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Chungungo

Lontra felina

Description:

It is a small animal, weighing approximately three to five kilos, cataloged as the smallest and most diverse otter of the Lontra genus. It measures from head to tail approximately one meter in length, from head to anus measures approximately 550 mm. at 570 mm., its tail is 300 to 350 mm. it comes out of its wide body and it thins towards its end, all covered with hairs, with it leans to the rocks, allowing it in the water to steer and increase its underwater speed. The color of his body is dark brown at the top, degrading in lighter tones towards the ventral sector; it is appreciated differently when it is wet, when it is dry, its hair has a reddish brown coloration. It also has a medium hair which is thinner and fluffy, this has no contact with water, acting as an insulator, allowing it to maintain its temperature in the cold waters of the sea. Its legs with strong claws, allow you to grab the slippery rocks as well as immobilize and catch their prey, groom and cleanse their skin; the palm of its legs, is formed by black smooth leather calluses, covered on the back of hairs, have interdigital membranes, which allow an effective propulsion. Its front legs are smaller than the hind legs, which extended to swim, they push with speed in surface swimming. When its immersion booby starts, its legs stick to the structure of its fusiform body, propelling itself wave-like from head to tail, considerably increasing its speed. Its bony structure allows for contortions and surprising twists. Their front legs, are very skillful and prehensile, which supported by their strong teeth are able to tear their prey, even and in a usual way, do it swimming on their backs. It has on its face sensitive hairs of greater size and thickness (vibrizas) those that arise from his eyebrows, side of his nose and the lower back of the mouth, through which he perceives in the turbulence of the sea, dams or obstacles. His ears are small. Its nose is black with its holes designed to obstruct when submerged. Its mouth, capable of splitting a crab with its powerful teeth, but the curious thing is in the arrangement of its lower jaw, which when closing the bite, exposes its incisors in front of the upper jaw, giving it a tear up attended the position of legs and mouth. When it eats on a rock or on the chascones, it is common to see it stretch its neck to the sky and chew violently its prey. The other way of eating is floating on your back.

Habitat:

The intertidal belt of the South Pacific, of frequent swells, of large rocks, currents and breakers, constitutes its harsh habitat.

Notes:

