Otters help their elderly (sometimes)


The Human. Nature. blog had a neat story about Giant Peruvian Otters offering help to elderly members of the otter community.

Giant otters, like wolves, live in groups with one breeding pair. The dominant female in this group was Cacao. She lived long and had many offspring. She was the top fish catcher and the leader of the hunt. Until she got old. In 2007, the researcher noted, Cacao appeared to be losing her eyesight, and her mobility was suffering. She wasn't catching big fish anymore.

On many occasions, Cacao wasn't able to catch enough to feed herself, and she would go to another otter and beg. She'd make a modest call — a fraction of the ruckus that a begging juvenile makes — and squint her eyes. And one time in four, the other adult would give her food.

Why does this matter, besides, of course, the obvious cuteness factor? Writer Hannah Holmes says it's an example of animals doing something that was once thought to be a behavior exclusive to humans—namely, caring for individuals who are no longer productive members of the group. Otters take care of their grandmas. At least, you know, 1/4th of the time.

Image courtesy Flickr user pierre pouliquin,via CC.