Faunas of the Indian Ocean

by Abitha Begam

India is not only a country of diverse cultures, languages but also has a very rich biodiversity, one such type is the Indian ocean. The Indian Ocean is the third largest ocean counting after the Pacific and the Atlantic Ocean, which stretches from Africa to Australia. It has been the home of 115 species of aquatic animals to date. Due to its fewer plankton levels, the ocean has minimal species when compared to other oceans. Though there are lesser species, some of them are very rare among them.

The Indian Ocean wildlife is majorly found in the coral reefs of Africa and Australia. The most interesting fact about the Indian ocean is, it is the warmest ocean on the earth and 40% of the world’s offshore oil production has been carried out in this ocean. The major primary islands of the Indian ocean are Madagascar, Maldives, Mauritius, Seychelles, and Sri Lanka which serves as a home for various species of fauna. The wildlife of the aquatic animals has always been parallel to the wildlife of the terrestrial animals. Due to the fragile environment, aquatic animals are facing some serious issues.

The Indian Ocean has been the treasure trove for various aquatic animals, though it has lesser marine life, it has consisted of a rich and very rare array of species at specific islands and coastal areas. In which some are endangered and could not be existed at all in the other parts of the world. Among them, some of the species are briefed below.

Okay, let me test your knowledge about aquatic animals.

Which is the only aquatic habitat with no sense of smell and earflaps and also with a small hump on the back? Yes! You are right, they are the Humpback whales.

Source : BLACK TOMATO (https://www.blacktomato.com/destinations/iceland/swim-with-whales/)

Habitat: Found near the shores of the ocean and all around the world

Favorite food: Krills

Diet: omnivores in nature

Endangered level: low, once it was about to be endangered

Interesting fact: they follow a newer type of migration like they could be found in the polar climate regions during summer and tropical to sub-tropical climate region in the winter for mating. They can also travel around 16,000 miles a year.

Humpback Whales are majorly found in the islands of Madagascar. The interesting fact about them is, the male humpback whales have the ability to produce a beautiful song in their throat. It has got a small hump in the back and so it was named after it. Their senses are made specifically to adapt to their underwater habitat. They weigh about 40-100 tons and have a lifespan of nearly 45-50 years. They were on the verge of extinction, but now it has been completely recovered.

Have you heard about vegetarian marine mammals? Yeah! you are reading right, Dugongs are one among them!

Habitat: Warmer tropical waters and seagrass forests present in the Pacific and Indian ocean

Favorite food: Seagrass

Diet: Herbivores in nature

Endangered level: Medium, close to getting threatened

Interesting fact: they can live up to 70 years

Dugongs are a type of mammal which are similar to manatee which is commonly known as sea cows. They are of brown-grey color, which weighs up to 150- 400 kg. It is the state animal of the Andaman territory and is found as an isolated breed in the National Park of Gulf of Kutch. They are herbivorous and grow at a length of 2.7m-3m. Because of their friendly nature, it allows the visitors to see in close. They have some specific dietary habits and hence it cannot be caged. They also have a strong history, whereas a 5000-year-old cave has depicted the images of Dugongs, symbolizing their origins from Malaysia.

Do you know: Tortoise and Turtles are not the same! They look alike but still have many different features. The life span of tortoises exceeds more than turtles.

Habitat: Shallow marine waters

Favorite food: jellyfish and tunicates

Diet: Carnivores in nature

Endangered level:  Medium, only the breeds living on the pacific coast are endangered.

Interesting fact: they can live up to 50-60 years

Olive Ridley Sea Turtles are the turtles that have been named after their olive-green color present in their shell that is found predominantly in the Indian ocean, which grows to 62-70 cm in length and weighs about 35- 35 kg. They have predominant nesting sites in India and they are majorly in parts of Odisha, Chennai, and Ratnagiri. They are now found in Versova beach of Mumbai. The female turtle’s nests in mass nestlings are named arribadas. They lay a batch of 110 eggs in a single clutch which requires an incubation period of 52-58 days, two times each season.

Habitat: Tropical coastal waters present in the coastlines of South America, China, Africa, and India.

Favorite food: Squid

Diet: carnivores in nature

Endangered level: Medium, under threatening

Interesting fact: they have stripes in the back which gets faded later and hence it is named the tiger shark

Tiger Sharks are considered one of the biggest sharks in the world. They are carnivorous and they weigh about 385- 635 kg with a life span of 30-40 years. They are also known as leopard sharks, as they have ferocious teeth resembling leopards through which they can even bite the shell of a turtle. They move slowly in general, but in case of attacking their prey, they can move at a speed of 20 mph. This fish in other terms it could be called garbage fish as it just swallows any trash other than its prey. Plastics, empty cans, and plates are majorly found in their stomachs. They also migrate with respect to the temperature of the water.

Habitat: Tropical coral reefs present on the coast of Australia and Southeast Asia

Favorite food: Algae

Diet: omnivores in nature

Endangered level: low, concerned less

Interesting fact: Male fish does major works like waiting for the eggs to hatch and fanning of the eggs. Clownfish is a famous fish, which got popularized by the film “Finding Nemo”. It is bright orange-colored with stripes of white in between. They are also known as false clownfish, anemonefish, and false percula. They are majorly found in shallow waters of the Red Sea, Indian ocean, and the western pacific. These fishes weigh about 250 gm and grow at a length of 10cm- 18cm. These fishes are born with both male and female sex organs at the time of birth and adapt themselves according to the stage where they are in their lifecycle. They are not considered as endangered but in case of coral reef destruction, their life may go in vain.

Published by LakesOfIndia

Lakes of India is an E.F.I initiative aimed at sensitizing the larger public on freshwater habitats across the country. A blog platform where one can read about lakes across India. You can become a guest blogger to write about a lake in your hometown and initiate an action to protect that lake.

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