Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

With webbed feet making trips onto land somewhat awkward, the spot-necked otter, unlike the clawless otters, rarely ventures more than ten metres from water (2) (6). Instead, most of the daytime, when this otter is most active, is spent in shallow waters where fish are abundant. Fish comprise the bulk of the spot-necked otters' prey, with species of cichlid, barbel and catfish being particular favourites. Other prey such as crabs, frogs and insects are only important when fish are scarce, except in South Africa where these groups form a much more significant component of its diet (2). Although spot-necked otters sometimes form large groups of up to 20, individuals normally hunt for food alone (2) (5) (6). Whilst hunting, this otter performs short, agile dives from the surface, twisting and turning energetically to catch prey with its mouth, which is then eaten in the water or taken to the shore (2). The spot-necked otter is not territorial, but like other otter species it tends to urinate and defecate in a regular place, such as a rock just above the waters' surface. During the night, when this species is largely inactive, it will take shelter in concealed places such as dense vegetation, rock cavities or dens dug into the shore bank (2). Breeding takes place at different times of the year across the spot-necked otters' range, with between one and three cubs born after a gestation period of around three months (2) (3). The young are born blind and remain with their mother, who provides all the parental care, for up to a year (2)
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Description

The spot-necked otter owes its name to the mottled blotches of creamy-white markings typically visible on its neck and chest (2) (5). Dense, water-repellent fur, ranging in colour from chocolate to reddish brown, covers its long, sinuous body (2) (5) (6). More aquatic than other African otters, this species has fully webbed paws with sharp, well-developed claws. Its short, broad muzzle conceals relatively small teeth, adapted for catching fish rather than the hardy crustaceans favoured by the clawless otters (Aonyx sp.) (2) (5). The long, fully-haired tail tapers to a point and is horizontally flattened (3) (5).
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Distribution

Range Description

The Spotted-necked Otter ranges from Guinea Bissau, the most westerly recorded range limit (Reuther et al. 2003), eastwards to south-west Ethiopia, and then southwards, in the west, to the northern border of Namibia, north-west Botswana and north-west Zimbabwe, and in the east, through west Kenya and Tanzania, Malawi, part of Mozambique, to eastern South Africa (Rowe-Rowe and Somers 1998; d'Inzillo Carranza and Rowe-Rowe in press). They are absent from Swaziland, and apparently locally extinct in Burundi, Ghana, Togo, and Lesotho (although they may never have occurred in this country) (d'Inzillo Carranza and Rowe-Rowe in press). The distribution of the species in West Africa, and possible presence on Bioko Island, is discussed by d'Inzillo Carranza and Rowe-Rowe (in press).
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Geographic Range

Hydrictis maculicollis (spotted-necked otter) is found in central Africa south of 10 degrees N latitude. They are abundant in both Lake Victoria and the Lakes Tangangyika, and also may be found in the moister parts of sub-Saharan Africa. They are not found in the far west, southwest, northeast, or east regions of Africa.

Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Native )

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Range

The spot-necked otter has a sub-Saharan distribution stretching from Guinea Bissau in the west to south-west Ethiopia in the east, and southwards as far as eastern South Africa (1). Although present in most countries within this large geographic area, it is notably absent from large parts of Southern Africa (1) (5).
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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

The spotted-necked otter can be recognized by the brown and white spotting on the throat and underside. The rest of the body color ranges from a reddish brown to a chocolate brown. These otters are sleek and slender. They are characterized by strongly webbed toes (with the webbing going all the way to the tips of the digits), well developed claws, and long tails. Their length ranges from 85-105 cm. Sexual dimorphism is prevalent; females are shorter, lighter, and less muscular than males.

Range mass: 0 to 0 kg.

Average mass: 4 kg.

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
The Spotted-necked Otter inhabits freshwater habitats where water is unsilted, unpolluted, and rich in small fishes (d'Inzillo Carranza and Rowe-Rowe in press). While common in the great lakes of central and East Africa, they are also found in streams, rivers and impoundments up to altitudes of 2,500 m (Yalden et al. 1996). Adequate riparian vegetation in the form of long grass, reeds, or bushes is essential to provide cover during periods of inactivity. Unlike African Clawless Otter, they do not occur in marine or estuarine waters.

Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Freshwater
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These otters are aquatic and require permanent and continuous waterways. They prefer clear water with rocks. They are found in lakes, swamps, rivers, and may be found in mountain streams at higher elevations. They are absent in turbid rivers and shallow alkaline lakes. They live in dens, which are found near these sources of water.

Aquatic Biomes: lakes and ponds; rivers and streams

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Permanent sources of unpolluted freshwater with high densities of fish are necessary to support spot-necked otters. Areas of open water such as large lakes, rivers and swamps are preferred and dense marginal vegetation such as reeds, grass and bushes is important for cover (1) (5).
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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

The preferential feeding time for this otter is either 2 to 3 hours before dusk or after dawn. They have, however, been known to feed at all times of the day. Their main food source is fish, although their diet includes both invertebrates and vertebrates. Frogs, crabs, molluscs, aquatic insects, and larvae are some of the items included in their diets.

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Life History and Behavior

Life Expectancy

Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 22.9 years (captivity) Observations: One captive specimen lived 22.9 years (Richard Weigl 2005).
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Reproduction

The spotted-necked otter is thought to breed seasonally. They have a two month gestation period and typically give birth to two to three cubs in September. The females do not begin reproducing until they have reached two years of age.

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Hydrictis maculicollis

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
Hoffmann, M.

