Classification of the Spotted-Necked Otter

'Primitive' or 'Advanced'?

Over the years, many workers considered this otter the most primitive of the extant otter species. J.A. Davis, in Otters: Proceedings of the First Working Meeting of the Otter Specialist Group (1977), considered that although in general plan, this otter was like the other members of Lutra, but "it's head is almost more Marten-like than otter-like, with weaker vibrissae and a less fleshy muzzle".

Following the account in Harris (1968), the animal was first described by Lichtenstein (1835) as Lutra maculicollis. In succeeding years, however, the species was renamed several times: Lutra grayi (1857), Lutra grayii (1862), Hydrogale maculicollis (1865), Lutra concolor or Lutra matschiei (1902), Lutra tenuis (1920) and in 1927, Hydrictis maculicollis, which name it retained for many years despite attempts to rename it Maculicollis poenis in 1956 and Lutra maculicauda in 1964.

Classification, from Koepfli & Wayne 1998 Then the work of Koepfli & Wayne (1998) made it clear that this species really is a lutrine otter, though one of the earliest to specialise.

So the earliest name has been restored, and the Spotted-Necked Otter is once more Lutra maculicollis.

However, in 2015, the SSC have decided to revert to Hydrictis on, what are to me, spurious grounds (morphological studies claim Hydrictis and "only" the genetic work indicates Lutra).  I am sticking with Koepfli & Wayne (1998) as theirs is the most recent genetic work, so I retain Lutra as the genus name.  Hopefully in time the scientists will prevail over the conservation suits.

Some of the confusion arose because of the highly variable colour and markings of this otter, plus variations in tooth size. Six subspecies have been described at various times, but according to some of the papers referenced on the CITES website, it is now felt that theses are merely regional variations, tooth size being largest on the outer fringe of the range, and smaller toward the centre, in a continuous gradation.

Other Names for the Spotted-Necked Otter

Tsarana: Lenyebi.
Kis: Fisi maji.
Afrikaans: Kleinotter.
Spanish: Nutria de cuello machado, Nutria de Cuello Moteado.
English: Speckled-Necked Otter.
German: Fleckenhalsotter.
French: Loutre cou tachet, loutre collier.
Italian: Lontra dal collo macchiato.
Dutch: Gestippelde Nekotter.
Swedish: Flckhalsad utter, flckhalsutter, flckstrupig utter.
Czech: vydra skvrnit
Fur Trade: Congo otter, Rhodesian Otter.

Spotted-Necked Otter