Are Otters Marsupials? Diving Into This 'Utterly' Bizarre Adaptation

Rajnandini Roychoudhury
Jan 19, 2023 By Rajnandini Roychoudhury
Originally Published on Nov 22, 2021
Edited by Sarah Nyamekye
Are Otters Marsupials? Diving Into This 'Utterly' Bizarre Adaptation
Age: 3-18
Read time: 5.7 Min

Marsupials are animals that belong to the class of Mammalia of the Animalia Kingdom.

These animals are different from other mammals in general. These animals have pouches on their body which they use to protect and carry their newly born young ones.

The naming of the marsupials is also interesting. The word is derived from the word 'marsupium', which translates to animals that have pouches on their body to help carry and nurse their young ones. It is often thought meerkats are marsupials. However, that is not the case. Not just marsupials, there are many animals that have pouches on their body. A sea horse is a sea animal that has pouches. It has been assumed that there are over 335 species of animals that have pouches.

If you find our article interesting, then do check out river otter vs. sea otter and giant otter size!

What are marsupials?

Before we make an attempt to understand more about otters, we must first understand what a marsupial is and how marsupials are related to different kinds of otters like a sea otter, giant otter, or river otter.

Marsupials are animals that have been classified under the class of Mammalia and under the infraclass of Marsupialia. The main reason why these animals have a special classification is due to the fact of their special reproductive process. Unlike other mammals, these animals give birth to underdeveloped babies who then spend quite an amount of time in the sack or pouch that is located near the abdomen of the mother until it completes its total development. The sack is only found in the females of the marsupials and can not be found in the males. It has often been noted that a majority of these animals are endemic to Australia. A few common examples of marsupials include the likes of kangaroos, opossums, koalas, bandicoots, Tasmanian devils, and other similar animals.

Where do you usually find them?

Before we jump right into otters, it is always essential to know much more about this animal species, based on its location and its habitat. Here we will find out where otters are usually found.

Otters are small mammals that inhabit aquatic and semi-aquatic environments. These marine mammals all belong to the family of Mustelidae. Around 13 different species of otters are found all over the world. The Mustelidae family is a very diverse family, apart from otter populations, it also hosts badgers, minks, and other animals that belong to the weasel family. Otters are carnivorous animals, and they prey and hunt on a variety of fish, birds, shellfish, frogs, turtles, clams, crabs, and other small animals that are found in lakes, rivers, and oceans. They undergo sexual reproduction, and after the pups are born, the proper care of the pups is undertaken by both young and old dogs, bitches, and other offspring.

Which animals have pouches?

There are only a few special types of creatures that have a special pouch on their body. Here let us take a glance at which different animals have pouches.

Marsupials are those animals that pouch on the lower part of their body where they take proper care of their pup after they are born. In particularly marsupials, it has often been observed that these animals, after undergoing the process of reproduction, give birth to underdeveloped babies. Thus as a means to protect the young one from the imminent threat of death, the mothers place them in their pouch, where the warm surface provides sufficient heat and protection till the baby grows and develops completely. Marsupials are carnivorous animals, and they hunt and prey on smaller animals and invertebrates. Some species of marsupials are insectivorous, that is, they are predators of insects and thus insects for the only constituent of their food.

Here are some interesting otter facts for kids!

Are river otters marsupials?

If we need to have a conclusive take on whether river otters are marsupials, let us first get to know more about the river otter animal itself.

The river otter is a fairly popular species, and thus it cannot be considered an Endangered species. They are predominantly found in North America, where they inhabit burrows that they make near rivers, estuaries, swamps, and lakes. These species have a body weight of around 1.0-30.9 lb (5.0-14 kg). A few species of otters have been depleted due to habitat loss and climate change owing to various human activities. Just like the river otter, the sea otter, the giant otter, and other species of otters are not considered marsupial. River otters have streamlined bodies with short limbs. The legs are webbed, which along with their tails, play a vital role in helping the species swim efficiently.

Why aren't river otters considered marsupials?

There is a very fine line in the distinction that separates one animal from another based on whether they are marsupials or not. Here we will discuss why the otters are not considered marsupials.

Marsupials are animals that have pouches in their abdomen where they keep their newly born babies. The underdeveloped babies take time and grow properly in the pouch of their mothers. The same cannot be said for the otters as they don't qualify under the category of marsupial for the above reason. People often tend to confuse a marsupial's pouch with that of a pocket that can be found in sea otters. The sea otters have very loose skin, and they have pockets of space under their arms which they use as a place for storage of food and other items. This has often led to the confusion that otters are marsupials. However, as explained above, the notion is completely wrong, and thus, otters are not considered marsupials.

Relation With Humans

Otters are cute animals that share a deep bond with human beings. Here we will take a look at that special and unique bond among humans and animals.

It has often been observed that the otters that have been rescued by a human in the past develop a strong relationship with the human concerned. On the other hand, these animals play a vital role in the life of human beings. Otters are experts in hunting fish and thus help fishermen in fishing by drawing out schools of fishes out in the open. Otters dive from a rock swim towards fishes and thus divert them to the path of the fishermen, who effectively capture them. However, otters are often hunted as poaching is a serious issue in today's world. Apart from the continuous hunt for otters, these animals often perish in their own habitat due to numerous human activities like climate change and the destruction of habitat. Proper conservative steps should be undertaken to stop the hunt of these species out in the wild.

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

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Written by Rajnandini Roychoudhury

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English, Master of Arts specializing in English

Rajnandini Roychoudhury picture

Rajnandini RoychoudhuryBachelor of Arts specializing in English, Master of Arts specializing in English

With a Master of Arts in English, Rajnandini has pursued her passion for the arts and has become an experienced content writer. She has worked with companies such as Writer's Zone and has had her writing skills recognized by publications such as The Telegraph. Rajnandini is also trilingual and enjoys various hobbies such as music, movies, travel, philanthropy, writing her blog, and reading classic British literature. 

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