Sea Otters Sleep: Do They Nap Holding Hands With Each Other? Why?

Anusuya Mukherjee
Oct 24, 2023 By Anusuya Mukherjee
Originally Published on Nov 10, 2021
A Southern Sea Otter raddles her pup while swimming.
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Age: 3-18
Read time: 6.4 Min

The sea otter is a marine mammal that likes to swim across long distances in the ocean.

The typical life span of otters living in the wild is known to be 4-10 years. The sea otter fur is known to be the densest of any animal on Earth.

Interestingly, these creatures hold their hands while sleeping. The diet of sea otters usually consists of snails, clams, fish, squid, octopus, and sea urchins. These animals use their clawed paws to grab their food. They spend most of the time in the water.

Southern sea otters are on the verge of extinction as their population has decreased from 16,000 to 3,000. You can observe adorable sea otters at the Vancouver Aquarium. They have thick fur and cute paws that make them worth watching in an aquarium.

After reading about the sleeping patterns of these giant marine animals of the north, also check out otter lifespan and river otter vs sea otter.

How long do sea otters sleep?

Otters sleep and rest for 11 hours each day. Male sea otters, except those that guard breeding grounds or live alone, like to rest and sleep in rafts. A group of sleeping otters is called a raft. To prevent the family from losing each other, otters create a raft for sleeping, eating, and resting purposes.

Rafts may hold 2-100 otters. Similarly, females and their pups congregate on rafts. To prevent themselves from losing each other, they also hold hands while they nap.

Otters tend to save energy and keep themselves clean by sleeping on their backs and keeping their hind legs and paws out of the water so that they don't get cold.

They spend more than one-quarter of their day maintaining the quality of their fur. They make sure to clean it often and produce air bubbles on their fur by rubbing their body oils into the bubble-trapping long, coarse hair on their skin.

They also have another layer of fur underneath which is finer. Sea otters' skin never gets wet until their fur becomes matted.

What are the places where otters usually sleep?

Otters have no specific preference for a habitat. Otters may be found practically everywhere in North America in wet ecosystems such as rivers, marshes, or coasts

Otters dwell in dens, though the construction is not done by them. They take over other animals' dens and turn them into their own. North American animals tend to live in dens. These dens are underground and include several interior rooms.

Other animals build them, along the riverbank or under a tree log. An otter den has an underwater entrance that extends up above the ground. This keeps the otter's nest warm and protects it from land predators.

River otters make use of tree logs or other floating objects like debris. The den is located in a place that provides safety and good hunting opportunities. Sea otters spend most of their lives sleeping and eating in the sea and rarely come on land.

What helps the sea otter to sleep in water?

Sea otters frequently float at the surface of the water by reclining on their backs in a calm slumber. They sleep in this manner, typically in groups. Otters occasionally float in kelp forests, or huge seaweed forests and wrap themselves in them to anchor themselves in turbulent or fast-moving waters.

Sea otters like to keep themselves very clean. They brush their coats using their teeth and paws after feeding and washing in the water.

They have a strong incentive to look after their coats since it keeps them dry and warm. Sea otters have dense underfur that traps air and acts as an insulator against the cold (they have no insulating fat). This coat is priceless to otters, but it may also be significant to people.

What is the otter's behavior whilst sleeping?

Otters are social mammals. River otters often live in pairs or groups. Their long bodies allow them to twist and turn. Otters have a very playful behavior as they are frequently seen rolling and diving. They gather themselves in groups when they sleep.

When otters sleep, they tend to wrap themselves in a blanket made of long strands of kelp. This way they don't drift away from each other. Another reason is that they are afraid to get detached from each other. So, they hold hands with each other while sleeping.

One of the most noticeable behaviors of sea otters while sleeping is that they keep floating on their backs on the surface of the water. They are usually in a curled-up position. The tails of otters are always lying on the surface. They keep their body moving to maintain balance and keep their posture.

Sea Otter swimming in water.

Why do otters hold hands when asleep?

Sea otters spend most of their time in the water and even sleep while they're afloat. Sea otters hold hands with other otters while they sleep. They do so to remove any chances of them becoming apart when they are asleep.

Another reason is that males do not want to lose their female mates. Male otters are extremely aggressive in protecting their mating partners.

They might also do this for another reason as well, which is to defend themselves. Their fur is very valuable and is sold as a luxury item. Sea otters have the densest fur as compared to other mammals. This dense fur helps them in staying afloat. Staying together in water also helps them avoid some hunters.

Otters are quite picky when it comes to whose hands they will hold. Otters don't hold hands with other random otters. An otter will only hold hands with its mate or someone from its family so that they don't get separated while sleeping.

While they are asleep, it is difficult for newborns to grasp the hands of their parents as their hands are smaller in size. Because of this, mothers carry baby otters on their backs.

In case the mother has to go hunting, she wraps her pups in seaweed to keep them safe. The puppies will not be drifting away as a result of this, and the mom will have an easier time finding them.

Kelp is also used by adults to keep themselves from drifting away while sleeping. Kelp is a seaweed that develops from the bottom to the top.

Adults can remain in one spot by wrapping their bodies in this seaweed. To provide anchorage, sea otters tend to entangle themselves within the kelps of the forests or giant seaweeds. The kelp is employed in the form of an anchor so they don't have to worry about accidentally floating away into the ocean when they sleep.

Not all species of otters hold hands, only sea otters hold hands. As they keep floating on their backs, most of their body is out of the water. River otters, also known as common otters, do not hold their hands. This is because they are swimming while being completely submerged in the water.

Do otters hold hands with their pups?

No. Otters do not hold hands with newly born pups. The parent otters only hold the hands of a pup when they are sleeping. Sea otters do this so their pup does not drift away from them. The female sea otter is known to carry her pup on her belly while she floats on her back.

For the first three months, the female otter will carry her pup and spend time grooming it. She will defend her young pup aggressively from any intruders or predators. The female otter wraps her pup in kelp strands while she forages in the water for food.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for sea otters sleep then why not take a look at what do otters eat or sea otter facts?

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Written by Anusuya Mukherjee

Bachelor of Arts and Law specializing in Political Science and Intellectual Property Rights

Anusuya Mukherjee picture

Anusuya MukherjeeBachelor of Arts and Law specializing in Political Science and Intellectual Property Rights

With a wealth of international experience spanning Europe, Africa, North America, and the Middle East, Anusuya brings a unique perspective to her work as a Content Assistant and Content Updating Coordinator. She holds a law degree from India and has practiced law in India and Kuwait. Anusuya is a fan of rap music and enjoys a good cup of coffee in her free time. Currently, she is working on her novel, "Mr. Ivory Merchant".

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