12 Amazing Animals That Thrive in Swamps

All swamps are rich habitats filled with fascinating wildlife.

Wildlife shot of a rare Shoebill (Balaeniceps rex)
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Swamps are forested wetlands, similar to but not the same as mossy bogs and marshes dominated by grasses. Swamps are often named for their trees; there are hardwood, cypress cedar, and even saltwater mangrove swamps. These wetlands are not exclusive to wet climates. In fact, they actually exist all around the world, even in generally dry areas such as prairies. The only continent without any swamps is Antarctica.

Some of the best-known swamps in the United States include the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia, the Great Dismal Swamp in Virginia, and the Everglades in Florida. Another major swamp is located in the Fertile Crescent between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in the Middle East. All swamps, regardless of location, are incredibly rich and biodiverse habitats, loaded with fascinating animal life.

From the large-billed platypus to the majestic great blue heron, here are 12 amazing swamp animals and their most unique features.

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babyrousa babyrussa highly endangered species
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The babirusa is a pig-like animal native to the rainforest swamps on the Indonesian islands of Sulawesi, Togian, Sula, and Buru. The males sport four tusks that grow almost like antlers and can actually get entangled with one another. Babirusas are not especially big, but at two feet tall and three feet long they can weigh as much as 200 pounds. These animals are considered vulnerable; there are only about 10,000 left in Indonesia.

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Mangabey monkey

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Mangabeys live only in African swamps and are among the rarest monkeys on the planet. They come in many colors, from gold to black; some have markings that look like beards while others have crests of fur on their heads. These true swamp animals have webbing between their fingers that makes it easier for them to swim.

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Australian Platypus
Australian Platypus eating a worm.

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Unlike the vast majority of mammals, the platypus gives birth by laying eggs. It is also a highly poisonous animal, capable of delivering venom that contains more than 80 types of toxins. The platypus has a bill that is soft and bird-like, a reptilian body shape, and the ability to dive or dig for food. It lives exclusively in the Australian swamps.

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Shoebilled Stork In Lake
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The shoebill is an enormous bird that thrives in the swamps and wetlands of Central and East Africa. Standing about four feet tall with a wingspan of about eight feet wide, this amazing creature sports a gigantic bill that's as wide as it is long. The bill is a great asset for a fish-eating animal. The shoebill also claps its beak to scare away enemies and attract female friends.

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Fishing Cat

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The fishing cat lives up to its name. A swamp-dwelling feline, it has webbed paws that make it easier to swim and, of course, they live largely on fish. Fishing cats live in both freshwater and saltwater wetlands and can be found in many parts of Southeast Asia, particularly Burma and the Himalayas.

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High Angle View Of Crocodile In River
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There are 23 species of crocodilians including alligators, crocodiles, caimans, and gharials. All are iconic wetlands species living in every continent except Antarctica and Europe. They grow to varying sizes, can swim up to 20 miles per hour, and can crush their prey using up to 500 pounds of pressure from their impressive teeth.

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Eunectes notaeus (yellow anaconda)
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The biggest snakes in the world live in swamps. The anaconda is a type of boa constrictor; it grows up to 30 feet long and weighs up to 550 pounds. While there are four types of anacondas, the best-known (and biggest) is the green anaconda, which lives in the rivers and swamps of South America and some Caribbean islands.

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Great Blue Heron

Blue Heron on the shore closeup
Todd Ryburn Photography / Getty Images

If you visit any of the wetlands of the United States, you're likely to catch a glimpse of the great blue heron. These big, graceful birds migrate from northern areas, including Alaska and New England, all the way to the Caribbean and Mexico. Great blue herons are easy to spot as they stand in shallow water waiting for fish or crustaceans to come along for dinner.

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Black Bear

Black cear
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The American black bear is a well-known inhabitant of the Okefenokee Swamp and other wetland areas. At full maturity, these powerful mammals weigh about 300 pounds and stand over six feet tall on their hind legs. Though black bears can and do eat fish and other mammals, they are also satisfied with nuts, fruits, and berries.

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Red Swamp Crayfish

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Crayfish are a delicacy in Louisiana, and the red swamp crayfish is easy to catch and cook. Red swamp crayfish originated in the wetlands between the Florida panhandle to Mexico, but they have spread to other areas and, because they are omnivorous, they are reducing the number of local native crayfish in many locations.

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Largemouth Bass

underwater largemouth bass fish
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You can find largemouth bass throughout much of North America, from the Saint Lawrence River and Great Lakes all the way to Florida and northern Mexico. Largemouth bass live in a variety of different wetlands areas including swamps but only survive in cleaner water where there is plenty of dissolved oxygen. They hide out in vegetation waiting to ambush insects and smaller fish.

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Marsh Rabbit

Marsh Rabbit
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Marsh rabbits are endangered semi-aquatic mammals commonly found in southern and eastern marshes in the United States. While they can live up to four years, these rabbits are common prey to more predatory swamp animals and, thus, do not live very long.

How can you tell these rabbits apart from other wild species? Look for short, round ears and a head, tail, and feet that are smaller than eastern cottontail rabbits.