Why sea otters put on a happy face

At one million hairs per square inch, sea otters have the densest fur on Earth.  That’s more hair than on a black lab dog. All that hair means extra warmth for sea otters. And extra work. Sea otters aren’t insulated with blubber like whales and sea lions, so they spend much of their time cleaning and grooming their fur. In the process, sea otters do funny things: Scratch their bellies, nibble their toes, practice yoga, and make funny faces.

One morning we came across an otter, comfortably wrapped in a seaweed “seat belt.” He was massaging his neck and cheeks, which all seemed so businesslike, when suddenly his face erupted into a giant grin. I laughed out loud into the back of my camera.

What a great smile and what an impressive set of choppers, don’t you think? Healthy sea otter teeth are no accident, though. Remember, these guys dine on crabs, clams, sea urchins, and an occasional octopus. According to Science Magazine, sea otter teeth are twice as tough as human tooth enamel. Dentists should use photos of sea otter smiles to encourage patients to brush and floss their teeth!

Sea otter, teeth, fur, Kodiak, Alaska, preening, kelp,

Mr. Enhydra lutris (sea otter) smiles back at our cameras during a wildlife photo workshop on our boat. He had us ALL laughing! (Marion Owen photo)

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3 Responses to Why sea otters put on a happy face

  1. Bonnie Elsensohn says:

    That was delightful, Marion. Thank you for sharing the story and the cute critter.

  2. Melissa says:

    Ha, ha, – Love your photo! Scratching bellies, nibbling toes and doing yoga…similar to what my cat does every day. Maybe they are related. Thanks for the laugh, M.

  3. Velda says:

    Interesting information on the cute guy ! Thanks, always enjoy your news.

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