And I don’t mean like attractive cute, I mean like baby otter cute. What if the stumble upon us and go “ohhhhh my god!!! Oh my god!!!! I’m dying this is- look at it! Look at them!!! Oh my god!!!”
We usually imagine having to come up with some Devils trade or unholy arrangement to get tech and trade with aliens, but the instant they see us the aliens immediately set out into conservation efforts. They’re like “their habitat is becoming harsh and unlivable for them! We have to save them!” And everyone just puts a picture of us next to this information and they all agree “Look at them! We have to save them!!” We become like the panda mascots of intergalactic conservation efforts.
Simultaneously, our main export is just streams, videos, holograms, and photos of us. Aliens lose their composure completely over videos of us sneezing or yawning or eating pop tarts or playing video games or taking care of our kids.
There are lines of aliens who would LOVE to have a human in their home or on their ship. It’s a little condescending (we’re not sure if we’re guests or well treated exotic pets) but still a good opportunity, and any human who wants can go to space at any time basically for free or even for profit, and the aliens will go out of their way to give you anything you ask for.
There are obvious downsides. We struggle to be taken seriously. While it’s usually shut down pretty quickly, every once in a while some alien group sees the demand for us and tries to start an illegal trade. But at the same time, it’s neat that somewhere out there is an alien (or usually a LOT of aliens) that would love you unconditionally, find every flaw and idiosyncrasy endearing, be worried about you and do anything they could to make you safe and happy. They work hard to make our planet and our personal lives better and don’t ask for anything in return. They just do it because they decided we are important and worth saving just for existing. It’s an odd relationship, and we’re not always sure what to make of it, but honestly it goes a lot better than we worried alien contact would.
Unlike seals, whales, and other such marine mammals, sea otters do not have blubber (a thick layer of subcutaneous fat) to keep themselves warm in cold ocean waters. Instead, sea otters are insulated by a remarkable coat of fur. At 150,000 strands of hair for each square centimeter of skin, the sea otter’s fur is the densest of any animal in the world, and keeps cold water from even touching the animal’s skin. The fur must be kept scrupulously clean in order to retain its insulating properties, and so sea otters spend a great deal of their time grooming and washing. Their skin is so loose that the otter can easily reach and groom every square inch of its body. The fur will also trap air bubbles between the outer “guard” layer and the undercoat, which not only helps keep the otter warm but will aid in buoyancy. In fact, a newborn sea otter’s fur will retain so much air that, after careful grooming by its mother, the baby literally cannot sink; it bobs in the water like a cork.