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Human Impacts on Seals, Sea Lions, and Sea OttersIntegrating Archaeology and Ecology in the Northeast Pacific$
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Todd Braje

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780520267268

Published to California Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520267268.001.0001

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Toward a Prehistory of the Southern Sea Otter (Enhydro lutris nereis)

Toward a Prehistory of the Southern Sea Otter (Enhydro lutris nereis)

(p.243) 11 Toward a Prehistory of the Southern Sea Otter (Enhydro lutris nereis)
Human Impacts on Seals, Sea Lions, and Sea Otters

Terry L. Jones

Brendan J. Culleton

Shawn Larson

Sarah Mellinger

Judith F. Porcasi

University of California Press

The southern sea otter (Enhydra lutris nereis) is one of the mostly widely recognized and highly cherished marine mammals on the coast of California. Numerous studies have elucidated their basic biology, behavior, and ecology. The prehistory of sea otters, however, is much less well understood and has been the subject of longstanding speculation by fishermen, biologists, and California Fish and Game representatives. This chapter examines the prehistory of sea otters in the central California coast, focusing on the ecological relationships between key predators and their prey. First, it summarizes some of the important traits of the sea otter with respect to its suitability as a prey item. It then analyzes the spatial and temporal distribution of archaeological otter remains with particular regard to diachronic variability. Finally, it presents the results of two specialized studies on otter remains: DNA analysis that reveals the sex of the otters exploited by Native Californians, and isotope analysis that provides insights into their diet.

Keywords:   California, sea otters, Enhydra lutris nereis, biology, prehistory, ecology, predators, prey, sex, diet

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