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Examples of Terrestrial Animals

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  • 0:00 What Makes an Animal…
  • 0:50 Obvious Examples
  • 1:50 Not-So-Obvious Examples
  • 2:10 What About Birds?
  • 2:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Heather Pier

Heather has taught high school and college science courses, and has a master's degree in geography-climatology.

Learn about the various types of terrestrial animals, or a group of animals categorized by their need to live exclusively or almost exclusively on land. Find out what makes an animal 'terrestrial.'

What Makes an Animal Terrestrial?

Every organism on the planet, whether it is an animal, plant, or microbe, has a specific set of requirements for its survival. One of the most important requirements is its habitat, or where it lives. Some organisms, like fish, can only survive in the water and are thereby considered to be 'aquatic animals'. Others, like frogs and toads, spend part of their life in the water and part of it on land and are classified as 'amphibians'.

This lesson will focus on the last type of animal that lives almost exclusively on land, in land-based habitats. These are what we call terrestrial animals. The word 'terrestrial' comes from the Latin 'terra', meaning earth or land. As you will see, being a terrestrial animal doesn't mean one can't go into the water at all; it simply means one can't live in an aquatic environment as the sole, exclusive habitat.

Obvious Examples

Some animals are obviously terrestrial. It isn't often you see a swimming chicken or flying pig. Most mammals including humans, horses, dogs, cats, and bears (among many others) are terrestrial. All can go into aquatic environments temporarily for various reasons, such as feeding, migrating or recreation, but their primary and most desired habitats are found on land.

Thinking smaller, creatures like earthworms, crickets, ants, and beetles are all terrestrial animals. For every terrestrial ecosystem you can think of, from the African Savanna to the tundra, there are countless animals living in them that would be considered terrestrial. And with the exception of fish and frogs, almost every pet that humans keep are terrestrial animals. While they may enjoy going into the water, terrestrial animals like dogs do not actually live in the water.

While they may enjoy going into the water, terrestrial animals like dogs do not actually live in the water.

Not-So-Obvious Examples

We have learned that terrestrial animals must live on solid land in order to be considered terrestrial, but what about creatures like penguins, crabs, or snails, all of which spend part of their day to day lives in aquatic environments? Because their primary habitat is on land and their reliance on the water is mostly for feeding purposes, they are all considered to be terrestrial creatures.

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