This female Sea Otter takes a break from its normally busy life. She loves to feed on sea urchins and can sleep, floating like this, for hours.
Once upon a time, over a century ago along the California coast, these animals were almost wiped out by the fur trade. They almost disappeared completely! When that happened, there was nothing eating the sea urchins. The urchins spread like wildfire, feeding on kelp, and the kelp forests began to disappear. The retreat of the kelp forest, in turn, eliminated the habitat for many other underwater species including those prized by the fishing industry. Monterey Bay was in danger of being transformed into the pelagic version of a Dust Bowl.
Luckily, the Sea Otters gained protection and, incredibly, the situation reversed itself over the years helping to create a healthy ocean once again. It was a life lesson on how, if we are not careful, we can unintentionally topple an entire ecosystem like a line of dominos.
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