The 7 most important animals that live in mangroves
Mangrove trees are a unique and important ecosystem found in tropical and subtropical coastal regions around the world. These trees are adapted to living in saltwater and can survive in areas where other trees cannot. The mangrove ecosystem is home to a wide variety of animals, each with its own unique adaptations to survive in this challenging environment, to read more about Mangrove Trees take a look at our latest blog. In this blog post we highlight the 7 most important animals that live in mangroves and the ways in which they support the mangrove ecosystems.
- Red Mangrove Crab (Rhizophora mangle)
These crabs are some of the most common animals found in the mangrove ecosystem and they are ecologically significant in many ways. They keep much of the energy within the forests by burying and consuming leaf litter. They burrow into the ground at high tide and these burrows help aerate the sediment of the mangrove forests altering the formation of the land which increases the productivity and reproductive output of the vegetation. They are adapted to survive in the mangroves as they have an ability to climb trees, they are the only species of crab along with the hermit that can climb as a defense mechanism. Their adaptations for survival are crucial for the surrounding ecosystems as their larvae are a major source of food for fish which live in adjacent waterways. The adult crabs serve as food for the birds such as crab-polver.
- Giant Mud Crab (Scylla serrata)
These crabs are another ecologically important species found in the mangroves
of Africa, Australia and Asia. The tunnels that these crabs make create unique habitats for bacteria that provide nutrients for the production and growth of mangrove trees and algae which feed the fish and the shrimp in the local waters. The tunnels also aid the export of nutrients to the coast helping these ecosystems too. When water flows through tunnels under the interconnecting roots of the mangroves materials such as oxygen dissolve through the sediment aiding the growth of bacteria which produces nitrogen, a key nutrient in mangrove production.
- Mangrove Snapper (Lutjanus griseus)
This is a species of fish, the most abundant of all snapper species, often found in the beds of mangrove forests, their diet includes small fish, shrimp and crabs meaning that they play an important role in controlling the population of these species. They also act as food source for other animals within the ecosystem such as birds, large marine mammals, other large fish such as barracudas.
- Mangrove Warbler
Also known as American Yellow Warblers are found in the mangrove swamps of middle and south america. They forage for insects such as caterpillars, beetles, moths and flies helping to control pest populations and maintain balance in the ecosystem. Additionally, they are hunted by other mangrove inhibitors such as snakes and larger birds of prey helping keep these species alive. They play a crucial role in seed dispersal helping to propagate mangrove trees and keep the forests alive.
- Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas)
This marine turtle is often found in mangrove habitats, possibly adapting to the loss of coral reef by migrating to the mangroves. They shelter and feed on the under the mangrove canopy making them an ideal spot for the endangered baby turtles to hide. The wide variety of crab species also provides them with an easy food source. The health of sea turtles who reside in the mangroves acts as a great indicator for researchers to the overall health of the ecosystem. If the turtle population is thriving it is suggested that the other ecosystems are also in good health.
- West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus)
An aquatic mammal often found in mangrove habitats. These giant yet harmless animals have a vegetarian diet which is crucial for preventing overgrowth in the mangrove waters and removing invasive plant species. Their droppings also act as a fertilizer for seagrass and other aquatic plants which the turtles and other animals feed off regularly.
- American Crocodile (Crocodylus acutus)
This is an apex predator which live in the dense mangrove roots which act as a good camouflage as the crocs often feel more tentative in open water. These roots give them a constant source of easy food, crabs, fish, small birds and frogs. Crocodiles are considered a vulnerable species due to a loss of habitat so protecting the mangrove forests keeps them from nearing extinction. They also benefit the ecosystem controlling the number of crustaceans and fish.
There are many other animals that inhabit the mangrove forests such as monkeys, snakes, and lizards which all work together to maintain the ecosystems, acting as both food sources and predators. The 7 animals above are just a small sample of the many species that depend on mangroves and each other for survival. It is important to protect and conserve mangrove habitats to ensure the survival of these species and mangroves which play a crucial role in carbon sequestration.