Sea Otter Fur

Published: 10.25.2019
Level 5   |   Time: 3:23
Accent: American
Source: YouTube

Sea otter fur is unique for many reasons.


triangle Directions

  1. REVIEW the vocabulary / background.
  2. WATCH the video.
  3. ANSWER the questions.
  4. CHECK your answers. (Show Answers)

triangle Vocabulary

  • a coast [n] - land next to the ocean
  • a wetsuit [n] - clothing that is used by surfers & divers to keep their body warm in cold water
  • hypothermia [n] - a medical emergency caused by a very low body temperature.
  • 100 degrees Fahrenheit [exp] - 38 degrees Celsius
  • mammals [n] - a class of animals that includes humans, dogs, elephants and whales
  • a newcomer [n] - someone who has recently arrived
  • waded [v] - walked through the water
  • mere [adj] - not a lot
  • blubber [n] - the fat of sea mammals, especially whales and seals
  • an ace in the hole [exp] - a big advantage
  • hunted to extinction [exp] - killed until no more exist in the world
  • a down comforter [n] - a warm blanket (made from bird feathers)
  • glossy [adj] - shiny
  • tumble [v] - fall while turning or spinning
  • bob [v] - float in water moving up and down
  • fluffiness [n] - light in texture and containing air
  • buoyant [adj] - able to float
  • shed [v] - lose hair
  • pup fur [v] - the soft hair of a baby animal
  • comes at a price [exp] - has negative consequences
  • groom [v] - touch and clean the fur
  • insulating [adj] - protect something from heat loss
  • scaly [adj] - covered in scales (overlapping plates)
  • mat [v] - (hair) that come together in a thick mass
  • a hair shaft [n] - the long part of a piece of hair
  • a barb [n] - a sharp point near the end of something

[n] - noun,  [v] - verb,  [phv] - phrasal verb,  [adj] - adjective,  [exp] - expression

triangle Questions

  1. How does she describe the coast of Northern California?

  2. What would lead people to hypothermia?
    Swimming in that water.
    Walking along that coast.
    Not having enough fur.

  3. What is the difference in temperature between the otter and the water?
    2° F
    15° F
    50° F

  4. Which mammal has been in the ocean the longest?
    Sea otters
    Sea lions

  5. What disadvantages do sea otter have for maintaining body heat (staying warm)?
    They stay in the water too long.
    They don't have blubber.
    Their fur is very thick.
    They are small.

  6. How do sea otters maintain their body temperature?

  7. Why did sea otter fur almost cause their extinction?
    It was too thick.
    It carried a lot of bacteria.
    People wanted to use it for clothing.

  8. How does sea otter fur keep a sea otter warm?
    It creates heat.
    It traps air.
    It melts ice.

  9. What is unique about baby sea otter fur?
    It traps so much air.
    It creates extra heat.
    It doesn't have scales.

  10. How does a sea otter put more air into its fur?
    It uses a pump.
    It grooms itself.
    It dives underwater.

  11. Why is sea otter fur able to matt (stick) together?
    It has barbs.
    It is thick.
    It is waterproof.

  12. What is different about coyote fur?
    It doesn't have barbs.
    It is not glossy.
    It feels smooth.

  13. What are some of the features of sea ottter fur?
    It is glossy.
    It is smooth.
    It is waterproof.
    It has two layers.
    It falls out easily.
    It is useful to make clothing.

triangle Script

Here’s one word to describe the Northern California coast: COLD.
If you or I were in those waves without a wetsuit right now, we’d get hypothermia in minutes.
But sea otters have figured out how to survive here.
Which is amazing, especially when you consider that this little guy has to maintain an internal body temperature around 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Sure, whales do it. Sea lions do it. But those mammals have had tens of millions of years to adapt to life in the ocean.
Evolutionarily speaking, sea otters are newcomers... land animals that waded into the ocean a mere couple of million years ago.
Unlike other ocean mammals, they have no blubber.
And they’re small, meaning they are constantly losing heat.
Their ace in the hole-- is fur.
Sea otters have the thickest fur on the planet. Up to a million hairs per square inch.
It’s what keeps them alive.
It also almost killed them -- back around the 19th century sea otters were hunted nearly to extinction to make hats and coats.
But it’s not really the fur, per se, that keeps the otter warm. It’s air.
Fur works by trapping air near the skin’s surface, like a down comforter.
Sea otter fur is so dense it’s basically waterproof. You can see how dry it is close to the skin.
That layer of air gives the otter’s fur a glossy look as it tumbles through the water.
Baby sea otters? Their fur traps so much air that they bob at the surface -- their fluffiness makes them buoyant. That is, until they shed the pup fur and learn to dive.
This excellent insulation comes at a price.
Every time a sea otter dives, some of the air in their fur gets forced out -- see those bubbles? And so the otter has to groom himself all over again, to pump more air in.
Let’s take a closer look at this fur.
As you can see, sea otter fur is actually made up of two kinds of hair: under fur, the insulating part, and those longer, protective guard hairs.
Under a microscope, you can see how the individual hairs are scaly and rough.
That roughness is important.
Those barbs on the hair shafts let the fur mat together.
That’s what traps the air in.
For comparison - here’s a coyote. Coyotes, of course, don’t live in the freezing ocean, and their hairs don’t have the barbs.
Their fur keeps them warm on land, but they wouldn’t stay dry in the ocean.
In a lot of ways, otters have more in common with land animals.
But many years ago, otters took an evolutionary leap into these icy waters.
And today they’re making it work.

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