5 Animals You Didn’t Know Could Swim

Life began in the ocean, and hundreds of millions of years of evolution now separate land animals from their marine predecessors. The water can now be a deadly place — especially when relatively few species have re-learned how to swim.

Here are some of the lesser-known examples of non-fish that retained or regained their swimming skills.

1. Cape Gannets

What is flying, but swimming through the air? Aerodynamic and hydrodynamic body shapes are not so different, with their taped edges and mathematically exact curves. So birds are actually natural swimmers — given a few tweaks like, watertight feathers. Penguins, who truly do swim through the water, are the most obvious example.

Waterfowl like ducks and geese — the most ancient extant group of birds — are also excellent divers and swimmers in short bursts, spending the rest of their time bobbing gently on the surface. But a seabird like the cape gannet is a bit of an oddity.

Cape gannets frequently look and behave like sea gulls, circling as if they are ready to snatch a bobbing morsel off of the ocean’s surface. Instead, these birds dive right through the water to snag fish several feet deep. The video below shows how comfortable these unassuming seabirds are jetting through the water.

Tigers — and Ligers

Cats are not known for their fondness of the water, which you’ll known if you’ve ever shared a home with a common house cat. The same is true of most big cats, including lions. But tigers are strong, joyful swimmers. And the lion-tiger hybrid — the liger, an accident of zoos housing the two species together — takes after its tiger roots, also enjoying the water.

Bats

Unexpectedly competent swimmers, bats may take an involuntary dip when trying to drink from a body of water. Perhaps video speaks louder than text here:

Doesn’t this bat look happy? It certainly seems like a nice way to cool off on a hot day.

Snakes

Sea snakes, also known as coral reef snakes, are extremely venomous. You’ll want to stay far away from anything you see slithering through the water on a tropical beach. But don’t worry; they’re easy to spot, as they advertise their threat with highly visible patterning and colors.

I recommend enjoying the incredible spectacle of their sinuous swim from the safety of your screen:

But like aerodynamic birds, whose method of movement seems tailor-made for swimming, so too does the efficient slither of a snake. Therefore, it’s worth noting that even those of us living far inland in North America should keep an eye out.

In fact, the cottonmouth, a type of venomous pit viper found in the Southeastern U.S. is a particularly strong swimmer. It’s no coincidence that another common name for this snake is “water moccasin”. These snakes are liable to show up at your summer lake trip — and not just on the shore.

If you see one of these water serpents while out for a swim, just give them a wide berth, and you’ll be fine. They’re not out to get you.

Elephants

My son started swimming lessons at less than a year old. It’s part of a trend of introducing children to the water as young as possible to capitalize on an instinctual swimming ability that infants lose when they’re older and kept away from water. Actually, there’s a theory that all mammals can instinctively swim – even those that don’t actually enjoy the water.

But elephants were certainly the question mark, given their huge size. Elephants have the distinction of being the only land mammal physically incapable of jumping. Are they also the one mammal that can’t swim? Apparently not. Enjoy!

For those of us living in colder climates in the Northern Hemisphere, this time of year marks beach season, and a cool swim on a hot day is something to look forward to all year. I hope this has gotten you in the mood.

And if I’ve turned you off from the beach as you think about swimming bats and snakes, I”m sorry — kind of.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

41 comments

HEIKKI R
HEIKKI R22 days ago

thank you

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Marija M
Marija M4 months ago

Glad for them, tks for telling.

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Janet B
Janet B4 months ago

Thanks

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Leanne K
Leanne K4 months ago

Was it a care2 post about the elephant seen swimming miles from shore, that was saved by the sri lankan navy. Thats another amazing story

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Leanne K
Leanne K4 months ago

Those elephants, they are truly amazing

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Muff-Anne York-Haley

Wow.

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David C
David C4 months ago

thanks, they didn't all surprise me

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Terri S
Terri S4 months ago

The bat surprised me. I probably would have jumped in to save him.

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Janet B
Janet B4 months ago

Thanks

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Leo C
Leo Custer4 months ago

Thank you for sharing!

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