It’s our great hope that you will find this article about these 5 Surprising Freshwater Animals educational, entertaining, and, perhaps, enlightening. We certainly enjoyed putting the information together for you. Hopefully, you will find much here to fascinate you.
Of course, the species listed herein represent only a tiny percentage of the freshwater species around the world. It’s our belief, however, that these serve as excellent examples of water-dwelling fauna. To learn of other such marvels, check out our other articles.
Mata mata Facts
- Leading off this article about our choices for 5 Surprising Freshwater Species comes the astonishing reptile known to many as the Mata mata.
- The unique name given to it actually represents one of several versions of the same common name. The others consist of mata-mata and matamata. Its scientific name, meanwhile, remains that of the relatively simple to pronounce Chelus fimbriata.
- Regardless of the name you choose to use for it, the term refers to a highly distinctive species of freshwater turtle. In point of fact, it’s renowned for its unique appearance. This prompts some people to refer to the animal as a living fossil.
- The first official scientific recognition of this remarkable creature took place in the year 1741. At that time, the renowned French naturalist Pierre Barrere described it, but did not name it. Quite surprisingly, it has been renamed more than a dozen times.
- The reptile also stands out for another reason. Unlike many species today, its population numbers appear to still be sufficient and stable. As a result of this, the IUCN currently lists the Mata mata as Least Concern on its Red List.
- Given its particular habitat range, however, it must be considered to be at least potentially at risk in the future. One of the factors to be considered remains that of possible habitat loss. Its greatest threat, though, will likely come from climate change.
Mata mata Physical Description
Although the astounding Mata mata garners fully merited appreciation, it does not do so based on physical size. In those terms, the reptile only qualifies as roughly an average-sized variety of turtle. It’s in other manners that this particular turtle stands out.
In terms of dimensions, the carapace of a fully mature adult specimen averages about 18 in (45 cm) in length. Its weight, meanwhile, averages roughly 33 lb (15 kg) for the same adult individuals. The truly distinctive characteristics, though, appear in other areas.
The Mata mata also displays a very slight degree of the physiological trait of sexual dimorphism. In its case, this trait manifests itself in the appearance of the tail of the animal. Specifically, that of the adult male develops as somewhat thicker than that of the female.
Otherwise, the genders remain virtually indistinguishable. Its most notable characteristic, however, remains its remarkable shell. This develops an oblong shape, and a covering of sharp ridges. The precise reason for this eludes scientists studying the animal.
It also develops a relatively large, and, incredibly, a strongly flattened head, with a small horn on its snout. The carapace itself typically displays either a dark brown or black color. The neck, tail, head, and limbs, though, most commonly display a grayish brown shade.
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Reptilia
- Order: Testudines
- Family: Chelidae
- Genus: Chelus
- Species: C. fimbriata
Mata mata Distribution, Habitat, and Ecology
The astonishing creature known as the Mata mata inhabits a relatively extensive region of the world. This same region also happens to be one that abounds with an astounding variety and abundance of life. It evolved as endemic to specific portions of South America.
More precisely, though, it primarily appears in the expansive Amazon and Orinico Basins. This provides it with an enormous area in which to make its home. Even there, though, the truly remarkable turtle has very specific requirements for its choice of habitat.
This creature prefers to live in relatively slow-moving, blackwater streams. It will also, though, appear in other, similar environments. These most commonly include such areas as marshes, larger stagnant pools, and even occasionally certain swampy areas.
Being primarily an aquatic species, it spends the majority of its time submerged in water, with only its snout extending. This skilled hunter snaps its powerful jaws closed on any hapless small fish or invertebrate that ventures to close, swallowing it whole.
In its region, the mighty Mata mata nests between October and December, after mating. The female typically lays between 12 – 28 delicate, spherical-shaped eggs. These she deposits in the nest constructed by, and watched over by, both parents until hatching occurs.
- Appearing in the second spot among these 5 Surprising Freshwater Species, though only due to random selection, comes the marvel known as the Platypus.
