Catch of the day! Sea otter is pictured with a SHARK in its grasp for the first time – but was she playing with the three-foot fish or planning her next big meal?
- A sea otter was spotted holding a horn shark in its hands above the surface
- The images were snapped inside California’s Morro Bay last week
- Officials are not sure of the otter’s intentions with the shark
- But they suggest the otter may have brought the shark up out of curiosity
- Otters typically feed on smaller vertebrates like starfish and sea urchins
- Sharks are predators of sea otters and contribute to their population decline
Beachgoers in California were astonished by the sight of a sea otter surfacing with a three-foot long horn shark in its grasp.
The furry marine mammals are known to bring bottom-dwelling sea life above water to feed or just out of curiosity.
However, sea otters dine of a variety of invertebrates, including sea urchins, crabs and starfish – sharks have never been confirmed to be on the menu.
Although the sea otter’s intentions are unclear, Sea Otter Savvy, which shared the images on Twitter, said ‘While some nibbling may have occurred, the prey was not consumed.’
The puzzling scene was captured inside California’s Morro Bay and is the first documentation of a southern sea otter catching a horn shark, For The Win Outdoors reports.
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Beachgoers in California were astonished by the sight of a sea otter surfacing with a three-foot long horn shark in its grasp. The furry marine mammals are known to bring bottom-dwelling sea life above water to feed or just out of curiosity
Michael D. Harris of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife told For The Win: ‘To my knowledge (and a group of colleagues), this is the first documented horn shark capture by a sea otter.’
‘There are reports of sea otters capturing skates and rays, but this is the first report of a shark. Sea otters will feed on fish, but it’s a very rare observation in California.’
The ‘jaw-dropping’ images, captured by onlookers Don Henderson and Alice Cahill, show the otter cradling the shark on its chest, with its paws wrapped around the fish.
In another picture, the otter appears to be ‘kissing’ the shark and in a third, the pair are nose-to-nose.
The puzzling scene was captured inside California’s Morro Bay and is the first documentation of a southern sea otter catching a horn shark. In this picture, the otter appears to be ‘kissing’ the shark
One Twitter user joked in the comments of the post: ‘They are star-crossed lovers, and no reality can convince me otherwise.’
Harris said they are not sure the outcome of the creatures, as the disappeared under the water shortly after the images were taken – but was able to determine that the otter was an adult female.
There are no records confirming otters feast on sharks, but many show the other way around.
A study in 2015 revealed great white sharks are developing a taste for the furry creatures that call the coast of California home.
The development was a puzzling because sharks had not usually eat the small furry mammals, but have long preferred the fattier flesh of seals.
Biologists said more than 50 percent of dead otters that washed up on California’s coastline have the marks of great white shark bites.
A report from last year echoes the previous study, saying the otter population is at 2,962 – 166 fewer than in 2018, reports The Fresno Bee.
One Twitter user joked in the comments of the post: ‘They are star-crossed lovers, and no reality can convince me otherwise’
Harris also commented on the recent drop in population, saying the number one cause of death was great white shark bites.
He estimates that 450 otters was up on shore due to sickness, death or injury each year and about half of the animals have shark bites somewhere on their body.
However, Harris notes that the bite does not typically kill the otter immediately.
‘Sometimes the ultimate cause of death is bacterial infection from the wounds,’ he said.