For several days this week, these two tiny sea otter siblings were floating around on their mom’s belly in Morro Bay, in central California. Alternately nursing and being groomed, or occasionally floating beside her, the little furballs are a rare pair: Roughly 2 percent of sea otter pregnancies result in the birth of more than one pup.

The odds that both will survive are even longer.

“We know it’s kind of inevitable. A mom cannot raise two pups,” said Michelle Staedler, sea otter research coordinator for the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Sea Otter Research and Conservation program.

Normally, sea otters only give birth to one pup at a time. The first twin otters (.pdf) were only reported in 1986. Now, this pair has brought scientists and photographers to the chilly Morro Bay waters, straining pairs of eyes hoping to glimpse and study the otters as they rest and float near the kelp forests.

“They’re pretty rare situations,” Staedler said. “This is the fourth one that I know of.”

[MORE: Tiny Sea Otter Siblings Fight the Odds]

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