Sea Otter Tool Use

I was excited to learn this image of a sea otter I photographed in Monterey Bay would accompany this piece about sea otter tool use. My sincere thanks to Science for this wonderful presentation and privilege.

From the editor’s summary:

It has long been known that sea otters sometimes use tools like shells and rocks to help them process their often thick-shelled mollusk prey. Law et al. show that animals who make regular use of such tools, especially females, are better able to consume a wide variety of prey, have higher energy consumption rates, and show reduced tooth wear (see the Perspective by Klump). The broadening of prey base facilitated by the use of tools was especially important in cases where the more easily processed prey that are preferred, such as abalone, were in short supply. —Sacha Vignieri

Sea Otter Photography Ethics

Photographed from shore (pier) and from a respectful distance with 300mm equivalent lens + 1.4x teleconverter. Camera: OM-1. The image is also cropped.

Note the side-eye of the otter in this photo. She was not disturbed by my presence and was not looking directly at my camera or lens. The otter was busy repeatedly diving and foraging for different foods.

A nose scar/mating injury as seen here is often, but not always, indicative of a female otter.

Alien Rock

Check out the alien-like appearance of the rock … something mentioned by a few people who commented on the cover online.

Sea Otter Tool Use