Swamps are wetland areas that are natural habitats for several animal and plant species. A common swamp area includes several bodies of water, woody and aquatic vegetation and uniquely adapted animals. A swamp is critically important to providing fresh water and oxygen to other nearby ecosystems, as well as maintaining endangered wildlife that may not thrive in other areas. Several organisms consider swamps and other wetlands their home.
An American alligator is a native to the Southeastern United States, most prominent in Florida and Louisiana.. The alligator is one of two living species of alligator left in the world. They are commonly found in wetlands such as the Florida Everglades, the Great Dismal Swamp in North Carolina and the wetlands of Louisiana. American alligators have a diet of medium-sized mammals (deer and raccoon), large fish, turtles, birds and other amphibians.
Frogs are amphibians commonly found in swamps as well. The frog uses the swamp water to lay its eggs. When young frogs, called tadpoles, hatch from the egg, they resemble a small fish more than a frog, as they have no arms or legs. While developing, a tadpole spends all of its time submerged in the swamp water. A tadpole breathes through gills as it begins to develop lungs. As an adult, a frog splits time above and below the swamp water surface. Salamanders and toads, both close relatives of the frog, are also commonly found in swamps for similar reasons.
A dragonfly is a large flying insect common in many swamps and wetlands in the world. A dragonfly has several distinctive features including large multifaceted eyes, two pairs of large transparent wings, a thin elongated body and six legs. Dragonflies are commonly found in swamps because their larvae are aquatic creatures that require water. Their diet includes mosquitoes and other small insects, including bees, ants, flies and sometimes butterflies.
In addition to animal species, several types of trees flourish in the swamp environment. The depth of flooding and the duration of high sea levels influence the types of trees in each individual swamp. The two most common trees found in swamps are baldcypress and water tupelo. Baldcypress trees provide cover for all animal species and food to swamp herbivores and omnivores. The cypress is recognized for its moss-draped crown and buttressed trunk. The water tupelo is a long-lived tree that grows in swamps as well. Its fruit is often eaten by the wildlife, and tupelo honey is prized for its sweetness, while the swollen base provides lumber for various uses including veneers and wood carvings.
A red-bellied watersnake is a fairly large semiaquatic snake. Physically, the watersnakes are generally dark brown, light brown, or gray with a bright orange to yellowish underside. Common in swamps along the Southeast region of the United States, this watersnake splits time between basking in the sun and swimming in water. Red-bellied watersnakes typically prey on amphibians such as frogs, salamanders and toads. Occasionally, this species of watersnake will eat fish when amphibians are not readily available.