The hair structure of the Lutrinae has been analysed to see if the different species could be identified using hair characteristics and also to determine if the hair characteristics have an adaptive value or are influenced by the phylogeny of the group. The macroscopic (colour, morphology, length, width) and microscopic (cross-section, medulla, cuticle) characteristics of the primary hairs (PHs), which are more species-specific, and also the length and width of the secondary hairs of each of the 13 known otter species were examined. The PHs of the different species showed many similar characteristics, but also some significant divergences. It was not possible to identify every species confidently because of great similarities in medulla and cuticle structure. Apparently, the macroscopic and microscopic hair structure in the Lutrinae has been influenced by both phylogenetic relationships and adaptive pressures. An influence of the climate and of the association to water could be recognized.
©2010 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin New York