The Lontra provocax is one of four otter species native to the American continents and one of the seven otter species that exist throughout the world. As a member of the subfamily Lutrinae the southern river otter is adapted to both terrestrial and aquatic environments (Schröpfer and Parzefall. 2007). L. provocax shows little preference to either marine or fresh water environments (Schröpfer and Parzefall. 2007).

Otters are well adapted to aquatic life; they have long streamlined bodies and muscular flattened tails that they use like rudders when swimming through the water (Melquist and Hornocker. 1983). Their short powerful legs are adapted to propel them quickly through the water, their back feet are fully webbed which helps them to paddle and their front feet are partially webbed which allows them to forage more easily (Melquist and Hornocker. 1983). Along with the adaptations for mobility in water all otters have a special kind of fur that is specialized for aquatic living and diving. They have a soft layer of underfur that traps air and provides insulation and keeps the animal warm while diving underwater. The underlayer is protected by glossy and stiff guard hairs that create a nearly waterproof shield. These layers of fur are very useful and effective but require frequent grooming in order to maintain its waterproof qualities (Melquist and Hornocker. 1983).


 Lontra provocax is a carnivorous mammal that is considered a top predator in its environment (Vianna 2011). Like all carnivore, Lontra provocax have longer sharp carnissal teeth on both the upper and lower sets of teeth. These sharp teeth are used for crushing objects and tearing flesh, while their molars have large hard surface ideal for crushing mollusk shells which are the otter’s main source of food (Schröpfer and Parzefall. 2007).






 Lontra provocax skull: note large canine teeth.

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Melquist W. E.  and M. G Hornocker 1983. Ecology of River Otters in west central Idaho. Wildlife Monographs 83: 3-60.

J.A Vianna, G. Medina-Vogel, C. Chehébar, W. Sielfeld, C. Olavarría, S. Faugeron. 2011. Phylogeography of the Patagonian otter Lontra provocax: adaptive divergence to marine habitat or signature of southern glacial refugia?  BMC Evolutionary Biology, 11:53. Accepted 28 February 2011.

Schröpfer R. and J. Parzefall. 2007. Ecology and behaviour of the Southern River Otter Lontra provocax. PhD dissertation. University of Osnabrück, Osnabrück, Germany. 255 pp.


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