Classification of the Marine Otter

It has always been recognised that the North American River Otter, Neotropical Otter, Southern River Otter and Marine Otter were closely related - the main mystery has been the relationship of these species to the Old World Otters. On the whole, like the others, the Marine Otter had been assigned to Lutra.

According to Harris (1968), the species was first described as Mustela felina by Mollina in 1782, but was assigned to Lutra chilensis by Bennett (1832) before becoming L. californica (Grey, 1837), L. peruviensis (Gervais, 1841), L. cinerea (Thomas, 1908) and L. peruensis (Pohle, 1920) before settling down as Lutra felina.

Some authorities suspected that all the New World otters formed but one species, with a variety of subspecies; this idea is particularly attractive when we consider Harris's 8 species plus 27 subspecies of New World Otters in 1968 where today we would only recognise 4 species!

Classification, from Koepfli & Wayne 1998 Then the work of Koepfli & Wayne (1998) made it clear that this is a Lontra otter, the latest of them to specialise.

So the Marine Otter is now Lontra felina.

Unfortunately, no specimen of the Southern River Otter, Lontra provocax, was available to these researchers, but it seems very likely that it also forms part of this clade. The evidence seems to indicate that the New World Lontra otters speciated as they spread into South America when the Panama Land Bridge was established. The Marine Otter probably developed from the Southern River Otter, perhaps as increasing aridity isolated populations using the coastal environment from those inland.

Other Names for the Marine Otter

Spanish: Chinchimén, Chingungo, Chungungo, Gato del Mar, Gato Marino, Gatuna, Huallaque, Lobito Marino, Nutria de Magellanes, Nutria de Mar, Nutria Gatuna.
English: Chilean Sea Otter, Marine Otter, Patagonian Otter, Sea Cat, South American Sea Otter.
German: Chilenischer Otter, Kustenotter, Meerotter.
French: Loutre féline, Loutre marine.
Italian: Lontra felina.
Dutch: Zeekat.
Swedish: Havsutter, Krabutter, Marin Utter, Sydamerikansk Havsutter.
Fur Trade: South American Otter.

Marine Otter