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Semi-Aquatic Animals: 15 Must-See Creatures

group of flamingos in the body of water

Semi-Aquatic Animals: 15 Must-See Creatures

Hello wildlife lover, welcome to the blog post about semi-aquatic animals.

In this article, I’ll introduce a variety of fascinating animals that adapted to living in both aquatic and land environments. From friendly capybaras to playful seals, these creatures will certainly amaze you.

Sink into the chair, and learn more about these fantastic animals and their unique adaptations.

List of 15 Semi-Aquatic Animals

Hippos

hippo resting near the water

Scientific Name: Hippopotamus amphibius
Type of Animal: Semi-aquatic mammal

Hippos are among the most water-loving mammals. Their whole life revolves around water surfaces, where they spend most of the day. And that’s mainly because it protects them from the sun.

The natural habitat of hippos is sub-Saharan Africa, where daytime temperatures are super high. If they spent their days in the sun, they’d dehydrate in no time and most likely die of overheating. So they find their salvation in the water. 

Hippos leave the water when the temperature is lower (at dusk or dawn) when they go out to graze. That’s another good thing about being near water since it’s usually surrounded by lush vegetation, the primary food source for these giant herbivores.

Despite spending most of their time in the water, hippos can’t swim. Instead, they walk on the bottom and come out above the water surface when they need to inhale. 

Moreover, they’re so adapted to aquatic life that they can even take a nap underwater (even though they can’t breathe underwater).

Beavers

hairy beaver swimming in the water

Scientific Name: Castor
Type of Animal: Semi-aquatic mammal

When you see these short-legged, stubby rodents on land, you’d think they’re super clumsy. 

However, nature has ensured that beavers don’t become easy prey for predators. As a result, it “gave” them excellent swimming and diving skills.

Beavers make burrows and spend most of their lives around rivers, swamps, and lakes. There’s plenty of grass, reeds, and leaves that these animals eat. And during the winter, when there is no vegetation, beavers chew the bark from sprouts.

Regardless of the time of year, beavers enjoy being in the water. Their waterproof fur and thick underfur enable them to have a pleasant stay. It provides excellent insulation from the cold. Also, their webbed feet allow beavers to move like tiny torpedoes through the water.

Beavers build dams on the waterways where they live. They do this if the water courses are too shallow during dry and warm periods. These barriers provided them with enough water to protect themselves and their shelters.

Read Also: Slow Sea Animals

River Otters

brown river otter standing on a rock

Scientific Name: Lontra canadensis
Type of Animal: Semi-aquatic mammal

River otters are like little cruisers. They swim masterfully in rivers, lakes, swamps, and even coastal areas in search of fish, aquatic plants, small rodents, and birds. 

Besides feeding purposes, otters enter the water when looking to unlock new habitats because currents help them travel faster and safer.

These lively semi-aquatic animals are excellent swimmers thanks to their long, paddle-looking tails and webbed feet.

Unlike their marine cousins (they swim on their backs), river otters swim with their heads facing forward. Still, they can stay underwater for almost 10 minutes, more than enough to catch their prey.

Due to the dark fur, otters aren’t easily visible in the water, which is an excellent protection against predators. 

But they also do well on land because they’re very agile and fast. In a blink of an eye, they can run up a tree or hide if they’re in danger.

Ducks

close up photo of a duck on land

Scientific Name: Anatidae
Type of Animal: Semi-aquatic bird

Ducks are birds that spend more time in the water than on land. That doesn’t seem very clear, as the main bird feature is flying. 

Ducks generally fly only in dire straits or during migration, while they prefer to stay in the water in every other situation.

These semi-aquatic birds go to land when it’s time to mate and lay eggs. But as soon as the chicks grow up, they go into the water with their moms. 

Ducks have waterproof feathers thanks to a thin, oily layer. It helps them to regulate their body temperature while staying in cold waters.

Thanks to the webbed feet, the ducks slide smoothly through the water while resting and looking for food. Some species even dive, while others only dip their heads for a second to catch small fish, aquatic insects, and plants. 

Penguins

penguin standing on the snow

Scientific Name: Spheniscidae
Type of Animal: Semi-aquatic bird

Penguins don’t fly, so they adapt to ground conditions. Thus, their stunted wings make excellent fins, which make these birds excellent swimmers. 

However, penguins also manage well on land, where they spend about 25% of their lives. 