Reviewer/s
Hussain, S.A. (Otter Red List Authority) and Hoffmann, M. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)

Contributor/s

Justification
Listed as Least Concern as the species is widespread, and although the population is believed to be declining across the range, the rate of decline is not believed to be sufficient to warrant listing in a threatened category.

History
  • 2004
    Least Concern
  • 2000
    Vulnerable
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The spotted-necked otters are in decline due to changes in their environment and human interference. One problem is the increased use of nylon fishing nets, in which the otters get tangled in and die. Erosion of soil near the source of the rivers is also a threat. Fish-farmers and fur-trappers are also playing a part in the decline of the spotted-necked otter.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: appendix ii

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Status

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1), and listed on Appendix II of CITES (4).
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Population

Population
Abundance and density appear to be dependent on the availability of fish; consequently, this species is common or fairly common in the fish-rich central African lakes, but generally uncommon or rare in the rest of Africa where fish faunas tend to be poor (Rowe-Rowe 1990, 1995; d'Inzillo Carranza and Rowe-Rowe in press). In an area that included a highland stream and man-made lakes in South Africa, Perrin et al. (2000) estimated 1 otter/1-2 km of stream, while in less suitable habitat Rowe-Rowe (1992) estimated 1 otter/6-11 km.

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Threats

Major Threats
The Spotted-necked Otter is decreasing throughout its range, mainly as a result of the alteration or degradation of freshwater habitats and riparian vegetation, exacerbated by the loss of habitat as a consequence of increased agricultural activity (Rowe-Rowe 1990, 1992, 1995). Bioaccumulation of organochlorines and other biocontaminants has been recorded in Spotted-necked Otters (Mason and Rowe-Rowe 1992).

Otters are also killed for food or skins, as a perceived threat to poultry, or as a competitor for fish (Rowe-Rowe 1990). Occasionally, they are accidentally caught and drowned in gill nets and fish traps (Stuart 1985; Rowe-Rowe 1990). Introduction of alien fish species that out-compete the smaller indigenous fish was identified as a main threat for the Lake Victoria population (Kruuk and Goudswaard 1990).
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Unfortunately, throughout its range the population of spot-necked otters is declining as a consequence of a broad range of human activities (1) (5). The foremost of these are pollution and general degradation of freshwater habitats associated with agriculture. In parts of its range the spot-necked otter is also persecuted for food and fur or even just because it is considered a competitor for fish (1) (2) (5). Furthermore, in large water bodies such as Lake Victoria, introduced alien fish may be out-competing the spot-necked otter for the smaller indigenous fish on which it depends (1) (5).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
The Spotted-necked Otter is present in a number of protected areas across its range.
It is listed on CITES Appendix II (as Hydrictis maculicollis).
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Conservation

Despite current concerns, the spot-necked otter still has a colossal range and the rate of population decline is not considered to be too severe. Furthermore, it is known to be present in a number of protected areas across its range. Consequently, this otter is currently listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List (1). Nonetheless, in order to prevent its conservation status from becoming more critical, existing legislation, which protects the spot-necked otter from exploitation, needs to be enforced and greater awareness needs to be fostered amongst local communities (5).
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

The otter's fur is highly prized, being used as a cure for eye and/or nose infections.

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Wikipedia

Spotted-necked Otter

The Spotted-necked Otter (Hydrictis maculicollis), or Speckle-throated Otter, is an otter native to sub-Saharan Africa. It is about a meter long and weighs about six kilograms. Like other otters it is sleek and has webbed paws for swimming. Its fur is deep brown and marked with light spots around its throat.

Contents

Distribution

Africa south of 10 degrees N. Spotted-necked Otters are found in lakes, larger rivers and common in Lake Victoria and across Zambia, but for some unexplained reason often absent from what appears to be suitable habitat such as the lakes and rivers of East Africa and the Zambezi below Victoria falls.[3] No evidence of Hydrictis maculicollis venturing into salt water.

Ecology

The Spotted-necked Otter hunts for fish and crustaceans in rivers and lakes. A visual hunter, it stays in clear water with good visibility. It is very vocal, uttering high, thin whistles. The female bears a litter of about three young in an underground burrow, and cares for them for almost a year.

Social organisation

The otters are sometimes found in family groups, but appears to be social only under certain conditions. Males and females are separated for at least part of the year. [4]

Predatory and feeding behavior

Spotted-necked Otters appear to hunt entirely by sight, capturing fish, snails and small crustations. Larger prey items are carried ashore while smaller items are eaten while treading water. They are known to use rocks to smash open shells. This rudimentary use of tools speaks volumes about the intelligence of the otter.

Vulnerability

The Spotted-necked Otter is in decline, mostly due to habitat destruction and pollution of its clear-water habitats. It is hunted as bushmeat.

References

  1. ^ Wozencraft, W. Christopher (16 November 2005). "Order Carnivora (pp. 532-628)". In Wilson, Don E., and Reeder, DeeAnn M., eds. Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2 vols. (2142 pp.). ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. http://www.bucknell.edu/msw3. 
  2. ^ Hoffmann M (2008). Lutra maculicollis. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 2008-10-13.
  3. ^ Richard Despard Estes (Ed.) (1992). The behavior guide to african mammals : Including Hoofed Mammals, Carnivores, Primates. University of California Press. pp. 437. ISBN 0-520-08085-8. 
  4. ^ Richard Despard Estes (Ed.) (1992). The behavior guide to african mammals : Including Hoofed Mammals, Carnivores, Primates. University of California Press. pp. 437. ISBN 0-520-08085-8. 
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