Wetland animals think the water's edge is the best place to live. But life isn't easy in these swampy areas. Learn about some of the common adaptations of wetland animals and how these adaptations allow them to thrive in their soggy homes.
What Is a Wetland?
Squish, squish, squish. Have you ever walked outside after a rainstorm? If you have, you've noticed how mushy and muddy the ground gets when it's wet. For animals living in a wetland environment, every day is squishy.
As the name kind of suggests, wetlands are places where the ground is always wet. You might think of them as swamps or marshes. Wetlands are often found at the edge of a freshwater pond, lake, or river, and can also be found near bodies of saltwater.
Wetlands are home to many different animals like alligators, birds, fish, frogs, mammals, and invertebrates. Invertebrates are animals without backbones, like crayfish, crabs, snails, and bugs. These animals have developed special adaptations to help them survive and thrive in their wet and soggy environments.
Let's now take a closer look at wetland adaptations one at a time.
Have you ever seen the water of a wetland? If you have, then you know the water is usually a dark, dirty color with leaves and other plant debris lying along the bottom. To blend in with this dark and dull environment, many wetland fish and crayfish are dark and dull colors. This drab coloring acts like camouflage and helps the critters avoid being seen by bigger animals and birds that want to eat them for dinner!
When you think of animals with webbed feet, you probably think of a duck or some other type of bird, but in the wetlands, even big animals like alligators have webbed feet. Alligators use their webbed feet like paddles to help them move through the water quickly.
Birds of the wetlands have developed adaptations that help them catch food. Some birds, like the heron, have become experts at spearfishing. These tall birds use their long necks to plunge their sharp bills, or beaks, into the water like a spear when a fish swims past. Ducks, however, use their broad and flat bills as a strainer to filter food from the water.
Land animals have no trouble taking a breath of fresh air, but for wetland animals that spend some of their time underwater or in areas where oxygen is not as readily available, breathing is not so easy. Some of these animals have developed special gills to help them breathe, while others limit their activity levels when oxygen is low. Some wetland shellfish can rest and use less oxygen by closing their shells. Frogs have uniquely adapted skin that allows them to spend time in the water. These noisy croakers can absorb oxygen through their skin when they're underwater!
Dealing With Salt
Some wetlands contain saltwater, so the animals in these wetlands have special adaptations to deal with the salt. Some animals have developed ways of controlling the amount of salt that can move in and out of their bodies, while others have become very good at removing excess salt. All animals have kidneys that filter their blood and make urine, which is the same as pee. The kidneys of some saltwater wetland animals have been adapted to filter out the extra salt and get rid of it when the animal pees.
All right, let's take a few moments to review what we've learned about the wetlands and their animals. Animals that live in the wetlands, which are basically just places where the ground is always wet, have developed special adaptations that allow them to live in these swampy, soggy areas near bodies of water. Some adaptations that help wetland animals hide, move, and eat include camouflaged markings, webbed feet, and uniquely shaped bills. Additional adaptations, like special gills, reduced activity levels, breathable skin, and modified kidneys (which filter their blood and make urine) help wetland animals deal with low oxygen levels and saltwater.