Giant Otter Pictures, Stock Photos, Images, Illustrations

 
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Giant Otter, Pteronura brasiliensis, Pictures, Stock Photos, Images and Illustrations

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Giant otters are the largest of the river otters and among the most rare and endangered. There are estimated to be less than 5,000 left in their South American range. Besides their large size, they are characterized by the irregular patches of light fur on their chests and their noisy, gregarious behavior.

Giant otters live in the rivers, streams, canals and lakes of Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, northern Argentina, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela. The Amazon River and its tributaries, the Essequibo River in Guyana, the Orinoco River in Venezuela and Colombia, and the La Plata River between Argentina and Uruguay are the main river systems that provide habitat for this amphibious carnivore.

Male giant otters grow to a length of 1.8 meters long (almost 6 feet) including the tail, with females being slightly smaller. Fully grown specimens weigh 22-26 kg (48-70 lbs). Historical reports from South America show there were once massive otters reaching 8 feet in length before the species was hunted to near extinction.

The coat of the giant otter is brown, but variations include reddish brown to coffee color, and almost black when wet. The fur is short compared to that of other otter species, and is very dense, permitting little or no water to reach the skin. The quality of the fur has made the giant otter's pelt highly sought after by hunters.

Giant otters have irregular markings of white to cream-colored fur on their throat and lower jaw. These markings make it possible for researchers to identify individual animals.

 

Giant Otter Picture
Picture of giant otter cubs, Pteronura brasiliensis, 3 months old, endangered species, Rupununi River, Guyana Image #: 102784

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Subphylum: Vertebrata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Suborder: Caniformia/Canoidea

Family: Mustelidae/Mustelids

Subfamily: Lutrinae

Genus: Pteronura

Specific: brasiliensis

Species: Pteronura brasiliensis

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The head of the giant otter is distinctively different from that of other river otter species. It has a more domed skull and a profile that is vaguely dog-like, which gives it the nickname, perro de aqua (water dog). Its neck is strong and thick. The nose is covered in fur and both the nostrils and ears can close when the animal is underwater. It has many long, thick whiskers that help it to detect moving prey underwater.

Giant otters propel themselves in the water with their feet, which feature webbing that extends to the tips of their toes. Their tail, which is flattened, aids them in swimming and maneuvering in the water. Hind legs are longer than front legs.

Giant otters are diurnal and feed on fish, particularly cichlids, characins and catfish. They also eat freshwater crabs, snakes, amphibians, caimans and the occasional rodent or bird. They catch prey with their jaws and eat in the water, unless the prey is too large, in which case they bring it ashore. They must eat between 10-20% of their body weight each day.

Adult giant otters are not generally preyed upon by other animals, though jaguars, large caimans and anacondas may manage to capture pups. Their most dangerous predator is man. Competitors of the giant otter may include large caiman and possibly river dolphins. The Neotropical Otter (Lontra longicaudis) shares much of the same territory, but cannot be called a direct competitor, as they hunt at dusk and generally prey on smaller fish than do Giant Otters.

Giant otters are more social than other species of river otter. They congregate in small family groups of from 5 to 8 animals (called a "holt") and establish communal living areas near their feeding grounds. In their living space, they trample vegetation and arrange sticks and leaves to their liking. They mark the space with their anal scent glands, and establish toilet areas on the edges of their living area to further mark their territory and dissuade intruders. Dens for sleeping and raising pups are generally dug in the earth below fallen logs.

Giant otters sometimes hunt cooperatively, and members of a holt will usually stay within calling distance of one another. They groom each other on land and work together to defend themselves when predators approach or when other giant otters intrude on their territory.

Giant otters mate in the water and give birth to 2 or 3 pups in August to October. The pups stay in their dens for about 3 weeks and are weaned at 3-4 months. They reach sexual maturity at 2 years of age. Giant otters in the wild live 10 to 13 years.

Giant otters are known for their unique, loud vocalizations. Researchers have identified 9 different sounds, such as barks, snorts, whistles and growls, which are likely signals or warnings to other members of their group. The sounds they make are conspicuous to hunters, which contributes to the decline in their numbers.

Giant otters are listed as endangered by the IUCN. Their biggest immediate threat is poaching for their fur, as one giant otter pelt can bring $250 U.S. Destruction of habitat is another serious problem, and the number of giant otters is likely to decrease by 50% for this reason alone by the year 2025. Currently, giant otters have stable populations in Suriname, French Guiana and Guyana, as the governments there have had some success in protecting them.

Alternate names:
Giant Brazilian Otter, Giant Otter, Loutre Geante du Bresil, Arirai, Lobito de Cola Ancha, Lobo de Rio, Lobo de Rio Grande, Lobo del Rio, Lobo Gargantilla, Perro de Aqua, River Wolf, Water Dog

© Giant otter information assembled from on-line sources by Kevin Miller on May 21, 2008 for Seapics.com.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giant_otter

http://www.otterjoy.com/otterinfo/pteronura_brasiliensis.html

http://lioncrusher.com/animal.asp?animal=183

http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Pteronura_brasiliensis.html

http://www2.philadelphiazoo.org/zoo/Meet-Our-Animals/Mammals/Carnivores/Giant-River-Otter.htm

http://www.iucnredlist.org/search/details.php/18711/summ