Interesting Facts About The Ability of Sea Otters to Use Tools

Menno Schaefer/

If you’ve followed the history of evolution, you’ll opine that the use of tools was one of the biggest development milestones, right?

Well, the use of tools for various activities signified an improvement in intellectual and physical ability. Some of the creatures that started using tools earlier than you can imagine are the sea otters! 

Let’s find out their history with tools;

How Sea Otters Started Using Tools

According to scientists sea otters have been using stone tools for millions of years! They believe that otters were among the pioneer users of these tools beating other marine mammals that are considered to be more intelligent. 

The sea otters use the tools for various activities. The most predominant, however, is in breaking open shellfish in search of food.

That sounds interesting, right?

Well, even more, riveting is the fact that this habit is more than a million years old! According to a genetic study carried out in California, sea otters’ ancestors used similar tools to crack surfaces in search of food. 

Interesting Inventions by Sea Creatures

One would be forgiven to think that sea creatures do not face any difficulties in their natural habitat. However, these creatures have challenges that have forced them to look for solutions creatively. 

For example, dolphins were recently found to use sponges to protect their noses when hunting for fish on the seafloor. Australian scientists opine that this is a recent invention which is barely 200 years old!

Why Sea Otters are Unique

Although sea creatures are creatively innovative, sea otters are unique. They use rocks as anvils and hammers.

Unlike the dolphins, the use of tools by sea otters appears to be innate. These sea creatures barely struggle to handle the tools irrespective of their age. For example, orphaned sea otters whose movement was restricted portrayed the behaviour of using tools without prior exposure or training!

Where to Find Sea Otters

Sea otters are found along the coast of the Pacific Ocean in Asia and North America. The creatures have valuable fur which has threatened their very existence. 

At some point, the creatures almost became extinct due to increased hunting. At the beginning of the 20th century, only 1000-2000 otters remained. The dwindling in numbers raised an alarm and triggered the establishment of laws to avert the looming extinction.

Further Research on the Sea Otters

Scientists have increasingly developed an interest in the uniqueness of sea otters. There are plans to conduct more research on their fossils to establish the origin of their extraordinary behaviour of using tools. 

Further research aims at investigating various genetic predispositions and environmental factors that contribute to the otters’ ability to use tools flawlessly even with minimal training. 

Bottom Line

While many animals can use tools, sea otters have shown a unique ability to use them without any training. As a result, researchers have embarked on investigating the factors that enable these creatures to have such an outstanding ability.