Hydrictis maculicollis (spotted-necked otter) is found in central Africa south of 10 degrees N latitude. They are abundant in both Lake Victoria and the Lakes Tangangyika, and also may be found in the moister parts of sub-Saharan Africa. They are not found in the far west, southwest, northeast, or east regions of Africa.
These otters are aquatic and require permanent and continuous waterways. They prefer clear water with rocks. They are found in lakes, swamps, rivers, and may be found in mountain streams at higher elevations. They are absent in turbid rivers and shallow alkaline lakes. They live in dens, which are found near these sources of water.
The spotted-necked otter can be recognized by the brown and white spotting on the throat and underside. The rest of the body color ranges from a reddish brown to a chocolate brown. These otters are sleek and slender. They are characterized by strongly webbed toes (with the webbing going all the way to the tips of the digits), well developed claws, and long tails. Their length ranges from 85-105 cm. Sexual dimorphism is prevalent; females are shorter, lighter, and less muscular than males.
The spotted-necked otter is thought to breed seasonally. They have a two month gestation period and typically give birth to two to three cubs in September. The females do not begin reproducing until they have reached two years of age.
The spotted-necked otter is typically solitary, but may be found in small family groups, depending on the time of year. The males have a big homerange within which more than one female may be located. The mother takes care of her cubs for approximately a year. The father may play a role in raising the young. The otter may be vocal and has various calls ranging from a contact call, which consists of a harsh mewing, to a high pitched squaking distress call. The spotted-necked otter enjoys playing. This playing may be with other otters or may be done alone.
The preferential feeding time for this otter is either 2 to 3 hours before dusk or after dawn. They have, however, been known to feed at all times of the day. Their main food source is fish, although their diet includes both invertebrates and vertebrates. Frogs, crabs, molluscs, aquatic insects, and larvae are some of the items included in their diets.
The otter's fur is highly prized, being used as a cure for eye and/or nose infections.
The spotted-necked otters are in decline due to changes in their environment and human interference. One problem is the increased use of nylon fishing nets, in which the otters get tangled in and die. Erosion of soil near the source of the rivers is also a threat. Fish-farmers and fur-trappers are also playing a part in the decline of the spotted-necked otter.
Sarah Soderman (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor), Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
uses touch to communicate
Estes, R. 1991. The Behavior Guide to African Mammals. Berkeley and Los Angeles , California: University of California Press.
Kingdon, J. 1977. East African Mammals: An Atlas of Evolution in Africa Volume III Part A. New York: Academic Press.
Kingdon, J. 1997. The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals. New York: Academic Press.
Shortridge, M.B.E., C.M.Z.S., G. 1934. The Mammals of South West Africa. London: William Heinemann LTD.