Why do otters juggle?

Why do otters juggle? It sounds like the opening to a joke, but many otters are frequently seen shifting pebbles back and forth between their hands, an activity referred to by scientists as "juggling." While animal behaviorists have thought that the juggling is a way for the animals to practice pulling meat from crustaceans and mollusks, a task that requires fine motor skills and coordination. However, researcher Mari-Lisa Allison and colleagues from the University of Exeter found that otters who frequently juggled didn't exhibit any better food-picking skills. Turns out they're probably just doing it because it's fun. From Science News:

The possible disconnect between play and real-life skills doesn’t startle Gordon Burghardt of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Over decades, he has analyzed play behavior, refining definitions and even reporting play in such unexpected animals as a turtle romping with a basketball in a zoo. The thinking about the evolution of play has by now expanded beyond simple notions of the benefits of instinctive practice, he says[...]

Otters that juggle may be doing so “for pleasure, out of boredom, or both,” he says.

"The drivers and functions of rock juggling in otters" (Royal Society Open Science) Read the rest

'Otter Destruction,' funny little real life doodle

This is good. Read the rest

Drawing things in the nape of a sleeping otter's belly fur

Otter Wolrd (sic) has dozens of videos featuring otters doing cute ottery things, but the one embedded here shows a man drawing things in a sleeping otter's furry belly. [via Metafilter] Read the rest

Adorable otters seem OK with unsettling otter spycam

If otters experience the uncanny valley, this otter-like spycam seems just enough like an otter for them to accept, but not enough like an otter for them to consider a threat. Read the rest

Otters Who Look Like Benedict Cumberbatch

Link. (Red Scharlach Points At Interesting Things, via Andrea James) Read the rest

RIP Toola, world's most influential otter

I had never heard about Toola the Sea Otter before today, but I'm not going to pass up an opportunity for a headline like this. Also, her story turns out to be incredibly inspiring. Seriously, this otter was a bit of human-interpretable speech away from being a guest on Oprah.

That's because Toola was a foster mother. THE foster mother, really, at least as far as the otter world goes. She was the first otter, living in captivity, to serve as a foster for orphaned baby otters. Along the way, she helped change the way aquariums all over the world approach the rehabilitation of injured otters, and how those otters are reintroduced to the wild.

NPR is calling Toola an "otter pioneer". You can read the full obituary on that site.

Via Brian Switek

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