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Otters by Michelle and Josue

We're animal lovers who are always on the lookout to learn more about our furry friends. We went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium to visit some of the otters and after some observation, we wondered if captive otters behave differently from wild ones. Our question: Do otters groom more in captivity or in the wilderness?

What did we do?
We observed six kinds of otter behavior: feeding, resting, diving, traveling, grooming and playing. At three different times of day, we watched the aquarium otters and made a record of their behaviors. The next day, we traveled into Monterey Bay and observed wild otters, looking for the six behaviors. We gathered up all our data, made some pie charts and compared the captive otters to the wild otters.

What did we find out?
We found that the captive otters groomed about 35% of the time we were watching. On the other hand, the wild otters spent about 18% of their time grooming. We concluded that the captive otters have more time to spend grooming because they don't have to travel and hunt for their food. The wild otters have to take care of themselves and have less time to groom.

What can you do?
  • What are your favorite zoo animals? Go to your local zoo and record the kinds of behaviors you see.
  • Look at the fish in your fish tank. Do your fish have a "favorite" part of the tank? Some fish might spend most of their time hiding in plants, while others rummage around the bottom looking for food.
  • Use this zoo investigation as a science fair project idea for your elementary or middle school science fair! Then tell us about it!
more resources
More on Animal Behavior

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