Asian Small-clawed Otter Pictures, Stock Photos, Images, Illustrations

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Asian Small-clawed Otter, Aonyx cinereus, Pictures, Stock Photos, Images and Illustrations

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Asian small-clawed otters, also called Oriental small-clawed otters, are the smallest otter species in the world. As their name indicates, they have short claws which do not extend beyond the fleshy pads of their finger and toe tips. They are particularly dexterous among otters and can grasp their prey securely with their fingers.

Asian small-clawed otters live in the rivers, streams, mangrove swamps, wetlands, and coastal areas of Southeast Asia, with the largest numbers found in Malaysia and Thailand. Their immense range extends from southern India to the Philippines, with populations in Bangladesh, China, Taiwan, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Indonesia. Actual habitat within this range, however, is limited and decreasing.

Asian small-clawed otters grow to a length of .9 meters long (about 3 feet) including the tail. Fully grown specimens weigh up to 5 kg (11 lbs), and they are not sexually dimorphic. Their tail is thick at the base, but narrow for most of its length, giving the tail a more rat-like appearance than that of other river otters.

The coat of the Asian small-clawed otters is light grayish brown to chocolate, with lighter coloring on the underside extending to the throat, cheeks, jaw and upper lip. Specimens that have light coloring over the whole body have been seen. Vibrissae (whiskers) are white and extend from the muzzle and eyebrow area.

Like other otters, the Asian small-clawed otter has a very dense coat of soft fur, plus another layer of guard hair fur. The fur traps air close to the skin of the otter, keeping it warm in the water. It spends time each day grooming its fur with its short claws.


Asian Small-clawed Otter Picture
Stock photo of a family group of Asian small-clawed otters or oriental small-clawed otters, Aonyx cinereus Image #: 102827

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Subphylum: Vertebrata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Suborder: Caniformia/Canoidea

Family: Mustelidae/Mustelids

Subfamily: Lutrinae

Genus: Aonyx

Specific: cinereus

Species: Aonyx cinereus

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Asian small-clawed otters propel themselves in the water with their feet, which feature webbing that extends to the 2nd phalange on their front paws, but nearly to the end of the toes on their hind paws. Because they have such dexterous fingers, they are comfortable on land and are sometimes found at some distance from water. They are not as strictly aquatic as other river otters.

Asian small-clawed otters are generally diurnal and are said to have good eyesight. However, where their habitat is in close contact with man, they tend to be more crepuscular and nocturnal. Their diet is made up of fish, frogs, snails, mollusks, snakes, insects and crabs, which they capture with their front paws.

Large snakes may prey on Asian small-clawed otters, but success is uncertain due to the otters' aggressive group defense. Tigers and other predatory felines are said to avoid targeting this species for the same reason.

Asian small-clawed otters likely compete for resources with the three other species of otter that have a partially overlapping range, the hairy-nosed otter (Lutra sumatrana), the smooth-coated otter (Lutrogale perspicillata), and the Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra). However, these various species tend to favor different prey, so competition with other otter species is not likely to pose a serious threat to survival.

Asian small-clawed otters are generally social and may be found in groups of up to 20. Like most river otters, they mark their territories with scent from their anal glands and with spraint. Their spraint is easy to locate, as they leave it on open grassy or sandy areas where they have stopped to sun and groom themselves.

Asian small-clawed otters have litters of 1-5 pups. They are born in September, can swim by November, and are weaned within 3 to 4 months of birth. They are independent from their family group at two years. If the first litter of pups in a season does not survive, they can breed again.

Asian small-clawed otters are listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN. Their greatest threats are hunting and habitat loss. They are often killed when they enter aquaculture areas, which they are quick to do, as fish and shrimp farms are an easy source of food. Pollution is another threat to their survival, and they are considered an indicator species for the health of their environment.

Alternate names: Asian Small Clawed Otter, Oriental Small-clawed Otter, Small Clawed Otter, Oriental Short-clawed Otter, Asian Clawless Otter, Chinese Dwarf Otter, Finger Otter, Loutre Cendree, Nutria Cenicienta, Nutria Inerme Asiatica

Various Latin names have been ascribed to the Asian small-clawed otter, but Aonyx cinereus is the name recognized by the IUCN Otter Specialist Group. Other names sometimes attributed to this species are Aonyx cinerea, Amblonyx cinereus, and Micraonyx cinerea.

© Asian small-clawed otter information assembled from on-line sources by Kevin Miller on May 28, 2008 for