Animals that live in water and on land are called semi-aquatic animals. And these lucky creatures have adaptations that help them survive both habitats seamlessly.
Some of these animals have gills that extract dissolved oxygen when in water. And on land, they resolve to breathe via lungs.
Others (I’m looking at you, beavers) lack gills, but their water lifestyle is just as a breeze as they’re known to stay for minutes without breathing!
Oh, and then you’ve hippos with unique adaptations that make their life in water just as good as their land lifestyle.
Curious to learn more about these fascinating animals?
We’ve gathered credible information from trusted sources to compile this list.
So, let’s dive in.
List of 17 Stunning Animals That Live in Water and on Land
Beavers are brown/gray stocky rodents with large heads, scaly tails, and webbed back feet. They’re the second-largest rodents in the world after capybaras.
There’re only two extant species of Beavers; Eurasian beavers and North American beavers, named after their native regions. Both species inhabit freshwater habitats, including rivers, lakes, streams, and ponds.
While beavers can choose between land and water habitats, they’re more adapted to aquatic life than terrestrial. In fact, they walk awkwardly on land – although fast enough to flee predators.
They’ve dexterous hands to support their territorial lifestyle, allowing them to dig and grasp food and other objects. Their tails also offer support when chewing on branches.
Their water life is, however, most epic, as the rodents have webbed back feet to allow them to float and use their tails as rudders. That makes beavers agile swimmers, swimming for about 8 km/hr.
And surprisingly, while beavers lack gills, they can stay underwater for reasonable periods, as they hold their breath for 15 minutes!
The gigantic hippos are the world’s largest mammals after white rhinos and elephants. They’re native to Sub-Saharan Africa and live in areas with abundant water, particularly slow-moving rivers.
Like amphibians, hippos can spend about 16 hours a day in the water. But hilariously (although understandable), the beasts have never learned to swim. They rather ‘walk’ along the river bed by galloping slowly with their slightly webbed toes touching the bottom lightly. Their eyes have a transparent membrane that allows them to see clearly underwater.
Do they have gills to breathe in water? No. All they have to do is slightly raise their heads, exposing the nostrils on the topmost part of their heads. But they can also submerge their heads and hold their breath for about 5 minutes.
More surprisingly, hippos can sleep in the water! Through a reflex mechanism, hippos can bob to the water surface to breathe and return to the bottom without waking up.
And while hippos spend those significant amounts of time in the water, when darkness sets in, their terrestrial life begins as they come out to graze on the nearby grass before returning at dusk.
However, social beasts are only social to their kind. In fact, they’re aggressive toward humans and are considered one of the most dangerous animals in the world, killing about 500 people in a year. You’ve got a reason to stay clear.
Otters are small carnivorous mammals with elongated bodies and somewhat short webbed feet. There are 13 different species of otters living everywhere except Antarctica.
Some species are usually found about 100 meters from a water source, although majority are always in the water.
Most of their diet is aquatic, so they spend most of their time foraging in water. And like beavers, otters are more suited to water life than land. Their short webbed feet help them float and swim fast, while their thick fur helps them keep warm in the water. Most of them have long tails for propelling the animals through the water.
When not feeding, most species usually prefer sunbathing on rocks out of the water, while some species, particularly river otters, can walk significant distances on land between waterways. River otters can also run to reach about 47 km/h.
Duck is an umbrella term for numerous waterfowls, relatively small birds with short necks, and large bills. They’re found in every continent except Antarctica and live in freshwater and seawater habitats.
Ducks spend most of their time on the water, and in fact some accounts mistakenly classify them under aquatic animals. And that may be understandable, as their bodies, including three webbed toes, are designed to fit water life that terrestrial lifestyle.
However, according to Untamed animals, ducks have a taste of the terrestrial lifestyle, as mother birds usually walk on land in search of a place to lay their eggs. They lay the eggs in nests in vegetation close to the water. Only when the eggs are invaded can the ducks consider laying in the water.
What’s more, ducks sometimes can walk on land while foraging for insects and fresh land plants.
One of nature’s most unlikely animals, platypuses, are egg-laying mammals endemic to eastern Australia.
The strange animals are bottom feeders that swim gracefully, thanks to their fore webbed feet that act as paddles. Their beaver-like tails help propel the birds forward. They also have dense fluorescent fur that traps hair to keep the birds warm while they dive.
On land, the platypuses walk (and sometimes run) awkwardly as they need to fold their front feet back, exposing nails. While on land, the birds construct dirt burrows using exposed nails.
Crabs are decapod crustaceans notable for their thick exoskeleton that covers their entire bodies. They live in all oceans, but some species, including Perisesarma bidens and Fiddler Crabs, are semi-aquatic.
These crabs have gills for breathing in water, but while they lack lungs to facilitate their land lifestyle, they’ve unique adaptations. The special plates in the gills help trap and close in water, which they use to breathe while on land. They use their eight legs to move, but their time on terrestrial life is limited to only two days as the trapped water dries up.
