John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Never has graphic biological content been so adorable.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium is one of the world’s most famed marine institutions. (It puts out that Seafood Watch material you see everywhere explaining how to eat fish sustainably.) And as such it’s not cheap, with adult tickets going for $39.95.
But every once in a while visitors get 10 times the bang for their buck, as was the case this weekend when a wild otter swam up to the aquarium’s outdoor tidal pool, popped out a baby, and promptly began grooming its face.
The aquarium writes:
Sea otters can give birth in water or on land. You’ll notice that mom starts grooming her pup right away to help it stay warm and buoyant—a well-groomed sea otter pup is so buoyant it’s practically unsinkable!
Grooming also helps get the blood flowing and other internal systems revved up for a career of chomping on invertebrates and keeping nearshore ecosystems, like the kelp forests in Monterey Bay, and the eel grass at Elkhorn Slough, healthy.
There’s clearer, zoomed-in footage available here. Be warned: Both videos (but especially the zoomed one) get right up in the mother’s business. As the aquarium puts it, the “miracle of life is graphic!”