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10 Types of Animals That Live in Salt Marshes

Salt marshes are interesting areas that consist of both grasslands and seawater. These coastal ecosystems are essentially a zone that fall between open saltwater and land. Because of the tides, the land is regularly flooded with saltwater. This creates a unique environment that is ideal for various creatures. The animals that live in salt marshes range from those with feathers to those who live exclusively underwater. In this article we’re going to look at some examples of these animals.

10 Animals That Live In Salt Marshes

The animals that live in salt marshes take advantage of all that this unique habitat provides, including shelter, food resources, and nursery grounds. Keep reading to learn more about what animals call salt marshes their home.

1. Dolphins

Alantic white sided dolphin breaching
Atlantic white-sided dolphin breaching | image by Anna via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

Scientific Name: Delphinidae

Most people consider dolphins sea creatures that spend their lives swimming in the vast ocean. However, along the Georgia and South Carolina coasts, there are actually some dolphins who will spend their entire lives in salt marshes and tidal creeks. These dolphins rarely go exploring out into the open ocean.

Dolphins are predators and will prey on a wide array of other animals, such as squids, fish, shrimp, and other crustaceans. They will also consume invertebrates that call the bottom of the salt marsh their home.

2. Black Ducks

A black duck mount on a rock
A black duck mount on a rock | image by Mykola Swarnyk via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 3.0

Scientific Name: Anas rubripes

Black ducks are found in a wide array of habits, including salt marshes, where they feed on various grasses, seeds, aquatic plants, and invertebrates. The American black duck can weigh between 1.6 and 3.6 pounds. An interesting fact about this waterfowl is that the oldest black duck was found in Delaware in 1978 and lived to be 26 years and 5 months.

3. Great Egret

Great egret in the water
Great egret in the water | image by I Am birdsaspoetry.com via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Ardea alba

Great egrets are often found in salt marshes, as well as along the edges of lakes and shallow coastal lagoons, foraging for food. They consume various fish, aquatic insects, amphibians, and invertebrates. These hunters will stalk prey in the shallow marsh water, waiting to plunge their long bills into the saltwater to capture their next meal.

Great egrets are also known for sealing some food from other smaller egrets. Egrets have interesting serrations covering the edge of their middle claw. These serrations act as a comb that helps the bird preen their feathers that they cannot reach with their bill.

4. Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse

A salt marsh harvest mouse
A salt marsh harvest mouse | image by California Department of Fish and Wildlife via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Reithrodontomys raviventris

Salt marsh harvest mice are small rodents that weigh less than half an ounce and have a body length of up to 2.8 inches with a 2 to 4 inch tail. They are covered in dark brown fur with a cinnamon-colored belly.

They feed on various insects, amphipods, beetles, seeds, and stems. Unfortunately, the salt marsh harvest mouse is on the endangered species list due to more than 90 percent of its native habitat being lost because of human development.

5. Black Rail

A black rail standing
A black rail standing | image by Hector Bottai via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

Scientific Name: Laterallus jamaicensis

The black rail is an elusive bird that is often difficult to spot. Its body is covered in dark feathers that are decorated with white speckles. It weighs just a little over an ounce or less, and measures about 4 to 6 inches long.

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They live in salt marshes, as well as meadows, coastal prairies, and wetlands across North America. Black rails feed mostly on aquatic invertebrates and the seeds of aquatic plants.

6. Fiddler Crab

Fiddler Crab
A fiddler Crab Sheila Shafer-Roberson from Pixabay

Scientific Name: Uca

Fiddler crabs are one of the most commonly seen crabs. These small crustaceans have an easy to identify enlarged claw that is much bigger than their smaller claw. They are often found along the edges of salt marshes from South America to the Gulf of Mexico.

Fiddler crabs consume dead and decaying animal and plant matter, as well as bacteria, algae, and fungus. You can tell the difference between the male and female fiddler crabs by looking at their claws. The male fiddler crab as one large claw and one small claw, while the female only has two small claws.

7. Otters

Marine Otter floats on water
Marine Otter floats on water | image by Gregory “Slobirdr” Smith via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific Name: Lutrinae

Otters can thrive in a wide array of water habitats, including salt marshes. These cute creatures have a long, narrow body covered in thick fur that helps to keep them warm. Their legs are short and they have webbed feet, and their long tail propels them through water.

Otters have a rather diverse diet that consists of fish, crabs, frogs, turtles, birds and their eggs,and crayfish. They may also feast on aquatic plants and small mammals, such as rabbits and muskrats.

8. Mosquitofish

A mosquito fish
A mosquito fish | image by Donald Hines via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Gambusia affinis

Mosquitofish are most commonly found in slow moving freshwater streams, but they have been introduced to salt marshes to help control the mosquito population. These useful fish consume the larvae of mosquitos, and each fish can eat up to 300 mosquito larvae in a single day.

Mosquitofish are small with a brown or grey colored short body. Their tail is rounded, their head is flat, and they have a mouth that points upward. These fish do not lay eggs and instead birth live young.

9. Diamondback Terrapin

A diamondback terrapin underwater
A diamondback terrapin underwater | image by Jeffrey Shultz via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Malaclemys terrapin

Diamondback terrapins, or salt marsh turtles, have a gray, black, or light brown top shell that is adorned with a concentric ridges or rings pattern. These aquatic turtles are found in various salt marshes, tidal creeks, and estuaries. They feed on fish, crabs, marine snails, worms, clams, and mollusks.

The male of the species is a bit smaller than the female, weighing about half a pound. The female weighs an average of 1 ½ pounds and can measure up to 9 inches long.

10. Thinstripe Hermit Crabs

A thinstripe hermit crab on a rock
A thinstripe hermit crab on a rock | image by Andrea Westmoreland via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific Name: Clibanarius vittatus

Thinstripe hermit crabs live in shallow saltwater areas, such as salt marshes. They can be found in these shallow areas that range from the state of Virginia all the way to Brazil. They are small crabs that are usually no bigger than 17 mm long, and they feed on decaying plant and animal matter.

An interesting fact about these small creatures is that they are able to survive out of water longer than most other hermit carbs. Furthermore, despite their name, hermit carbs are not solitary animals and live in large groups when they are in their natural habitat.