Sea otters are smart little fellows, and a recent study published in the Scientific Reports reveals some interesting facts about these animals. It is already known that otters use tools such as rocks in order to break open shells. As it turns out, sea otters also keep records with the markings left by the stones.
“The shell breakage patterns provide a novel way to distinguish mussels broken by sea otter pounding on emergent anvils from those broken by humans or other animals,” study author Natalie Uomini of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History said in a statement. “For archaeologists who excavate past human behavior, it is crucial to be able to distinguish the evidence of sea otter food consumption from that of humans.”
Sea otters tend to use stationary stone anvils to open mussels, and it appears to be one of their favorite tools. In fact, scientists believe that they could track otters using this clue.
Sea otters use tools to eat, helping scientists keep track of them
“Our study suggests that stationary anvil use can be detected in locations previously inhabited by sea otters. This information could help to document past sea otter presence and diet in locations where they are currently extirpated,” study author Jessica Fujii of the Monterey Bay Aquarium said in a statement.
The peculiar behavior of sea otters is incredibly rare in the animal world, and researchers hope they can understand it better in the future. Nonetheless, the fact that otters use tools to eat helps scientists shed more light on these creature’s life and keep track of them.
“The recovery of past animal behavioral traces helps us to understand the evolution of behaviors like stone anvil use, which is rare in the animal kingdom and is extremely rare in marine animals. We hope that this study establishes a new path for the growing field of animal archaeology,” the researchers added.