Its diet is constituted basically by crustaceans, especially the moray crab, (Homalaspis plana), the panchote, (Talliepus dentatus) and rocky bottom fish; occasionally it captures benthic mollusks that live in the bottom. Our observations lean towards an essentially diurnal animal, without ruling out its obvious mobility in the dark. 60 to 70% of its permanence in water and rocks occupies it in feeding on its prey. It is a skilled predator, capturing large prey. They are born from one to four young, their gestation time is around eight to nine weeks, they keep their young, in dry burrows in rocky areas where there are cracks or caves that allow one or more accesses where they can hide essentially from man and dogs . Young pups stay with their parents for several months, up to about a year, during which time they are cared for and trained in hunting and survival techniques in their hostile environment. They transport their young with their muzzles, when they go to the water, they do it very close or on the back of their mother. During mating seasons, they follow and chase for long minutes between waters, algae and rocks, crossing each other continuously, emitting loud shrieks that can be heard from a distance. The Chungungos are very agile and restless animals, when they are in a group, they do not go to more than two to four individuals. Our observations on their activity to feed, they are inclined by a concept associated with the movements of the tides, the chungungo moves with some difficulty on land, being the aquatic environment where it shows its wonderful skills, swimming and diving, however it is remarkable its ease to move and climb over rocks or large cracks. When swimming at water level, only lets see his head and part of his back keeping his body submerged, which makes it difficult to observe especially when swimming in water without foam. It is remarkable its mimicry with the colors of the intertidal, between brown algae and rocks. When it searches for its prey, it digs in its head allowing the view of its hind quarter and its powerful tail, the immersion is brief, approximately 30 to 60 seconds going down several meters, some estimate up to 30 meters, our appreciation is never more than 15 to 20 meters deep, prospecting and checking rocks and cracks. When it eats, it does it on the rocks or "chascones" (Lessonia), it is common to see it floating on its back on swells steering with its tail and enjoying its captures. The Chungungos apply a very special technique to come from the water to the rocks, which we call "parachute", because it comes to the shore with a wave and when it is low, freeing the rocky edge, it extends its four legs and tail by clinging to comfort to algae or slippery rocks. It is common to see it clinging to the algae to maintain its position and not be displaced by currents. On or among the hidden rocks, he eats, sunbathes, plays, cleans, cleans his entire head and snout, dries his body by wave movements undulating, semi-seated or on his back, which are very funny. They are playful and very curious, (it is sure that if you are going to see them, they will have seen you first), in times of jealousy it usually has conflicts or very aggressive episodes, emitting loud shrieks of high decibels. It is common to see them on exposed rocky springs, difficult-to-access breakwaters, wharves or jetties with an ecosystem abundant in crustaceans and fish, floating algae and chascones. It is generally considered that where the otter lives, the area is free of pollution, being a true marker or indicator of the biodiversity of its environment. As we indicated, they preferably use rocky areas that are preferably cracked, where they establish canals and tunnels, some underwater communication to the sea, this is their last and precarious refuge. The continuous anthropogenic invasion of the coastal rim, the pollution, the depletion of the food resources, makes its survival more difficult every day - these rocky labyrinths allow a certain protection of their predators ... the man and the dogs ..., it is rare to be seen on sandy open beaches. While the illegal hunting of Chungungos continues in Chile, the design of the crab traps is not regulated, while dogs roam or circulate without control over the beaches, do not educate valuing the presence of this marine mammal and the rules of protection are of low punitive profile, as coercive, the last marine otters will be extinct in the coming decades. The playful nature of the sea otter has been observed with its congeners. It is estimated by some people that artisanal fishermen cause the death of this sea otter, as they think that it is a competitor on species of value to them. We believe that seafarers, do not consider it a competitor, accidentally produce their death, when they practice the technique of "lance" dragging it to the shore with this fishing gear, occasionally drowning this otter; no intention is noticed. The otter is cataloged "IN DANGER OF EXTINCTION" BY I.U.C.N. and by C.I.T.E.S in APPENDIX ONE, since the damage caused by pollution, anthropogenic pressure, habitat destruction and illegal hunting results in the shocking decrease in the population of this otter. The current population in Chile is estimated at seven hundred to a little over a thousand individuals. The top predator of the intertidal ecosystem, the flagged animal, of the coastal edge, of a delicate, unique and fragile biodiversity, is seriously threatened with extinction. DO NOT ALLOW THAT THE CHILDREN OF OUR CHILDREN COULD NOT KNOW THIS WONDERFUL MARINE NUTRIA

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11 Comments

DrNamgyalT.Sherpa
DrNamgyalT.Sherpa 6 months ago

Congrats Jose' for the SOTD!

awesome series Jose,congrats on the well deserved SOTD and thanks forsharing

maplemoth662
maplemoth662 6 months ago

Photo No. 1: is a cute photo....

josecardenasvejar
josecardenasvejar 6 months ago

Wow! Thank you very much for the nomination!
DanielePralong, Leuba Ridgway, Mark Ridgway

José

Leuba Ridgway
Leuba Ridgway 6 months ago

Congratulations Jose !

Mark Ridgway
Mark Ridgway 6 months ago

Felicitaciones.

DanielePralong
DanielePralong 6 months ago

Congratulations José, your Chungungo is our Spotting of the Day! Thanks for raising awareness about this species with our community.

"We have a rather special Spotting of the Day today with a rarely seen mammal, the Marine Otter (Lontra felina). Not to be confused with the North American River Otter (Lontra canadensis), it is found in littoral areas of southwestern South America. The Marine Otter is the only species in the genus Lontra that is found exclusively in saltwater habitats. It is currently classified as Endangered by the IUCN due to habitat loss and exploitation, and there are fears of significant population reduction in the future unless local conservation measures are strengthened".

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josecardenasvejar
josecardenasvejar 6 months ago

Muchas gracias The MnMs por tu comentarios!

Saludos

José

The MnMs
The MnMs 6 months ago

Precioso animalito!

josecardenasvejar
josecardenasvejar 6 months ago

Thanks Zlatan Celebic for you visit and comment!

José

Zlatan Celebic
Zlatan Celebic 6 months ago

Wow! a real beauty - and thanks for exhaustive notes; great stuff.

X Región de Los Lagos, Chile

Lat: -41.63, Long: -73.69

Spotted on Jan 30, 2018
Submitted on Jan 30, 2018

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