Walruses are flippered mammals known for their prominent tusks and whiskers. They’re usually found lying on the ice near the arctic circle.
The gentle giants have about a 4-inch layer of blubber to keep them warm when in the chilly arctic waters, allowing them to spend two-thirds of their time in the water.
But when they need to rest or bear young ones, the animals often climb up the ice to find pleasure on land. They’ve got a funny walking style – but that’s understandable due to the flippers that interfere with their movement.
Penguins are flightless birds endemic to the southern hemisphere, except the Galapagos penguins, which only live in Galapagos Islands.
The birds spend most of their time in oceans, foraging for crabs and squids underwear. They’ve stiff flippers and webbed feet, and their bodies are sleek to swim while hunting.
When not feeding, penguins prefer a terrestrial lifestyle. On land, they can choose to hop, waddle, or run in an upright stance with their bodies leaning forward. Polar penguins are most known to walk for long distances on land.
9. American Alligators
Also called the gators, the American alligators are large crocodile species native to Southernwesstern United States.
The gators are fast swimmers thanks to their webbed back feet that steer them forward. They can stay submerged in water, leaving only the topmost part of their heads where eyes and nostrils are located to allow breathing and to keep an eye on prey.
And while the reptiles are more adapted to aquatic life, they can roam on land, especially when they need to rest. When angry or alarmed, the gators sprint back to their preferred habitats.
10. Water Opossums
Water opossums are small, semi-aquatic, rodent-looking marsupials found in and near freshwater bodies in Argentina, Mexico, and Central and South America.
The animals spend their nights outside water as they prefer sleeping in tunnels on the banks of rivers and lakes.
But after dusk, they emerge to swim and to forage for crustaceans, small fish, and other aquatic animals in the water. Their streamlined bodies adorn dense, water-repellant fur to enhance buoyancy to facilitate their watery lifestyle. Water opossums also have webbed hind feet to move through the water, while the tails propel the animals forward.
The pig-shaped capybaras are the world’s largest rodents. They’re semi-aquatic, living near and in water bodies with their ranges spanning Northern and Central South America.
Like beavers, capybaras are excellent at swimming thanks to their partially webbed feet that paddle them through the water. What’s more, their eyes and nostrils are strategically placed high on their heads, allowing the rodents to breathe and keep an eye on potential predators. Capybaras can also submerge as they can hold their breath for about five minutes.
On land, capybaras are just as comfortable as in water. They’re, in fact, agile and can run at 35km/h! Their fast-drying fur also helps the rodents survive well out of the water.
Muskrats are large semi-aquatic beaver-like rodents native to North America. They prefer slow-moving water bodies, including swamps, marshes, and streams.
Muskrats spend most of their time in the water as their diet consists of aquatic life. They can sometimes construct haystack-like shelters in the same habitat or dig burrows on the banks, so they might not find a reason to live on land.
However, they sometimes come out of the water out of curiosity, although they’ve got an awkward walking style as their bodies suit aquatic life.
13. Polar Bears
Polar bears are large carnivorous mammals known for their gorgeous pure white to creamy yellow coats. They inhabit coastal waters throughout the arctic.
Polar bears have adaptations that afford them the luxury of living in water and on land. Their forepaws are partially webbed to enhance swimming and can track and ambush prey underwater by submerging and leaving only snouts above the water.
After swimming, polar bears only shake themselves to dry as their oily fur prevents them from getting soaked. Their hunting is not limited to water, as they can pursue prey on land with the stealth of a cat.
Minks are small, dark-colored carnivorous mammals that inhabit various parts of the world, including America and Europe.
As semi-aquatic creatures, minks are usually found near and in ponds, rivers, and streams. As expert swimmers, they can swim on the surface and underwater and can travel for more than 15 meters when submerged.
The critters can also walk on land and even run, attaining speeds of about 13km/h – although for short periods.
15. Water Buffaloes
Water buffaloes are the largest members of the Bovidae family and are native to remote areas of Asia, although they’ve been domesticated worldwide.
The bovids prefer to feed on open grasslands, grazing on herbs and grass.
The animals, however, have muddy adaptations and, in fact, spend most of their time in the water, wallowing in rivers and swamps. They also submerge in the water and thick mud, with their extra-wide hooves preventing them from sinking.
Dholes are medium-sized unusual canines native to Asia.
Dholes are usually found in open spaces and jungles and are known for their excellent hunting skills and speed – they can jump over three meters high and over a 5-meter gap.
But the animals exhibit rather unusual behavior as canines, as they can live in water, particularly river beds. And not only resting, but dholes can also swim and stay underwater for about three minutes. They’ve long water-resistant fur that keeps them warm in water.
17. Indian Rhinoceros
Indian rhinoceros are species of rhinoceros native to the Indian subcontinent.
These massive beasts prefer grazing on tall grass and herbs in open grasslands and wetlands.
But unlike other rhinoceros species, they happily thrive in water, swimming and wading effortlessly, thanks to their prehensile tails. They can swim for pleasure or when they want to forage on fresh aquatic plants.