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Keywords:

  • marine otter;
  • Lutra felina;
  • feeding ecology;
  • seasonal variations;
  • opportunistic predator

Abstract

The marine otter (Lutra felina) lives exclusively along exposed rocky shorelines on the South American Pacific coast from Peru (6°S), to Cape Horn, Chile (56°S), and Isla de los Estados, Argentina. L. felina diet and its relationship to prey availability and energy content was assessed by spraint and prey remains analysis, direct observation, and the use of crab pots and fish traps, at four sites on the Valdivian coast in the south of Chile, between June 1999 and June 2000. Based on spraints analysis, the diet was composed of 25 species; 52% (13/25) of the species identified were crustaceans, 40% (10/25) were fish, and 8% (2/25) were mollusks. Crustaceans were found in 78% of 475 spraints, 100% of 929 prey remains, and 90.8% of prey determined by direct observation, fish in 20% of spraints and 9.0% of prey determined by direct observation, and mollusks in 2% of spraints and 0.2% of prey determined by direct observation. Observed seasonal variation in prey availability was reflected in the otter diet. Fourteen prey species were trapped; 43% (6/14) were crustaceans and 57% (8/14) fish, crustaceans were 93% of 566 trapped individuals, fish 7%. L. felina showed opportunistic feeding behavior, selecting prey seasonally according to their availability rather than to their energy input.