- This bizarre looking creature most frequently goes by the simple name, and quite easily ranks as one of the most unusual animals on earth. It also sometimes goes by the alternate common name of the Duckbill Platypus, for wholly understandable reasons.
- Researchers, meanwhile, have a much more complicated term used to refer to the animal. That’s because the official scientific name for the species is a true tongue-twister. Scientists use the formal name for the marvel; Ornithorhynchus anatinus.
- By either of these terms, though, it’s a truly distinctive creation of evolution. The respected English botanist and zoologist, George Kearsley Shaw made the first recognition of it as a separate and distinct species. This event occurred in 1799.
- Amazingly, the astounding creature also represents the only known living member of both its Family and Genus. A number of related species, however, do appear in the fossil record of the region. This fact only serves to further augment its great uniqueness.
- Unfortunately, its population numbers appear to be declining. This lamentable trend further seems to hold true throughout the entirety of its natural range. The IUCN, therefore, presently lists it as Near Threatened. That status appears on its Red List.
- The government of the region in which it lives, however, now lists it as Endangered. Efforts to protect the wonder do exist, however. This includes the fact that it’s now a fully Protected Species in all parts of its natural range, providing it some protection.
- Unfortunately, though, the remarkable Platypus faces several threats to its continued existence as a species. Habitat loss, due to man’s expansion currently endangers it, for one. The greatest threat it faces, however, likely comes in the form of climate change.
Platypus Physical Description
In purely physical terms, the bewildering Platypus remains among the most remarkable, and in some ways confusing, animal known to science. That’s due to the astonishing fact that evolution gifted it with attributes normally attributed to several different Classes!
The amazing animal also displays a moderate degree of the physiological characteristic of sexual dimorphism. in its particular case, though, this trait manifests itself in two separate ways. The first of these, like many creatures, occurs in terms of its sheer physical size.
More precisely, the males typically reach greater measurements in both weight and length. Both of these, however, also vary significantly, even within genders. In point of fact, fully grown individuals actually usually range in weight from about 1.6 – 5.3 lb (0.7 – 2.4 kg).
Total length, including the tail and bill, also differs between the sexes. The larger males attain an average overall length of roughly 20 in (50 cm). The females, meanwhile develop smaller, though not significantly so. These average approximately 17 in (43 cm) in length.
The borad, beaver-like tail further enhances its distinctiveness, along with the duck-like bill. The coloring of the stunning Platypus, meanwhile, remains consistent between individuals. This consists of closely related shades of brown across the entire body of the animal.
The fur itself, however, also boasts yet another surprise for those just learning of this marvel of Nature. That’s due to the rather surprising fact that the waterproof fur also develops as bioflourescent in nature. Under ultraviolet light the fur actually glows a bluish-green!
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Mammalia
- Order: Monotremata
- Family: Ornithorhynchidae
- Genus: Ornithorhynchus
- Species: O. anatinus
Platypus Distribution, Habitat, and Ecology
The marvelous work of evolution known as the Platypus evolved as native to a highly restricted portion of the globe. That’s a region already highlywell know for the mind-boggling variety of life, both flora and fauna, that calls the region of the world home.
That’s because this unique animal evolved as native to the continent of Australia, and its neighboring island state of Tasmania. Even within this region, however, the remarkably evolved animal currently lives in only certain small portions of that overall area.
It further evolved highly specialized needs in terms of habitat requirements. The dazzling fauna lives a semiaquatic life, in all regions in which it appears. This almost exclusively consists of various rivers and small streams to as far north as Cape York Peninsula.
This astounding creature further evolved as a pure carnivore. Its diet generally consists of various combinations of insect larvae, annelid worms, freshwater shrimp and crayfish. It also has a high metabolism, requiring it to consume roughly 20% of its weight each day.
In yet another of its unique traits, the stupendous species also remains one of the few mammals to use electrolocation to find its prey. Its webbed feet, like those of a duck, also allow it to swim quite well, spending much of its time foraging for food.
