Enhydra lutris—Sea Otter // Ferinestrix—Voracious Flesh-eater // Lontra canadensis—North American River Otter // Mustela—Weasels and Ferrets // Neovison vison—American Mink // Satherium—Extinct Otters // Taxidea taxus—American Badger // Trigonictis—Grisons
The mustelids form a diverse family whose members are highly carnivorous. There are several different lines of adaptation. Our region has three of these.
The otters are semi-aquatic, entirely at home in water where fish and aquatic invertebrates form the main diet. The Sea Otter occurs in the coastal areas, but inland, there are a limited number of records of otter in historic times. Re-introductions into New Mexico are currently occurring.
The weasels, including ferrets, are terrestrial animals adapted for going into burrows after prey. As such, they are short-legged and long-bodied, allowing these animals of relatively high body mass to enter burrows of relatively small diameter. They also have the reputation of viciousness out of proportion to their size.
The third line of adaptation is for digging out burrows rather than going in after the prey. The American Badger is our representative. Unlike the slimly built weasels, the body, and especially the forelimbs, are massive.
Both the weasels and the badger are well represented as fossils in our region.
Sangamon: Costa Mesa Santa Isabel (Jefferson 2014); U.S. Veterans Hospital, Long Beach (Jefferson 2014: as Enhydra sp.); San Pedro Lumber Co. (Jefferson 1991b).
Mid/Late Wisconsin: San Miguel Island (Guthrie 1998).
Guthrie 1998; Jefferson 1991b, 2014.
This seems to be a larger version of the Wolverine (Gulo), both an active hunter and a feeder on carrion (Kurtén and Anderson 1980).
Late Blancan: 111 Ranch (Morgan and White 2005: ?).
Kurtén and Anderson 1980; Morgan and White 2005.
River otters are limited to permanent streams that support a healthy aquatic fauna. Historically, they apparently were limited to the upper Rio Grande, Canadian, and Gila drainages in New Mexico (Findley et al. 1975). In Arizona, they occurred in the Gila and Colorado rivers and their major tributaries (Cockrum 1960). The occurrences in the fossil record of our region are from within the historic range.
Late Wisconsin/Holocene: SAM Cave (Rogers et al. 2000); Stanton's Cave (Olsen and Olsen 1984).
Cockrum 1960; Olsen and Olsen 1984; Rogers et al. 2000.
Last Update: 8 May 2015