Did You Know That Sea Otters Use Tools to Open Shells in Order to Protect Their Teeth?

Sea otter
Photo by Mana5280 on Unsplash

Sea otters have been observed using various tools, ranging from stones to human trash, in order to open clams, mussels, crabs, and other prey with hard shells. A recent study published in Science Journal sheds more light on this intriguing behavior.

A research team from the University of Texas at Austin recently observed 196 sea otters off the coast of California in order to get a better understanding of their use of tools.  The research found that these sea creatures were forced to obtain these skills in order to adapt to their changing environment and also to protect their teeth. 

Abalone and sea urchins are the favorite food of sea otters, but due to habitat changes and overfishing, they can’t find them enough to meet their daily food requirements. This prompted the sea otters to turn to alternative prey and find efficient ways to catch them and consume them. The study also found that female sea otters are more prone to using tools to open hard-shelled prey.

“If they just use their teeth, chances are they either won’t be able to open them, or they’ll just destroy their teeth,” said Chris Law, one of the study authors, via Science.

Law shared a remarkable video on X (former Twitter), which shows a sea otter swimming on his back and using a stone to crack open a shell.