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Phil Douglis | all galleries >> Galleries >> Gallery Twenty Five: Stimulating the imagination with “opposites and contradictions” > Sea Otter, Point Lobos Natural Reserve, Carmel, California, 2012
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Sea Otter, Point Lobos Natural Reserve, Carmel, California, 2012

I photographed this sea otter floating on its back, holding its paws seemingly clasped under its chin, from high on a cliff overlooking Monterey Bay. We do not expect to see a marine mammal swimming on its back. Yet when on the surface, that is exactly what they do. We also do not expect to see a marine mammal clasping its paws under its chin. However, this sea otter has been on the hunt. Sea otters dive to the bottom of the sea, lifting and turning over rocks with those forepaws, looking for a meal. When they find food, they grab it with their forepaws, and stuff it into a loose pouch under one of its forelegs. They are the only marine mammals that catch food in this way. (They can even break open a hard shell by banging on it with a rock!) The sea otter then comes to the surface, rolls over, and eats its meal while floating on its back, holding the food tightly in its forepaws.

This image confounds our expectations. We do not expect to see a sea otter eating dinner with its paws while floating along on its back. Yet that is exactly what is happening here -- on close examination I confirmed that a spiky sea urchin is indeed clasped within those forepaws. This sea otter, after biting through the bottom of it, is licking the soft content out of the urchin's shell.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2
1/1000s f/6.3 at 200.0mm iso800 full exif

other sizes: small medium large original auto
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