With waterproof feathers and a thick fat layer under their skin, penguins are well-equipped for living in cold areas around Antarctica. Some species live in warmer climates or migrate there when it’s time to lay laying eggs.

Penguins get out of the water when they sleep, molt, and take care of chicks.

They make their nests in ice coves or other hidden places on land but close to water. That’s where they lay eggs, and both parents take care of the eggs until incubation.

Polar Bears

polar bear sleeping in the snow

Scientific Name: Ursus maritimus
Type of Animal: Semi-aquatic mammal

Due to their dependence on the ice sea of the Arctic Ocean, polar bears are classified as semi-aquatic mammals.

In addition, ice bears are one of the largest carnivores on the planet, so they need a lot of food, which they can’t find in the frozen ground. As a result, they’ve developed special adaptations and techniques to hunt their favorite food – seals.

When searching for other prey (birds, beluga, fish), polar bears have the ability to close their nostrils and hold their breath for two minutes while diving.

These giant semi-aquatic predators have no natural enemies in their habitat, so they don’t jump into the water when in danger. Instead, they go inside to cool off, play, and hunt. 

Walruses

two walruses on the shore

Scientific Name: Odobenus rosmarus
Type of Animal: Semi-aquatic mammal

These chubby saltwater animals live in seas and lands of northern coasts. 

They’re unique for their tusks which they use both as a weapon and tool to fight against enemies, catch prey, and get out of the water. Species in Polar areas even use them as anchors to move on the ice.

Walruses belong to the pinnipeds, which means they do well in water but also spend time on land. They prefer icebergs, ice floes, and remote rocky islands to give birth and raise their young in peace. Usually, they stay on land until the cubs are big enough to escape danger.

Although they seem clumsy, walruses are excellent swimmers and divers. They can go several hundred meters into the depth, where they hunt for crabs, fish, and shells. 

However, if aquatic food resources are limited, these semi-aquatic animals will even eat seals, whose fat will give them energy.

Flamingos

flamingo standing on one leg

Scientific Name: Phoenicopterus ruber
Type of Animal: Semi-aquatic bird

Flamingos live in shallow waters around the world. The big wading birds are residents of humid areas, such as lagoons, deltas, swamps, and shallow lakes, i.e., all water bodies rich in insects, algae, and small crustaceans.

Specific fins and long legs enable these pink birds to move through muddy and sandy bottoms and dive several feet into depth. 

In general, flamingos spend much of their awake time in the water, hunting. Interestingly, they even take naps in the water while standing on one leg. The bent leg is used for thermoregulation.

On land, flamingos mate, build nests and lay eggs. They build nests of mud on the coast. A female lays one egg, and until hatching, both parents take care of it. 

Muskrats

muskrat standing on a tree in the water

Scientific Name: Ondatra zibethicus
Type of Animal: Semi-aquatic mammal

Muskrats are beaver-like animals that live near natural water bodies. They nest in wetlands where they dig tunnels and build shelters. 

In marshes, they can also find various foods, from plants to snails, fish, and even smaller waterfowl.

For semi-aquatic rodents, muskrats are not very skillful and agile on land, so they make shelters to hide from predators. But they’re super-agile in water conditions, allowing them to hunt and run away from predators. 

Thanks to thermoregulation that lowers their heart rate, these animals can dive and stay under the surface for ten minutes. Their bodies will stay warm all the time.

In addition, muskrats don’t hesitate to inhabit artificial water bodies in yards and parks. They’re considered pests because they can dig tunnels around ponds, damage their structures, and even cause them to spill.

Newts

newt on a brown soil ground

Scientific Name: Pleurodelinae
Type of Animal: Amphibian

Newts belong to amphibians, animals born in water but also acclimated to land conditions in adult age. 

Thus, they developed breathing organs instead of gills, which still exist in larvae. Adult newts also grow legs and shrink tails to adapt to land life completely.

However, although newts spend most of their time on land, they return to the water during the breeding season. Also, they need a moist environment to survive because their skin needs constant hydration.

While in the water as adults, newts’ bodies temporarily change. During the mating season, their tail becomes flatter, and the webbing on their feet becomes firmer, which enable them to stay comfortably in the water. 

Also, they breathe through the skin, thanks to the dense capillary web right under their skin, which is specific to amphibians.

Capybaras

brown capybara semi submerged in the water

Scientific Name: Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris
Type of Animal: Semi-aquatic mammal

If you haven’t seen a capybara before, think of it as a giant water-loving guinea pig. These large rodents inhabit the Amazonian areas, known for their vast water bodies.

