Otter Fact File

Meet the World's Otters

Otters are a group of 13 species which share similar features. They have an elongated body which is streamlined to help with swimming.

Their fur is dense to assist with keeping warm as they do not have blubber like most other mammals which spend time in the water. A major portion of their day is spent grooming and maintaining the fur.

They are semi-aquatic splitting their time between land and water. Their feet are webbed and when under water they are able to close their ears and nostrils.

When they go underwater they are able to spend up to 8 minutes underwater. Their lung capacity may be up to 2.5 times a similarly sized animal.

Otters are a member of the Mustelidae family. This group includes badgers, skunks, weasels and wolverines.

An otter family will have a communal latrine. This is where they all go to the toilet. Their faeces are known spraints.

A group of otters is known as a ramp, raft or romp. A young otter is known as a whelp or a pup.

Otters are one of the few mammals which use tools. The main example is sea otters which use rocks to smash through prey items such as urchins.


An oriental small clawed otter.

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All species of otter are carnivores. They spend their time feeding on a range of fish, crabs, crayfish, small mammals, birds and more depending on their range.


Otter's are found on every continent except Australia and Antarctica. They make their habitat throughout a range of waterway's such as rivers, lakes and swamps for the smaller species up to sea otters which can be found in the Pacific Ocean.

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Record Breakers

World's largest Otter

The largest of the 13 otter species is the giant otter of South America. They can measure up to 1.4m (4.5ft) and weigh up to 32kg (70lbs).

World's smallest otter

At just 61cm (24in) long Asia's oriental small clawed otter is the smallest of the world's otter species. They weigh a mere 5kg (11lbs) at most.

giant otter

A giant otter

By Eric Gaba (Sting – fr:Sting) (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( via Wikimedia Commons

Otter Species - A full list of the 13 species

  • Eurasian River Otter
  • North American River Otter
  • Spotted Neck Otter
  • Smooth Coated Otter
  • Neotropical River Otter
  • South American River Otter
  • Congo Clawless Otter
  • Hairy Nosed Otter

A family of Sea Otters

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters / Public domain

Species Profiles - A detailed fact file on some of the world's otter species


Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK

Ambrose, J., 2015. Wildlife Of The World. 1st ed. London: Dorling Kindersley,

McGhee K., McKay G., 2007, Encyclopedia of Animals, Sydney, Weldon Owens Pty Ltd.

Facts, A., 2020. Otters Of The World. [online] Discover Wildlife. Available at: <> [Accessed 27 May 2020].

National Geographic. 2020. Otters. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 27 May 2020]. 2017. 12 Facts About Otters For Sea Otter Awareness Week. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 27 May 2020].

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