Oviparous animals are animals that reproduce by laying eggs. Most of the examples of oviparous animals on this list won’t surprise you, there are a few that may. Egg-laying is the oldest method of animal reproduction. It’s been around for hundreds of millions of years, which means nature has found lots of different ways to do it.
They differ from viviparous animals, because their young don’t gestate in the mother’s body. Instead, that entire process happens within the egg, which contains all the nutrients necessary for their growing baby.
And they differ from ovoviviparous animals, because they eggs don’t develop or hatch inside the mother.
16 examples of oviparous animals
Salmon are neck and neck with tuna in popularity. They’re one of the most widely consumed fish in the world, and not just by humans- entire food chains depend on them. Bears, eagles, whales, dolphins, seals and sharks all feast on salmon in the wild.
This fish are famous for returning to the streams where they were born to lay their eggs. After an incredible, exhausting journey from the ocean up through big rivers and small mountain streams, a female salmon can lay as many as seventeen thousand eggs. The journey to their breeding grounds is so exhausting that, after laying her eggs, she’ll die.
2. Bald Eagles
Majestic, soaring eagles are an awe-inspiring sight, but if you’re very lucky you might get a chance to observe an eagle nest. Bald Eagles, like almost all birds of prey, only lay two to three eggs at a time, and it’s quite common for only one of the chicks to survive to adulthood.
They build enormous nests in trees or on cliff sides, and after the chicks hatch both parents will devote most of their time to feeding them non-stop. Eagle chicks have voracious appetites, and the strongest chick will frequently steal food from the others, causing them to starve.
Cardinals are beloved for the beautiful, bright red plumage of the males. A common belief about cardinals is that they represent loved ones who’ve passed away, and so sighting a cardinal means that the person you’re missing is present with you.
Cardinals lay 2-5 eggs at a time, and while it’s unlikely for all of those chicks to survive to adulthood, it would also be unusual for just one to live.
Some sharks, including many of the most famous and feared species like the Great White, give birth to live young. Many of them, however, lay eggs. Generally, the smaller species of sharks are the egg-layers. About 40% of all shark species lay eggs.
Shark eggs are, well, weird. They don’t look like eggs at all. They have strange, leathery, watertight shells. Some have bizarre spiraling shapes that look more like a weird, aquatic pasta than an egg, while others are rectangular with strange, spiky growths on the end.
As with sharks, there are some snakes that give birth to live young. Most types of snakes, though, lay eggs. Colubrids are nonvenomous, and the largest family of snakes which includes kingsnakes and rat snakes, are almost all egg-layers. Elapids, venomous snakes like cobras with fixed-fangs (as opposed to the long, hinged fangs of vipers) also tend to be egg layers.
Most snakes build or find a burrow in the ground where they lay their eggs, and the female then coils herself around them to protect them and keep them warm. King cobras are unique, because the female actually builds a nest from dry leaf litter on the forest floor.
Yep, lizards lay eggs. A very, very small number of lizard species give birth to live young, but almost all lizards are egg layers. Most lizard species don’t protect their eggs. The mother builds or digs out a nest where they’ll be hidden, and then leaves them.
Even the biggest lizard of them all, the Komodo dragon, reproduces by laying eggs. Komodo hatchlings have to be on high alert, though, because Komodo dragons have no problem being cannibals.
All crocodiles, and all crocodilians (alligators and caimans), lay eggs. They also all build their own nests. Crocodiles like to dig their nests out of the sand or dirt close to the water’s edge, while alligators and caimans prefer to build large mounds of leaf litter and dirt to lay their eggs in.
In all cases, the mother never strays far from the nest, and she will defend it aggressively. She’ll also stick around for a while after the eggs hatch to protect her young from predators. In fact, the males will protect the young, as well, which makes them some of the only reptiles in which both parents exhibit protective behavior.
