Classification of the Hairy-Nosed Otter

Confused Beginnings

Cladistics of Lutra sumatrana showing its close relationship to Lutra lutraAccording to Harris, 1968, the species was probably first described from Sumatra by Raffles in 1922 who called it Barang.  Cantor described  two species in 1846: Lutra barang in Malaysia and L. leptonyx in Sumatra, but the name L. leptonyx was later taken to only refer to A. cinereus.  The definitive description was made by Gray, in 1865, rolling the Malaysian, Sumatran and Bornean animals together and calling it Barangia sumatrana.  Pohle in 1920 redescribed this animal again as two species, L. lovii and L. brunnea, but Pocock in 1941 considered these to be two subspecies of L. sumatrana L. s. lovii and a smaller Bornean subspecies,  L. s. brunea.

Species or Race of Lutra lutra?

For a while, there was debate based on physical measurements as to whether L. sumatrana was not actually a species, but a subspecies of the Eurasian Otter, although this was further complicated by the suspicion that the subspecies of Lutra lutra inhabiting the same range was itself a new species, Lutra barang (van Bree, 1998).

Fortunately, DNA work has untangled this web, and established that Lutra sumatrana is a true species - Bininda-Emonds, Gittleman and Purvis (1999) give it as a recent divergence from Lutra lutra and their results have been reinforced by workers using different markers (Koepfli et al, 2008)

The importance of this is that conservation of subspecies is less important than conservation of species – if the hairy-nosed otter had been a regional variation of the common Lutra lutra, there would be less urgency in ensuring its survival.

Other Names for the Hairy-Nosed Otter

French: Loutre De Sumatra
Spanish: Nutria De Sumatra
English: Moustachioed
Otter Malay: Berang-Berang Berkumis, Memerang Kumis, Anjing Ayer
Cambodian: Pae Rohmchrawmos
Than (Kalimantan): Ringin
Sarawak: Memerang
Thai: Nak Chamukkon

Hairy-Nosed Otter