Sea Otter Twinning: A Bittersweet Blessing

Sea Otter Twinning: A Bittersweet Blessing

Twin California Sea Otter pups spotted in Morro Bay. Great news right? While twins are often considered a blessing, this is not the case when it comes to sea otters.

Twins are a rarity among sea otters, and for good reasons. It is extremely demanding for a mother sea otter to raise two pups on her own. These demands are often so great that the mother must leave one pup behind. This was the case in the first report of twin sea otters in 1986, when the Marine Mammal Society observed a mother and her two pups. After some time, the mother let one of the pups drift, and did not retrieve it. The report also notes that in 1980 there was a sea otter mother who died during the pregnancy of twins. There is simply not enough room with two pups and one mother; twin pups spend more time in the water and less time suckling than a single litter pup would (http://www.wired.com/images_blogs/wiredscience/2013/06/Jameson_Bodkin_twinning_1986.pdf). It is so strenuous for a mother sea otter to care for two pups because of the physical and metabolic demands required to survive in the environment in which they live. Soon after these pups in Morro Bay were spotted, researchers knew it was just a matter of time until the same scenario would repeat.

The scientists monitoring the sea otter twins knew that the abandonment of one pup was bound to happen. The Monterey Bay Aquarium had the intentions of taking in the pup that was left behind by the mother. The reason this has not happened, is because the mother made the decision to leave one of the twins when there were no scientists watching.

After a heavy fog settled over the water, the mother and her pups drifted out of sight. Now, there have been no reports of a mother sea otter in that area with twins. The problem is that there have also been no definite identifications of the mother. There is in fact a mother with a single pup who resembles the mother of the twins, and many scientists now believe it is indeed the right mother. Obviously, this would imply that the mother has made the decision to keep only one pup. Scientists continue to monitor the waters, but no abandoned pup has appeared.

The loss of this pup is tragic, The loss of this pup is tragic, but researchers continue to monitor sea otter populations and when a pup is discovered abandoned, the Monterey Bay Aquarium and others try to step in and help it.. We can all agree that it is beyond cute witnessing two fluffy pups resting on the belly of a mother sea otter, which makes twinning sea otters so bittersweet.

 

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