Sea Otters vs. River Otters

All otters are not created equal….

First of all the name should give you a hint– Sea otters live in the salty ocean and river otters live in inland fresh water. In other words, sea otters bodies are built to maintain heat and salinity better (hence thick fur), while river otters are best suited for fresh water rivers.  Here are their classifications-

 Sea Otter Taxonomy (Enhydra Lutris):    

Sea Otter

Sea Otter

Kingdom- Animalia
Phylum- Chordata
   Subphylum- Vertebrata
Class- Mammalia
Order- Carnivora
Genus- Enhydra
Species- E.Lutris
   Subspecies- Lutris, Kenyoni, Neveis
(see prior blog post “home sweet home for sea otters” for more info on these sub species)

River otter taxonomy…
is a little tougher since these critters are found in all kinds of varieties all over the world.

River otters

River otters

 Here is a list of the different types of river otters.  

 Cape Clawless Otter- Aonyx capensis
 Oriental small-clawed otter- Aonyx cinera
 Congo clawless otter- Aonyx congica
 North American river otter- Lutra canadensis
 Marine Otter- Lutra felina
 Neotropical otter- Lutra longicaudis
 Eurasin otter- Lutra lutra
 Spotted-necked otter- Lutra maculicollis
 India smooth-coated otter- Lutra perspicillata
 Southern River otter- Lutra provacoax
 Hairy-nosed otter- Lutra Sumatrana 
 Giant Otter-Pteronura brasiliensis 

Here are some video clips of sea otters and river otters just for fun and comparison. 

Sea otter: video credit to Jason Watts

River otter: video credit to PBS’s Planet Earth Series
As you can see they are quite different.  Hope this is useful!
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3 Responses to Sea Otters vs. River Otters

  1. Pingback: Sea or River: The Difference You Otter Know | Love by Otters

  2. TheOtterProject says:

    Hi Patricia,

    Although commonly called a “river otter”, the North American river otter is found in a wide variety of aquatic habitats, both freshwater and coastal marine, including lakes, rivers, inland wetlands, coastal shorelines and marshes, and estuaries. Like other otters, except sea otters, the North American river otter lives in a holt, or den, constructed in the burrows of other animals, or in natural hollows, such as under a log or in river banks. In contrast, sea otters are specialized for the nearshore marine environment and spend the majority of their life in the water. They have been observed hauling out on sandy protected shores and in estuaries to rest but are otherwise resting on the water’s surface wrapped in kelp.

    The Otter Project

  3. If that is so, then why do we have River Otters in the Pacific Northwest around the San Juan Islands?

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