Lakes are inexhaustible resources of food for many species, which is why there are so many animals that live in a lake. Smaller fish attract bigger fish, those fish attract terrestrial species and so on, creating a very densely populated ecosystem.
Take a look at all the animals that live in a lake from the list below:
- Water Fowl
- Freshwater Crabs
- Freshwater Clams
- Aquatic Salamanders
Scientific name (family): Phoenicopteridae
Flamingos live in entire colonies, usually forming in lakes or other bodies of freshwater, but lakes are preferable to rivers and streams because they’re still.
Lakes are important for these birds as they provide protection from many predators, but they also provide them with a sustainable source of food, as they use their long necks to grab fish and aquatic plants from below the surface.
Scientific name (genera): Neogale and Mustela
Minks are completely dependent on water as crabs and fish are their primary food. You can mostly find them in the water or right next to the shore, and even when they roam around, they’ll still follow streams and ditches.
Since they’re very territorial animals, you likely won’t see two minks occupying the same shore as one male will scare off the other. The territory of a single mink along a side of a lake can actually be a few miles long.
Scientific name (genus): Castor
Another species that exists only in freshwater ecosystems such as lakes, these animals find water as the most important element of their habitat. They completely depend on a year-round supply of water that’s needed for swimming, diving and most importantly – floating logs.
Everyone knows about the beaver actively building dams with wood, and the easiest way to transport wood is via water. They actually prefer slower streams and lakes to rivers, as it’s easier to transport wood there.
Scientific name (infraorder): Anisoptera
Dragonflies are insects that live in a lake almost exclusively, although there are some species of this insect that will live near streams and slow-moving rivers. They depend on lakes not just for food, but also reproduction as they often need submerged or floating plants to lay eggs on them.
These insects almost never leave their territories (unless they’re fleeing or looking to mate) and they’re very territorial – especially when it comes to males. Dragonflies will protect their lake territory against other dragonflies, but other insects as well.
5. Water Fowl
Scientific name (family): Anatidae
This family of birds is widely recognized by biologists as birds that are adapted for swimming, floating and sometimes even diving in water. There are about 174 species of waterfowl.
Most of these birds build their nests near lakes or in lakes, while evolution has given them specific adjustments to their life in the water, such as webbed feet that help them swim. Some birds, like the swan, have incredibly long necks which allow them to feed underwater without having to dive in completely.
Scientific name (subfamily): Lutrinae
All otters spend the majority of their lives around bodies of water, with some of them being animals that live in a lake. There are also otters that live in oceans and seas, but they’re more rare.
Otters can tolerate a wide range of temperatures and elevations, while their most important needs are a steady supply of food and easy access to a body of water.
There, they live in dens and holts, sometimes even in natural burrows. They also depend on water to catch prey, most often fish. They can swim and dive at impressive speeds, but they’re also able to kill and eat crab.
Interestingly, otters are one of the few animals in the world that can crack clams open and eat them!
Scientific name: Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris
Capybaras are massive semi aquatic mammals that live in a lake, as well as other areas, all throughout South America (except for Chile). There, they’re very important links in the local food chain, providing food for many predators, including jaguars, anacondas and caimans.
They’re superb swimmers, so they rely on water when they need to escape a predator and they’re sometimes even able to outrun underwater predators. Capybaras themselves are herbivores, and they feed mostly on aquatic plants, which is why lakes are important sources of food for them.
8. Freshwater Crabs
Scientific name (superfamilies): Trichodactyloidea, Potamoidea, Gecarcinucoidea, Pseudothelphusoidea
There are over 1300 species of freshwater crabs, spread literally all around the world, except for Antarctica. Most often, these animals inhabit tropical and subtropical regions, mostly spending their time in swamps and lakes, but they’re not afraid of fast-flowing rivers either.
Since they’re weak and defenseless, freshwater crabs are nocturnal animals, hiding throughout the day. These animals are one of the most important food sources for many fish, as well as many animals on this list.
