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Is There a Practical Reason Why Sea Otters Hold Hands?

You may know that sea otters hold hands when they’re floating on their backs asleep in the water, but do you know why? This behavior is known as “rafting,” and there are several reasons for it – though being adorable isn't one of them.

The main reason for rafting is to hold onto each other to remain stationary and prevent themselves from drifting away from the rest of the group. Sea otters try to sleep in calm waters, but after a heavy rain, a river can move quickly and carry them downstream. Otters are also known to wrap themselves in kelp to avoid drifting apart.

There are other reasons for holding hands. A male otter may hold hands with a female to let others know she's taken. Otters also hold onto one another to protect themselves from predators and hunters

Cute and clever sea otters:

  • Kelp grows from the seafloor up to the surface. By wrapping themselves in long kelp strands, the otters can remain anchored and sleep without fear of floating out to the open ocean.

  • Holding hands while sleeping is difficult for young otters, so they ride atop their mothers. When the female parent goes hunting, they wrap the pups in kelp.

  • Sea otters spend a lot of time grooming themselves. They clean their fur by untangling knots, removing loose hair, and rubbing their coat to squeeze out excess water. Their coats help them stay afloat in the water.

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    • Sea otters hold hands in the water to prevent themselves from drifting apart, a behavior known as "rafting."
      By: Wolfram Burner
      Sea otters hold hands in the water to prevent themselves from drifting apart, a behavior known as "rafting."