In yet another deviation from the norm for mammals, the Platypus also possesses venom. It’s also quite powerful, being strong enough to kill smaller animals, such as most dogs. This actually forms in spurs on the back ankles, though only among the males.
Though not fatal to humans, it causes severe reactions. Extreme local swelling typically occurs, along with extreme levels of pain. This takes the form of an agonizingly intense burning sensation that typically last several days, but sometimes last for months.
Philippine Crocodile Facts
- The next marvel of Nature presented in this listing of 5 Surprising Freshwater Animals is another amazing reptile, the aptly-named Philippine Crocodile.
- This magnificent work of Nature and evolution most frequently goes by the descriptive name, among those who know of it. It also has other, less often used common names, though. While that’s not uncommon, it has more alternate names than some.
- Sometimes individulas refer to the fabulous reptile as either the bulkarot, the Mindoro crocodile, or the Philippine freshwater crocodile. Scientists, meanwhile typically refer to it by its hard to pronounce official scientific name of the Crocodylus mindorensis.
- The first formal recognition of this marvelous creature as a species, however, did not occur until the year 1935. The respected American herpetologist, Karl Patterson Schmidt, holds the honor of that particular scientifically noteworthy acknowledgment.
- Interestingly, though, experts previously considered the animal to merely be a subspecies of yet another crocodile. In 1989, however, experts determined that it was, in fact, not a subspecies of the New Guinea crocodile, despite beliefs to the contrary.
- Sadly, though, the population of the marvelous Philippine Crocodile plunged drastically in modern times. This occurred mainly due to fishing practices, and exploitation. The IUCN, therefore, listed it as Critically Endangered, on its Red List, in 2008.
- In fact, it’s further considered to be the most highly threatened of all known crocodile species. Thankfully, however, the reptile now enjoys a measure of protection under the law. It nevertheless faces other threats, such as habitat loss and climate change.
Philippine Crocodile Physical Description
Though the incredible Philippine Crocodile easily impresses those who encounter it, the animal does not do so purely to sheer size alone. That’s because, compared to related species, it’s relatively small. Further, it’s actually among the smallest of all crocodilians.
Like many reptiles, though, it displays a slight degree of the physiological characteristic of sexual dimorphism. In its specific case, this trait manifests itself in terms of physical size, alone. In some species, this trait appears in both size and overall appearance.
More specifically, though, the females of this amazing species attain a smaller size than males. That further applies to length and weight. The overall difference, however, remains comparatively minor. This sometimes makes identification difficult for experts.
Between the genders, a mature specimen of the Philippine Crocodile reaches a length measuring approximately 10 ft (3.1 m). The gender-based differnce is more pronounced in weight, however. Males weigh up to 420 lb (190 kg), yet females rarely exceed 200 lb (90 kg).
Like its many relatives, this crocodilian develops thick, bony plates, like armor, covering its body. These further develop especially thick on its back. It also manifests a relatively broad snout. In coloring, it’s a golden-brown shade when young, but darkens as it matures.
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Reptilia
- Order: Crocodilia
- Family: Crocodylidae
- Genus: Crocodylus
- Species: C. mindorensis
Philippine Crocodile Distribution, Habitat, and Ecology
The very name of the remarkable Philippine Crocodile provides a good indication its native range. That’s due to the fact that the reptile is native to region of the Philippines. For an entire species, however, that’s an extremely limited section of the globe for it to inhabit.
Sadly, though, even within this range it’s lost much of its former territory. That’s because the reptile once appeared throughout the region. Unfortunately, though, it’s now been eradicated in much of the area. Due to this, the animal now appears in only a few areas.
Those highly isolated sections of the overall region further consist solely of the islands of Dalupiri, Luzon and Mindanao. Much of those regions, though, now form National Parks. Like most of its relatives, it displays strong preferences for its choice of habitat.
In each area, though, the majestic reptile lives in the same three types of ecosystem. These zones of habitation consist of either marshes, ponds, or freshwater rivers. It also inhabited the same types of ecosystems in the portions of the region from it has been extirpated.
