Otters: Ecology, Behaviour and Conservation


Otters are highly charismatic and popular animals of very considerable concern to conservationists worldwide. Written by the pre-eminent authority in the field, this book builds on the reputation of the author's landmark monograph of the European otter, Wild Otters (OUP, 1995). Furthermore, its broader scope to include all species of otter in North America as well as Europe and elsewhere leads to a deeper synthesis that greatly expands the book's overall relevance and potential...
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Otters are highly charismatic and popular animals of very considerable concern to conservationists worldwide. Written by the pre-eminent authority in the field, this book builds on the reputation of the author's landmark monograph of the European otter, Wild Otters (OUP, 1995). Furthermore, its broader scope to include all species of otter in North America as well as Europe and elsewhere leads to a deeper synthesis that greatly expands the book's overall relevance and potential readership.

Aimed at naturalists, scientists and conservationists, its personal style and generously illustrated text will appeal to amateurs and professionals alike. It emphasizes recent research and conservation management initiatives for all 13 species of otter worldwide, incorporates recent molecular research on taxonomy and population genetics, and discusses the wider implications of otter studies for ecology and conservation biology.

As well as enchanting direct observations of the animals, there is guidance about how and where to watch and study them. From otters in the British and American lakes and rivers, to sea otters in the Pacific Ocean, giant otters in the Amazon and other species in Africa and Asia, this book provides an engaging approach to their fascinating existence, to the science needed to understand it, and to the very real threats to their survival.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"This book is an outstanding resource for naturalists, conservationists, students, practitioners, and scientists in the field of wildlife biology."--CHOICE

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780198565864
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 9/22/2006
  • Series: Oxford Biology Ser.
  • Pages: 280
  • Product dimensions: 9.90 (w) x 7.50 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Studied animal behaviour under Prof. Niko Tinbergen (FRS, Nobel Laureate) at Oxford. Co-founder of the Serengeti Research Institute, Tanzania, where he carried out research over seven years, before returning to Oxford, and later to the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology in Banchory, Scotland. After becoming Senior Principal Research Officer, he retired as emeritus in 1997. Awarded the scientific medal of the Zoological Society of London and the scientific medal of the British Mammal Society, he obtained a DSc from the University of Aberdeen and was made Honorary Professor, University of Aberdeen in 1998. He has carried out research projects on mammals and birds on all continents, published 6 previous books and some 120 scientific papers. He has studied otters in the field for over 20 years, and published about 40 papers and one previous book on the ecology of otters.

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Table of Contents

Otter ecology and its background     1
Pen pictures. Thirteen otters of the world: some natural history     6
Europe     6
Common or Eurasian otter, Lutra lutra     6
North America     8
River otter, or North American otter, Lontra canadensis     8
Sea otter, Enhydra lutra     10
Latin America     13
Giant otter, Pteronura brasiliensis     13
Neotropical otter, Lontra longicaudis     15
Southern river otter, or huillin, Lontra provocax     17
Marine otter, or sea cat, Lontra felina     17
Asia     19
Hairy-nosed otter, Lutra sumatrana     19
Smooth-coated or smooth otter, Lutrogale perspicilata     20
Small-clawed otter, Aonyx cinereus     21
Africa     23
Cape clawless otter, Aonyx capensis     23
Congo clawless otter, or swamp otter, Aonyx congicus     25
Spotted-necked otter, Lutra maculicollis     26
Evolutionary relationships, questions and methods of otter ecology     29
Phylogeny and evolution     29
Questions of behaviour and ecology of otters     31
Research methods and field techniques     33
Study areas     36
Habitats     39
Introduction     39
Methods     39
Fresh or salt water?     40
The aquatic part of the habitat     41
Terrestrial habitat along sea coasts     43
Terrestrial habitats along fresh water: banks and bogs     46
Freshwater habitat in Latin America, Asia and Africa     49
Otter habitat: some general comments     53
Groups and loners: social organization     55
Introduction     55
Shetland: organization of Eurasian otters in a marine habitat     56
Organization of Eurasian otters in freshwater areas     61
Spatial organization of Eurasian otters: some generalizations     62
The social system of North American river otters     62
Social organization of the sea otter     64
Social systems of Latin American otters     66
Social organization of otters in Asia     68
Otter social systems in Africa     69
Social systems of otters: general comments     71
Otter dens, or 'holts'     73
Scent marking and interactions: social behaviour     78
Introduction     78
Sprainting behaviour and other scent communication      79
Aggressive behaviour     86
Sexual behaviour     88
Family life and parental behaviour     90
Some generalizations on social behaviour of otters     98
Diet     99
Introduction     99
Methods of analysis     100
Diet of Eurasian otters in Shetland     102
Eurasian otter diet elsewhere     107
Quantities and calories consumed by Eurasian otters     111
The New World: diet of the river otter     112
Diet of the sea otter     112
The food of giant otters     114
Diets of other Latin American otters     115
Diets of otters of Asia     117
African otter diets     117
Diets: some generalizations and comments     119
Resources: about fish and other prey     120
Introduction     120
Fish numbers and behaviour in Shetland     120
Observations of fish behaviour in Shetland     123
Trapping and counting fish     124
Selection from prey populations in Shetland     128
Eurasian otters and prey populations in freshwater habitats     130
Effects of Eurasian otters on their prey     132
Prey availability for American otters     134
Ecosystems, and effects of predation by sea otters     134
Prey availability in Asia and Africa     136
Conclusions, and global changes in otters' resources     137
Otters fishing: hunting behaviour and strategies     140
Introduction     140
Fishing behaviour of Eurasian otters     140
Fishing and foraging by North American otters     143
Fishing and foraging by other otter species     145
When to feed: time and tide     148
Foraging success     150
Patch-fishing, prey sites and prey replacement     152
Depth of dives     153
Energetics of foraging     155
The development of foraging behaviour     160
Otter foraging: some conclusions     161
Thermo-insulation: a limiting factor     162
Introduction     162
Body temperature     162
Thermo-insulation     165
Washing in fresh water along sea coasts     170
Populations, recruitment and competition     173
Introduction     173
Populations: numbers, changes and genetic diversity     173
Population size     177
Gene flow in otter populations      180
Otter numbers rejuvenated: recruitment     181
Some conclusions on recruitment     189
Otters in ecosystems, and competition with other species     189
Survival and mortality     193
Age structure, life expectancy and rates of mortality     193
Causes of mortality: introduction     196
Proximate causes of death, and body condition     196
Effects of pollution     200
Food availability, starvation and population limitation     204
Predation on otters     206
Some conclusions     209
Syntheses: challenges to otter survival     211
What is special about otters?     211
Habitats     212
Foraging     215
Social life     218
Populations     220
Life at the edge of a precipice     222
Further research     223
Otters, people and conservation     224
A changing world     224
Otter vulnerabilities     225
Otter nuisance     226
Exploitation of otters     228
To catch an otter     230
Reintroductions of otters, and conservation genetics     232
Conservation needs of ecosystems     233
Conservation of otter species     237
References     239
Index     261
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