Applied Zooarchaeology and Oregon Coast Sea Otters (Enhydra lutris): Following up on Lyman 1988

Author(s): Hannah Wellman

Year: 2017


The sea otter (Enhydra lutris) was nearly driven to extinction on the Pacific Coast in the 19th century due to intensive commercial hunting and the maritime fur trade. Despite some successful reintroduction efforts in North America, the Oregon sea otter population remains locally extirpated and listed as endangered. One aspect of Lyman’s 1988 study examined precontact sea otter teeth from Oregon and found they were similar in size to modern California sea otter teeth, and smaller than modern Alaska sea otter teeth. These geographic groupings were later confirmed by an ancient DNA study. I revisit this hypothesis with substantially larger sample sizes of teeth, as well as new data on humeri and femora. Sea otter tooth width and long bone dimensions vary significantly along a latitudinal cline from California to Alaska. Specific, inter-state comparisons of tooth width and long bone measurements do not support the hypothesis that precontact Oregon sea otters are more similar to those from modern California than they are to those from modern Alaska. These data show that morphometric analyses can be used to answer research questions about species distribution and demography, but with less detail regarding inter-state relationships than originally postulated.

Cite this Record

Applied Zooarchaeology and Oregon Coast Sea Otters (Enhydra lutris): Following up on Lyman 1988. Hannah Wellman. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 428870)

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections

Spatial Coverage

min long: -169.717; min lat: 42.553 ; max long: -122.607; max lat: 71.301 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15703