, D. W. Rice, C. Jones, R. J. Baker, and M. D. Engstrom. 1992. Revised checklist of North American mammals north of Mexico, 1991. Occasional Papers, The Museum, Texas Tech University, 146:1-23.

  • Kenyon, K. W. 1969. The sea otter in the eastern Pacific Ocean. North Am. Fauna 68:1-352.

  • Kenyon, K. W. 1982. Sea otter. Pages 704-710 in Chapman, J. A., and G. A. Feldhammer, editors. Wild mammals of NorthAmerica. Biology, management, and economics. Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, Baltimore.

  • Larson, S., R. Jameson, J. Bodkin, M. Staedler, and P. Bentzen. 2002. Microsatellite DNA and mitochondrial DNA variation in remnant and translocated sea otter (Enhydra lutris) populations. Journal of Mammalogy 83:893-906.

  • Lidicker, W. Z., Jr., and F. C. McCollum. 1997. Allozymic variation in California sea otters. Journal of Mammalogy 78:417-425.

  • Matthews, J.R. and C.J. Moseley (eds.). 1990. The Official World Wildlife Fund Guide to Endangered Species of North America. Volume 1. Plants, Mammals. xxiii + pp 1-560 + 33 pp. appendix + 6 pp. glossary + 16 pp. index. Volume 2. Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians, Fishes, Mussels, Crustaceans, Snails, Insects, and Arachnids. xiii + pp. 561-1180. Beacham Publications, Inc., Washington, D.C.

  • Monson, D. H., and A. R. DeGange. 1995. Reproduction, preweaning survival, and survival of adult sea otters at Kodiak Island, Alaska. Canadian Journal of Zoology 73:1161-1169.

  • Payne, S. F., and R. J. Jameson. 1984. Early behavioral development of the sea otter, Enhydra lutris. J. Mammalogy 65: 527-531.

  • Ralls, K., T. C. Eagle, and D. B. Siniff. 1996. Movement and spatial use patterns of California sea otters. Canadian Journal of Zoology 74:1841-1849.

  • Raloff, J. 1993. An otter tragedy. Science News 143:200-202.

  • Reeves, R. R., B. S. Stewart, and S. Leatherwood. 1992. The Sierra Club Handbook of Seals and Sirenians. Sierra Club Books, San Francisco, California. xvi + 359 pp.

  • Ridgway, S. H., and R. Harrison. 1981. Handbook of marine mammals. Vol. 1. The walrus, sea lions, fur seals and sea otter. Academic Press, New York. 235 pp.

  • Riedman, M. 1990. Sea otters. Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey, California. 80 pp.

  • Riedman, M. 1990. The Pinnipeds: Seals, Sea Lions and Walruses. University of California Press, Berkeley, California. xxiii + 439 pp.

  • Riedman, M. L., and J. A. Estes. 1990. The sea otter (ENHYDRA LUTRIS): behavior, ecology, and natural history. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Biological Report 90(14). 126 pp.

  • Siniff, D. B., and K. Ralls, eds. 1988. Final report on contract 14-12-001-3003, Population status of California sea otters. U.S. Dept. of Interior, Minerals Management Service, Los Angeles, CA.

  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2000. Notice of designation of the Northern Sea Otter in the Aleutian Islands as a candidate species. Federal Register 65:67343-67345.

  • Watson, J. C., G. M. Ellis, T. G. Smith, and J.K.B. Ford. 1997. Updated status of the sea otter, ENHYDRA LUTRIS, in Canada. Canadian Field-Naturalist 111:277-286.

  • Wilson, D. E., and D. M. Reeder (editors). 1993. Mammal Species of the World: a Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. Second Edition. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC. xviii + 1206 pp. Available online at:

  • Wilson, D. E., et al. 1991. Geographic variation in sea otters, ENHYDRA LUTRIS. J. Mammalogy 72:22-36.