Much to your horror, you may have found spider eggs before. Spiders tend to lay huge amounts of eggs in a large sac made of their webbing. This helps keep them safe while the eggs develop. They usually all hatch at once, and the tiny spiders then scatter, each one searching for its own new home.
In some spider species, the baby spiders will stick around the mother for a while they grow. They’re often carried around on the mothers back, and seeing a large spider with hundreds of its own babies clinging to it is quite a sight.
Although most people will never see them, bees lay eggs. Specifically, the Queen lays eggs. Lots of eggs. One Queen is capable of laying two thousand eggs in a day, since laying each egg only takes a second or two.
The eggs are placed in the cells of the honey comb, where they hatch into larvae who are then fed by worker bees.
Just like bees, ants hatch from eggs laid by a Queen who can lay thousands of eggs in a day. If you ever break open an anthill, you’ll probably see some. Worker ants will be hurrying to get the eggs back inside the safety of the nest. Look for small, creamy white objects being carried by other ants, those are the eggs.
The platypus is famous for two things: looking weird and being a mammal that lays eggs. It’s one of the only species of mammals that lays eggs, and the only mammal that’s venomous. The male platypus has a spur on the hind leg that can deliver venom which can cause severe pain in humans.
The platypus is such an odd animal that when the first specimens were sent back to Europe from Australia, they were believed to be fakes. It’s a mammal with a duckbill and venomous spines that lays eggs, and that makes it one of the strangest animals in the world.
The echidnas are the only other egg-laying mammals. They look much like a cross between a hedgehog and an anteater. Like the anteaters, they like to eat insects and worms, and often tear open termite nests to get to the bugs inside.
A female echidna lays just one egg at a time, and unlike the platypus, which uses a nest, echidnas lay their eggs inside a marsupial-like pouch. Both the platypus and the echidna likely represent truly ancient characteristics from the very first mammal species.
While we’re all familiar with tadpoles, it’s easy to forget that tadpoles hatch from eggs. All frogs lay eggs, but the way they do it varies from one species to another. Some frogs lay their eggs in the water, others like to hide them in trees. Some species even lay them inside leaves which they then fold up and glue shut so the eggs aren’t visible.
Frog eggs are usually transparent with a dark center, which can make them hard to spot in the water. They also typically stick together, forming a large, somewhat gelatinous mass.
Like frogs, salamanders lay eggs that hatch into tadpoles. Salamander eggs are pretty much always underwater, attached to twigs or other plant growth. They’ll be stuck together in one big mass and, like frog eggs, are clear with dark centers.
Sometimes you can’t even distinguish one egg from another, and it will instead look like one big, gelatinous blob with a bunch of black or brown dots inside it.
Dragonflies start out their lives much like frogs and salamanders. The eggs are laid in water, and the larvae that hatch from them are fully aquatic. Dragonfly larvae are ferocious predators and you’d never guess by looking at them that they’re larvae.
Unlike other insects, whose larvae look like worms or grubs, dragonfly larvae look like full-grown aquatic insects. They’ll eat whatever they can catch, and that includes tadpoles and even adult frogs in some cases.
The world’s largest bird lays the world’s largest bird egg. They’re big enough and strong enough that ancient humans used the shells like pots and vases to hold water or cook food in. Ostriches use communal nests, with all the females in the flock laying their eggs in the same spot.
That makes it easier for these giant birds to protect their eggs from predators. Contrary to popular belief, ostriches don’t hide from danger- these are big, tough birds that can kill an adult human with a single kick, and they protect their eggs fiercely.
Ostriches are also among the fastest animals on earth.
17. Sea Turtles
Sea turtles return to the same beaches they were born on to lay their eggs. The females haul themselves up on the beach- the only time in their adult lives when they’re not in the water-, and dig out a nest in the sand. They lay their small, leathery eggs, hundreds of them, and then cover them with sand. Then they leave.
When the eggs hatch, the baby turtles are on their own. They have to dig their way out of the nest and make it to the water, where they’ll be relatively safe.