The killer whales have eaten more than 40,000 otters since the early 1990’s, leaving fewer otters to consume sea urchins from the ocean floor. The GI is located on the West Ridge of the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus. With less energy, there is less reproduction and more mortality, which leads to decreases in population size. It explains that the possible eradication of the kelp forests will pose a great threat to the ecological balance and the fishing industry of the region. (The sea otter is an endangered species). The killer whale (also known as the orca) generally did not consume sea otters in the past, but now consumes thousands of otters. Hatfield concluded that the lack of reports of killer whales eating sea otters may be due to the fact that killer whales have only recently shifted their diets to include sea otters, possibly because of the decline of Steller sea lions and harbor seals. Jim Estes, a wildlife research biologist who works for the U.S. Geological Survey at the University of California, has watched sea otters in Alaska since the 1970s. ... Sea otters eat invertebrates such as sea urchis, clams, crabs, etc. So Estes looked at the history of … "All of us commented on how peculiar that was.". Sea otters are getting harder to find along the western part of the Aleutian chain. These small urchins also readily devour kelp, and if their numbers swell, they begin to thin out kelp forests. What is kelp and why is it important? What might threaten sea otters? Since it was established by an Act of Congress in 1946, scientists at the Geophysical Institute have studied geophysical processes from the center of the Earth to the surface of the sun and beyond, turning data and observations into information useful for state, Arctic and national priorities. Three lines of evidence point to increased predation by killer whales (Oiecliis or-ca) as the reason for this mortality. The otter is much smaller than the sea lions and seals so the killer whales must eat … Given that, prior to 1991, there had been no confirmed attacks by killer whales on sea otters, the discovery was puzzling. IN this picture, you can see a sea otter eating a sea urchin in a kelp bed. By Environmental News Network staff. Otters are eaten by large predators, such as great white sharks, killer whales, bears, sea lions, eagles and coyotes, depending on their geographical location. More attacks witnessed since then. Sea otters do an excellent job of eating large sea urchins over eight centimetres in diameter, but they tend to leave behind smaller urchins. October 19, 1998 Web posted at: 2:50 PM EDT. John Dornellas, 37, filmed sea otter frantically swim towards his boat for safety First, although killer whales and sea otters have been observed in close proximity for decades, the first attack on a sea otter was seen in 1991. Deprived of their normal food, killer whales turned to the sea otter. When sea otters are present, they eat a huge amount of sea urchins. ©2020 Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks. Researchers doing wildlife surveys following the Exxon Valdez oil spill and biologists studying otters in the Aleutians witnessed killer whales attacking sea otters. affected. The whale sightings in shallow waters frequented by sea otters coincided with a nosedive in the population of harbor seals and Steller sea lions, but Estes said he was skeptical about the killer whale-sea otter connection. A mother otter clambers onto a motorboat in Tutka Bay, Alaska as the white underside of a killer whale chases after her. I think killer whales are eating sea otters because their primary food source may be scarce and they may be going to the second most abundant food sources, which may be affecting the overall population of sea otters. What do sea otters eat? Explain why Killer whales are eating sea otters now There was most likely a decline in the populations of the killer whales usual prey. What caused the loss of sea otters along the coasts of Washington State and Oregon? The otter is much smaller than the sea lions and seals, so the killer whales must eat more to get the same nourishment. Killer Whales. Alligators DON'T eat sea otters, Killer whales (orcas) do! Specifically, it discusses the effects of killer whales eating sea otters in the North Pacific. How do you think the sea otters are affecting these two groups of species? In support of this theory, the first well-documented attack of a sea otter by a transient killer whale was observed in 1991, with 9 other attacks observed since then. 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