Summary Text | Overview Map | West Caribbean Map  | East Caribbean Map | Range Map

Overview Map
Note: indicates countries of occurrence, actual area occupied by the species is usually much less.

Summary Text |  Overview Map | West Caribbean Map  | East Caribbean Map | Range Map

West Caribbean Map
Species not known to occur in this region.

Summary Text |  Overview Map | West Caribbean Map  | East Caribbean Map | Range Map

East Caribbean Map
Species not known to occur in this region.

Summary Text |  Overview Map |  West Caribbean Map  |  East Caribbean Map |  Range Map

Range Map
No map available.

The Small Print: Trademark, Copyright, Citation Guidelines, Restrictions on Use,
and Information Disclaimer.

Note: Data presented in InfoNatura at were updated to be current with NatureServe's central databases as of February 2008.
Note: This report was printed on .

Trademark Notice: "InfoNatura", NatureServe, The NatureServe logo, and all other names of NatureServe programs referenced herein are trademarks of NatureServe. Any other product or company names mentioned herein are the trademarks of their respective owners.

Copyright Notice: © 2008 NatureServe, 1101 Wilson Boulevard, 15th Floor, Arlington Virginia 22209, U.S.A. All Rights Reserved. Each document delivered from this server or web site may contain other proprietary notices and copyright information relating to that document. The following citation should be used in any published materials which reference the web site.

InfoNatura: Animals and Ecosystems of Latin America [web application]. 2007. Version 5.0 . Arlington, Virginia (USA): NatureServe. Available: (Accessed:

Restrictions on Use: Permission to use, copy and distribute documents delivered from this server is hereby granted under the following conditions:
  1. The above copyright notice must appear in all copies;
  2. Any use of the documents available from this server must be for informational purposes only and in no instance for commercial purposes;
  3. Some data may be downloaded to files and altered in format for analytical purposes, however the data should still be referenced using the citation above;
  4. No graphics available from this server can be used, copied or distributed separate from the accompanying text. Any rights not expressly granted herein are reserved by NatureServe. Nothing contained herein shall be construed as conferring by implication, estoppel, or otherwise any license or right under any trademark of NatureServe. No trademark owned by NatureServe may be used in advertising or promotion pertaining to the distribution of documents delivered from this server without specific advance permission from NatureServe. Except as expressly provided above, nothing contained herein shall be construed as conferring any license or right under any NatureServe copyright.
Information Warranty Disclaimer: All documents and related graphics provided by this server and any other documents which are referenced by or linked to this server are provided "as is" without warranty as to the currentness, completeness, or accuracy of any specific data. NatureServe hereby disclaims all warranties and conditions with regard to any documents provided by this server or any other documents which are referenced by or linked to this server, including but not limited to all implied warranties and conditions of merchantibility, fitness for a particular purpose, and non-infringement. NatureServe makes no representations about the suitability of the information delivered from this server or any other documents that are referenced to or linked to this server. In no event shall NatureServe be liable for any special, indirect, incidental, consequential damages, or for damages of any kind arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information contained in any documents provided by this server or in any other documents which are referenced by or linked to this server, under any theory of liability used. NatureServe may update or make changes to the documents provided by this server at any time without notice; however, NatureServe makes no commitment to update the information contained herein. Since the data in the central databases are continually being updated, it is advisable to refresh data retrieved at least once a year after its receipt. The data provided is for planning, assessment, and informational purposes. Site specific projects or activities should be reviewed for potential environmental impacts with appropriate regulatory agencies. If ground-disturbing activities are proposed on a site, the appropriate state natural heritage program(s) or conservation data center can be contacted for a site-specific review of the project area. Refer to the Natural Heritage Network Directory available at for contact information for each program office.

Feedback Request: Using the comment form, please note any errors or significant omissions that you find in the data. Your comments will be very valuable in improving the overall quality of our databases for the network of users.


Copyright 2008
Version 5.0 (10 April 2007)
Data last updated: April 2007
Click here to see the west cribean area map. Click here to see the east caribean area map