9. Freshwater Clams
Scientific name (orders): Arcoida, Mytiloida, Unionida, Veneroida, Myoida, Anomalodemata
Just like freshwater crabs, we can find freshwater clams in virtually every biological biome except for the Antarctic biome. It might not seem like that at first, but these small animals play a major part in the ecosystem.
They’re important bioindicators of quality of water, not to mention that they’re important food for dozens of species. They can also be a threat, as there are invasive species of freshwater clams that were imported by humans and are now presenting a danger to local species.
Scientific name (order): Testudines
Freshwater turtles are another species you’ll very likely come across in lakes. Turtles need water to survive, so they’ll often settle in a forest or in some shrubbery right next to a lake.
Even though most of them are herbivores, there are a few species – like the famous snapping turtle – which will eat vertebrae. Believe it or not, these turtles are usually at the top of their respective food chain. Because of their armor, they’re well protected, but they also deliver a very strong and dangerous bite, so they’re unlikely to be attacked by other predators.
Smaller turtles that aren’t traditionally omnivores have been documented to try eating snails and other animals that live in a lake, at least those small and slow enough that they won’t fight back or run away.
11. Aquatic Salamanders
Scientific name: Pseudoeurycea aquatica
This species of salamander is endemic to Mexico, it’s very rare and there have only ever been three specimens collected in 1978. The original habitat of this animal has since been destroyed, and sadly – no new specimens have been found.
Scientists speculate that the entire species may now be extinct, but there is still some proving left to do before committing to that statement, as it’s possible that some specimens have survived and are waiting to be found.
Scientific name (order): Anura
Even though there are incredible species that have adapted to life in deserts, most frogs prefer living in dense forests and jungles, humid areas with access to water, while nesting close to lakes is preferable.
Lakes are crucial for frogs mostly because of mating – water is crucial for tadpole development, while it’s also inhabited by thousands of insect species – the most important food source for all frogs.
Scientific name (suborder): Serpentes
There are almost 4000 snake species around the world, with many of them adapting well to different habitats. However, most snakes will enjoy spending time near water, with some of them – like the green anaconda – spending the majority of their life underwater.
Water is not only a great way to cool down (remember that snakes are cold-blooded animals and they can’t regulate their own bodily temperature), but it’s a great hiding place for hunting.
There are many species of fish and frogs that snakes love to catch, but they’ll often hide below the surface and wait for a mammal to approach the shore to drink water before striking and killing them.
It’s also true that snakes move more easily in water than on land, which is another reason why these animals live in lakes – it’s quite literally easier.
Scientific name (order): Crocodilia
Just like snakes; crocodiles, alligators, gavials and caimans populate lakes and are completely adapted for aquatic life. They use water to regulate body temperature, but also to hunt for prey.
They’ll usually wait for prey just below the surface before striking, pulling the prey into the water and tearing it apart. Even though they nest on the shore, they spend the entirety of their lives in water.
Scientific name (class): Actinopterygii
Around 41.24% of all fish species are freshwater fish, and you’re likely to find them in lakes around the world. These animals that live in a lake are definitely the biggest occupiers of lakes and they make up most of a lake’s populace.
As such, they comprise their own ecosystem, with bigger fish often eating the smaller, but also providing food for mammals and other classes of terrestrial animals that come by often just to feed.
Fish are most definitely the most important and the most common residents of a lake, but they’re not the only animals that live in a lake. In fact, many mammals and reptiles have completely adapted for life in water and they’re also incredibly important for lake ecosystems.
Taking otters, crabs and snakes as an example – you’re very likely going to find all three of these orders of animal life if you take a hike to a clean, healthy lake. There, all of these species comprise a very healthy food chain.
There are also species like frogs that need water not just for food, but also for reproduction, and we mustn’t forget species like the flamingos, which use water for protection.