Like others of its kind, this magnificent crocodilian evolved an entirely carnivorous diet. Also like its many kindred around the world, it feeds opportunistically. Due to the nature of its very limited range, though, certain prey understandably forms the bulk of its diet.
This mainly consists of small mammals, aquatic invertebrates, other reptiles, a few birds, and quantities of fish. Here, the Philippine Crocodile displays an unexpected tendency. That’s due to the fact that it intentionally seeks out ailing fish in a higher ratio to others.
Six-Spotted Fishing Spider
Six-Spotted Fishing Spider Facts
- The fourth creature making a showing in this compilation of 5 Surprising Freshwater Animals, the Six-Spotted Fishing Spider, is the only arachnid on the list.
- The very descriptive term for this intriguing invertebrate perfectly serves as the common name for a specific species in the genus Dolomedes. Not only that, but the remarkable spider also represents only one of roughly 100 species in the genus.
- The various members of the group also occur around the world. This species, along with the other members of the group, is a member of the nursery web spider Family. All also have one particular trait that distinguishes them from other arachnids.
- That’s the remarkable fact that this particular species, along with its brethren, evolved as semi-aquatic in nature. Given this fact, the other commonly used name for members of this genus, that of dock spiders, comes as no great surprise to most people.
- This variant on the name occurs due to the behavior of the arachnid. That’s because individuals can frequently be seen scurrying through the cracks in boat docks in many regions. Pleasantly, the IUCN currently has no listing for the Six-Spotted Fishing Spider.
- That fortunate status holds true due to a combination of its apparent present numbers and its range of habitation. It must nonetheless be considered to be facing the same threat that now imperils countless species. That peril, of course, is climate change.
Six-Spotted Fishing Spider Physical Description
Regardless of its other distinctive attributes, the wonderful Six-Spotted Fishing Spider ranks as an average-sized spider. The quite surprising creature does also, however, much like most arachnids, display the characteristic trait of sexual dimorphism.
In its case, though, the difference presents itself in terms of size. Among this species, the female generally attains a larger body length than the male does. That’s because her body averages 0.6 – 0.8 in (15 – 20 mm), while his averages about 0.35 – 0.5 in (9 – 13 mm).
The legs of both sexes of the arachnid, meanwhile, average the same approximate length. As a result, the average legspan of both genders equals roughly 2.4 in (6.1 cm). But, both genders of the Six-Spotted Fishing Spider display the same colors and markings.
The body further displays a light to dark brown color. Most individuals develop a cream or light white colored stripe on the side of its cephalothorax. Its abdomen has a pattern of light lines and spots. Plus, the underside of the cephalothorax displays the six dark spots.
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Arthropoda
- Class: Arachnida
- Order: Araneae
- Family: Pisauridae
- Genus: Dolomedes
- Species: D. triton
Six-Spotted Fishing Spider Distribution, Habitat, and Ecology
Perhaps most notably, the remarkably distinctive-looking Six-Spotted Fishing Spider has an extremely broad range for a spider. That’s due to somewhat surprising fact that the small but fascinating arthropod inhabits a large portion of the Western Hemisphere.
More specifically, however, this zone of habitation presently includes all of the continental United States, and southern Canada, in North America, as well. Scattered populations of the intrepid invertebrate also extend into scattered portions of Mexico.
Since it evolved as semi-aquatic, its habitat preferences should come as no surprise. These preferred areas consist of various wetland-type habitats. Most often, this consists of such places as around the shores of various lakes, ponds, and gently flowing streams.
In these locations, the creature further prefers to live under rocks, man-made structures, or in vegetation, near the water. The magnificent Six-Spotted Fishing Spider evolved a diurnal lifestyle. Since it hunts during the day, concealment remains important.
The natural coloring of the invertebrate also allows it to blend in with its surroundings. Plus, it patiently waits for hours, if it must. Meanwhile, although it does eat small fish, these compose only a small part of its diet. It primarily eats such prey as vertebrates and insects.
Mary River Turtle
Mary River Turtle Facts
- Closing out this compendium of 5 Surprising Freshwater Animals we present the final reptile, the astonishing animal named the Mary River Turtle.
