Otter Evolution and Ancestors
There is scientific evidence to suggest Otters have been on Earth for the past 23 million years. It is speculated that the Otter as we know it today may have evolved significantly about 7 million years ago.
In order for them to survive all of this time, Otters have gone through many adaptations. Some of them are specific only to a given species while others occurred regarding all Otters. The ability to be able to move both on land and water is one of them for all expect the Sea Otter. The rest of them have webbed feet that help them in the water. Yet they also have five toes on each foot that help them to move around easily on land as well.
The theory that is most often supported is that these early Otters were once land animals only. They ended up being in the water to get away from predators and to survive what was going on around them. Many experts believe that food sources became limited on land so they started hunting more in the water to survive. The coat that they now have was a way of adapting to the cold temperatures in these waters.
Many wonder though why they Otter didn’t evolve into a complete water animal like so many others did. It is believed that they were able to be versatile enough for both land and water due to their small size and the overall structure of their bodies. What likely happened is that they spend more and more time in the water due to the need to hunt for food several hours each day. However, they also returned to land at night to get rest in their dens.
From then other elements of their anatomy evolved as well to help them survive both on land and in the water. This includes their lung capacity, flippers, and even the ease of giving birth in the water for the females. As their lungs improved they also were able to start diving for food instead of simply foraging for it on the surface of the water.
The future of evolution and how it pertains to the Otter though remains to be seen. These animals are well known for their ability to adapt to a variety of situations. However, humans are no more in control of their natural habitat than they were in the past. This is a factor that may be too large for evolution alone to be able to overcome.
The complete evolution process for Otters is still full of mystery. While we do have some great evidence to base the information on, many of the final pieces to the puzzle are missing. As researchers find more information and as they develop new tools to evaluate them we will have more information to work with.
There doesn’t seem to be as much controversy relating to the evolution process for otters though as there has been in the past with other types of animals. This is because more fossils have been found due to them also being land creatures. It is harder when they are simply water animals because the only remains would be found at the bottom of the water.
The evolution process for the Otter is exciting, but we have some more pressing issues to deal with. Conservation efforts consume the time and the funding that is out there in most instances. That means that studying evolution of these fascinating creatures has to take a back seat for right now.