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Social organization of otters in relation to their ecology

Abstract : Otter species are known to fluctuate intraspecifically from a solitary lifestyle to group-living arrangements. By examining what is known about habitat use and foraging style in otters of 13 different species, based on 93 studied sites, we assessed (1) the relationship between social habits and preferred habitats, (2) the relationship between species and prey preferences, and (3) the effect of predator avoidance on their social organization in order to assess the socio-ecological factors influencing otters. Females remain the core of their social stability. We show the major influence of habitats and feeding strategies (i.e. socio-ecology) of otters. The different species of solitary otters most often inhabit linear environments, such as freshwater ecosystems or wave-exposed marine coasts, and their habitat is often subject to disturbances that fragment their functional continuity. Social otters are more often found in extensive habitats with high plant cover, regular food resources and in areas with large predators compared to solitary species. The maintenance of regular resources and the fact that the main trophic resources are replenished rapidly might be determining factors driving sociality. Group-living and bachelor congregations among otters can also respond to pressure from large predators. This suggests that foraging, habitat use and the presence of large predators may be the drivers of sociality in otters. We conclude that most otters have a greater social potential than previously assumed, which is confirmed by their various vocalizations recently described.
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Submitted on : Monday, March 29, 2021 - 9:21:13 AM
Last modification on : Wednesday, October 20, 2021 - 3:19:34 AM

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Marie-Loup Lélias, Alban Lemasson, Thierry Lodé. Social organization of otters in relation to their ecology. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, Linnean Society of London, 2021, XX (1), pp.1-27. ⟨10.1093/biolinnean/blab016⟩. ⟨hal-03183909⟩

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