Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Photo of the Day #19: Asiatic Short-clawed Otters

Asiatic short-clawed otters
Amblonyx cinereus (Illiger, 1815)
Mustelidae; Carnivora; Mammalia; Chordata
Longleat Safari Park, Wiltshire
August 2008

Mustelids have always (well, since about 10 years old) been my favourite animal group. The most familiar mustelids are weasels, stoats, mink, ferrets, polecats, wolverines, badgers and otters, although other types include tayras, grisons and zorillas. All mustelids possess, to some extent, a pair of scent glands on either side of the anus. Those with a more potent excretion, like zorillas and the related skunks, advertise the fact with black and white coloration. Otters have weakly developed scent glands and only use their scent for territorial reasons.

There are about 15 species of otter from most parts of the world, ranging in size from the sea otter (Enhydra lutris) and giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis) to the Asiatic short-clawed otter pictured above. Most otters eat fish and crustaceans, but the sea otter and clawless/short-clawed otters mainly live on molluscs. 

The two species of clawless otter reside in Africa, and use their clawless and webless front paws to search for food. The short-clawed otter of Asia behaves in a similar way, except they have some remnants of claws and webbing on their hind feet.

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