- This intriguing product of Nature and evolution most frequently goes by the somewhat informative common name for excellent reasons. For the moment, though, unlike many of its brethren, the remarkable reptile has no other generally accepted general name.
- Scientific professionals, such as researchers, however, most often refer to it by the its formal scientific name. That, though, is the less easily pronounced term of Elusor macrurus. Regardless of the name used, however, it remains a most unusual creature.
- The researchers John Cann and John Legler hold the distinction of making the first formal recognition of the animal as a separate and distinct species. This scientifically noteworthy action, however, only occurred in very recent time, in the year 1994, in fact.
- Lamentably, though, the impressive Mary River Turtle does not appear to have either a large or extensively spread population base. Due to this, the IUCN presently lists the animal as Endangered. That status currently appears on the organization’s Red List.
- Given the nature and location of its known habitat range, habitat loss understandably poses a very serious threat to the continued existence of the Mary River Turtle. The greatest danger it faces, though, most likely consists of the effects of climate change.
Mary River Turtle Physical Description
The eye-catching Mary River Turtle clearly draws the attention of those who encounter it. It actually has several characteristics that make it an intriguing reptile. Most people consider its sheer appearance, however, to be its most astonishing physical feature.
The sheer size of the turtle also deserves mention, though. In fact, while no giant, it represents one of the largest of all turtles in its region of the world. Like many related creatures, it further displays a marked degree of the physiological trait of sexual dimorphism.
In its case, however, the males of the species typically attain a greater size than their female counterparts. Among many turtles, the opposite pattern holds true. Males reach an average 16.5 in (42 cm) in carapace length, and an impressive weight of 12.1 lb (5.44 kg).
The females of the remarkable species, meanwhile, usually reach carapace lengths of only around 13.4 in (34 cm), and weights of about 7.7 lb (3.5 kg). Exceptional specimens of both genders do occasionally occur, however. Some measure up to 19.7 in (50 cm).
Otherwise the genders appear indistinguishable. The carapace generally has an elongatged shape. Overall color, meanwhile, tends to be combinations of shades of reddish-brown to black. Some individuals also develop growths of algae on their heads!
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Reptilia
- Order: Testudines
- Family: Chelidae
- Genus: Elusor
- Species: E. macrurus
Mary River Turtle Distribution, Habitat, and Ecology
Unfortunately, both for the Mary River Turtle itself, as well as those of us who appreciate Nature, it has an extremely restricted habitat range. For now, the magnificent animal only appears to live in one tiny segment of the always fascinating continent of Australia.
Even there, however, the unusual reptile seems to be limited to only one highly specific region. The name itself actually supplies a hint of that location. That’s because the known habitat of the Endangered reptile consists of the small Mary River, in southeast Queensland.
Yet, even within this already highly limited zone of habitation, the turtle displays very specific preferences in terms of where it lives. Virtually all known specimens make their home in regions of strongly flowing, well oxygenated sections of the river and its streams.
Researchers currently know very little about the ecology of this marvel of Nature. Those studying the species do know, however, that although it spends most of its time in the water, it makes its nests on land. These rarely appear very far from the water, though.
Like most of its relatives, it does appear that it evolved as an omnivorous creature. Among the vegetation it consumes, algae seems to predominate its choices. Its animal prey, meanwhile, largely consists of such small choices as molluscs and other small species.
The lifespan of the Mary River Turtle remains undetermined, for the moment. Interestingly, though, females tend to reach physical maturity slightly faster than the males. Females attain this state in approximately 25 years, but males typically take roughly 30 years.
5 Surprising Freshwater Animals
We sincerely hope that you have thoroughly enjoyed reading, and hopefully learning from, this article about 5 Surprising Freshwater Animals. We also fervently hope that doing so has left you, our readers, with a new or renewed apreciation for such natural wonders.
Unfortunately, though, many of their related animals now find themselves facing great threats to their continued existence. It’s up to each and every one of us to do all that we can to protect and preserve these incredible products of evolution for the future.