The Amazon waters are surrounded by lush and diverse vegetation, the primary food for capybaras. These cute animals make dens on the coasts to stay near water, just in case. Also, they can sleep underwater, with their noses above the surface, so that they can breathe.

Capybaras do well in water and on land. And with their eyes and ears strategically placed on the top of their heads, they can spot danger while remaining undercovered in water. It’s an essential survival skill in areas like the Amazon, where predators lurk everywhere.

Seals

close up photo of a seal underwater

Scientific Name: Pinnipedia
Type of Animal: Semi-aquatic mammal

If you know seals can swim at almost 20 mph but can only cover a mile on land for the same period, you would understand why these animals prefer water. There, they hunt, play, and escape predators more easily.

Seals use paddle-like front flippers and fin-like rears to glide through the currents. They flip, jump, and do various acrobatics, which you may have seen in amusement parks. 

Also, seals are excellent divers due to their innate skills and aerodynamic body. 

They’ve also developed a mechanism for staying at depths of several hundred meters. They can slow down the heart rate, which reduces the need for breathing.

Still, seals spend half of their lives on land. Although they mostly sunbathe or roll in the sand, they go inland after the mating season, when they expect birth, and during molting.

Turtles

turtle on the shore near the water

Scientific Name: Testudines
Type of Animal: Reptile

Turtles are not overly active animals, and as such, they need calm areas to live. Semi-aquatic species live in still waters, and they sometimes wander into waterways. 

When in the water, turtles actively use all four legs, like small paddles, to move freely.

Turtles come ashore during the egg-laying season and whenever they need a little sun. They enjoy sunbathing on a rock or sand. And if they feel danger, turtles will bury themselves in the sand or mud if they don’t have time to get back to the water.

These semi-aquatic reptiles start hibernation when the air temperature drops. They can lay still at the bottom for months. Then their bodies go through various metabolic changes, and they return to their old ways only when the temperatures rise again.

Salamanders

black and yellow salamander on leafy ground

Scientific Name: Urodela
Type of Animal: Amphibian

Most salamanders are semi-aquatic animals, while a few species never leave the water. 

Those who spend some time on land do so when they become adults. At that point, they develop characteristics that help them survive outside of water.

Salamanders are born in water but come out on land out of curiosity. Then they start to grow lungs and legs. That’s also the moment when they reach sexual maturity. So if fertilization happens in the meantime, salamanders lay their eggs in the mud or sand on the shore.

If shores have no vegetation or trees, salamanders can often wander into the forest. They’ll use fallen leaves, rotten trees, and barks to hide from the sun and thus prevent dehydration.

Water Shrews

Scientific Name: Sorex palustris
Type of Animal: Semi-aquatic mammal

The water shrews can inhabit not only natural water bodies but also human-made channels and ponds. 

They’ll leave the water to look for food, make nests, and dig tunnels to escape predators. These animals usually mate in the water. Then, the female prepares the nest for the offspring’s arrival.

The fur of water shrews is adapted for life in water as it consists of dense, thick hairs that prevent water from reaching the skin. They also have webbing between their legs, which aids their swimming abilities. 

Despite being so tiny, these animals eat a lot of food since they are quite active.

Shrews can eat almost half their weight in just one day. As a result, they spend a lot of time in the water hunting crabs, small fish, tadpoles, and insects.

What Adaptations do Semi-Aquatic Animals Have?

Different animal groups have found different ways to adapt to semi-aquatic life during evolution.

  • Mammals have developed thermoregulatory mechanisms, waterproof fur, and the ability to store extra body fat. That enables them to survive at low temperatures, even in water.
  • Semi-aquatic birds have feathers covered with oils that repel moisture. Also, their beaks are long and curvy to catch slippery fish or aquatic plants. Some even have openings on their beaks, through which they filter water and take food.
  • Amphibians have experienced the fewest structural changes, given that they’ve been in the water since birth. These adaptations are mainly related to keeping their skin wet while on land and growing respiratory organs and limbs for walking.

Conclusion

In the animal kingdom, there are numerous fascinating creatures that have adapted to living in both water and land habitats.

Thank you for reading. Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed this article and, along the way, learned something new about semi-aquatic animals.

For the very end, here’s another popular blog post that you may like: List of Aquatic Animals.

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