Sea otters versus seastars as major clam predators: evidence from foraging pits and shell litter

Project Description

Sea otters and some seastars excavate clams in the low intertidal and shallow subtidal and leave behind pits. Determining the identification of the predator who excavates the pit is important because foraging pits have been used to infer presence and feeding activity of sea otters (Enhydra lutris). Assuming that sea otters make all pits in benthic surveys may grossly overestimate sea otter activity. To date, general descriptions of pit size and shape made by sea otters and sea stars are available in the literature; however, these have overlap in their dimensions and are not associated with direct pit digging observations, making it difficult to determine who dug the pit. The goal of this study was is to determine if pits found in the field can be attributed to sea otters or sea stars using descriptions of pit dimensions found in the literature and to determine how the shape of pits change over time.

Research Team

Principle Investigator

picture of Brenda Konar

Brenda Konar

Associate Dean of Research and Administration
Director of Institute of Marine Science
Director of Coastal Marine Institute
  • phycology
  • research scuba diving
  • biodiversity
  • monitoring programs
  • nearshore ecology
  • ecosystem change
  • benthic ecology
  • kelp forest ecology
(907) 474-5028
Full Profile

Research Staff

Sarah Traiger, Marine Biology Graduate Student,


Project Funding

Kachemak Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve
Start Date: 2014-05-00 End Date: 2016-05-00

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