Toward a Prehistory of the Southern Sea Otter (Enhydro lutris nereis)

Terry L. Jones, Brendan J. Culleton, Shawn Larson, Sarah Mellinger and Judith F. Porcasi

in Human Impacts on Seals, Sea Lions, and Sea Otters

Published by University of California Press

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780520267268
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520948976 | DOI:
Toward a Prehistory of the Southern Sea Otter (Enhydro lutris nereis)

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The southern sea otter (Enhydra lutris nereis) is one of the mostly widely recognized and highly cherished marine mammals on the coast of California. Numerous studies have elucidated their basic biology, behavior, and ecology. The prehistory of sea otters, however, is much less well understood and has been the subject of longstanding speculation by fishermen, biologists, and California Fish and Game representatives. This chapter examines the prehistory of sea otters in the central California coast, focusing on the ecological relationships between key predators and their prey. First, it summarizes some of the important traits of the sea otter with respect to its suitability as a prey item. It then analyzes the spatial and temporal distribution of archaeological otter remains with particular regard to diachronic variability. Finally, it presents the results of two specialized studies on otter remains: DNA analysis that reveals the sex of the otters exploited by Native Californians, and isotope analysis that provides insights into their diet.

Keywords: California; sea otters; Enhydra lutris nereis; biology; prehistory; ecology; predators; prey; sex; diet

Chapter.  13049 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Zoology and Animal Sciences

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