Monday, February 8, 2010

Groundhog Day Origins. Sea Otters in The Food Chain.

“According to the official Punxsutawney Phil Groundhog Day Web site, Groundhog Day is the result of a blend of ancient Christian and Roman customs that came together in Germany.
In the early days of Christianity in Europe, clergy would distribute blessed candles to the faithful on February 2 in honor of Candlemas, a holiday celebrating the Virgin Mary's presentation of Jesus at the Temple in Jerusalem 40 days after his birth.

Along the way, February 2 also became associated with weather prediction, perhaps due to its proximity to the pagan Celtic festival of Imbolc—also a time of meteorological superstition—which falls on February 1.
Tradition held that the weather on Candlemas was important: clear skies meant an extended winter.
Legend has it that the Romans also believed that conditions during the first days of February were good predictors of future weather, but the empire looked to hedgehogs for their forecasts.
These two traditions melded in Germany, and was brought over to the United States by German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania. Lacking hedgehogs, the German settlers substituted native groundhogs in the ritual, and Groundhog Day was born.”  More:

People messing with Mother Nature again:
“Apparently the map they supplied to the otters wasn't clear.”
"It's not an easy time to be a marine mammal off the coast of California. First, a sea lion was robbed at gunpoint; shot in the face for allegedly stealing fish from a fisherman (the man was charged with felony animal cruelty, and the sea lion is currently recovering at the Mammal Marine Center.) Now, shellfish and urchin industries want to take away the home — and food — of endangered sea otters.

The complaint is that sea otters are eating into the supply for these multi-million dollar industries. One of the reasons these industries exist is because sea otters were nearly driven to extinction by the fur trade in the 18th and 19th centuries. Now that the marine mammal population has rebounded a little bit (to around 2,800 off the California coast, which is far more stable than the estimated 20 less than a century ago, but not even close to the original 18,000), the fisherman want their heyday back.”  More:
Apart from being cute, here is more about the sea otters:
“Alaskan Sea Otters Decline Affects Food Chain”
“Sea otters are known as a keystone species, filling such an important niche in ocean communities that without them, entire ecosystems can collapse.  Scientists are finding, however, that sea otters can have even farther-reaching effects that extend to terrestrial communities and alter the behavior of another top predator: the bald eagle.

In nearshore marine communities, towering kelp can reach heights of 250 feet and function much like trees in a forest, providing food, homes and protection for fish and invertebrates.  The most important enemies of these giant algae are tiny sea urchins, only inches in diameter, which live on the kelp’s holdfasts and eat its tissue.  When urchin populations become too large, they can defoliate entire kelp forests, leaving only barren remains.
Enter the sea otter.  Otters can eat the spiky urchins whole, making them the major urchin predator.  The otters’ presence keeps urchin populations in check and maintains the balance of the ecosystem.”  From:

Sea Otter Frequently Asked Questions:

Could sea otters be dying because California cat owners are flushing used litter down the toilet?  More at:,9171,1538645,00.html

"Predators: Some sharks and birds (including the Great White Shark and the Bald eagle) prey upon sea otters. On the land, some bears and coyotes eat sea otters."

One thing that strikes me is how similar these otters look to the groundhogs.  The otters were my kid's favorites at the zoo.  We would watch their antics for ages.

This morning, I took some neighbors into town to buy their groceries.

A little bit warmer today, so the cats are enjoying some porch time, today.

1 comment:

squawmama said...

Great information... Love the little sea otters! Have a wonderful day and travel safe...