Terrestrial animal

Terrestrial animals are animals that live predominantly or entirely on land (e.g., cats, ants, spiders), as compared with aquatic animals, which live predominantly or entirely in the water (e.g., fish, lobsters, octopuses), or amphibians, which rely on a combination of aquatic and terrestrial habitats (e.g., frogs, or newts). Terrestrial invertebrates include ants, flies, crickets, grasshoppers and spiders.

Anthomyiidae sp. 1 (aka)
Arthropods (such as flies) are the most abundant terrestrial animals by species count.

Terrestrial Classes

The term terrestrial is typically applied for species that live primarily on the ground, in contrast to arboreal species, which live primarily in trees.

There are other less common terms that apply to specific groups of terrestrial animals:

  • Saxicolous creatures are rock dwelling. Saxicolous is derived from the Latin word "saxum," meaning a rock.
  • Arenicolous creatures live in the sand.
  • Troglofauna predominantly live in caves.


Terrestrial invasion is one of the most important events in the history of life.[1][2][3] Terrestrial lineages evolved in several animal phyla, among which vertebrates, arthropods, and mollusks are representatives of more successful groups of terrestrial animals.

Terrestrial animals do not form a unified clade; rather, they share only the fact that they live on land. The transition from an aquatic to terrestrial life has evolved independently and successfully many times by various groups of animals.[3] Most terrestrial lineages originated under a mild or tropical climate during the Paleozoic and Mesozoic, whereas few animals became fully terrestrial during the Cenozoic.

When excluding internal parasites, free living species in terrestrial environments are represented by the following ten phyla: flatworms (planarians), nemerteans (ribbon worms), nematodes (roundworms), rotifers, tardigrades (water bears), Onychophora (velvet worms), arthropods, mollusks (gastropods: land snails and slugs), annelids and chordates (tetrapods). Roundworms, tardigrades, and rotifers are microscopic animals that require a film of water to live in, and are not considered truly terrestrial. Flatworms, ribbon worms, velvet worms and annelids all depend on more or less moist habitats, as do the arthropods centipedes and millipedes. The three remaining phyla, arthropods, mollusks, and chordates, all contain species that have adapted totally to dry terrestrial environments, and contain species that have no aquatic phase in their life cycles.


Pygoscelis papua -Nagasaki Penguin Aquarium -swimming underwater-8a
Animals do not fall neatly into terrestrial or aquatic classification but lie along a continuum: e.g., penguins spend much of their time under water.

Labeling an animal species "terrestrial" or "aquatic" is often obscure and becomes a matter of judgment. Many animals considered terrestrial have a life-cycle that is partly dependent on being in water. Penguins, seals, and walruses sleep on land and feed in the ocean, yet they are all considered terrestrial. Many insects, e.g. mosquitos, and all terrestrial crabs, as well as other clades, have an aquatic life cycle stage: their eggs need to be laid in and to hatch in water; after hatching, there is an early aquatic form, either a nymph or larva.

There are crab species that are completely aquatic, crab species that are amphibious, and crab species that are terrestrial. Fiddler crabs are called "semi-terrestrial" since they make burrows in the muddy substrate, to which they retreat during high tides. When the tide is out, fiddler crabs search the beach for food. The same is true in the mollusca. Many hundreds of gastropod genera and species live in intermediate situations, such as for example, Truncatella. Some gastropods with gills live on land, and others with a lung live in the water.

As well as the purely terrestrial and the purely aquatic animals, there are many borderline species. There are no universally accepted criteria for deciding how to label these species, thus some assignments are disputed.


Fossil evidence has shown that sea creatures, likely related to arthropods, first began to make forays on to land around 530 million years ago. There is little reason to believe, however, that animals first began living reliably on land around this same time period. A more likely hypothesis is that these early arthropods' motivation for venturing on to dry land was to mate (as modern horseshoe crabs do) or lay eggs out of the reach of predators.[4] As time went on, evidence suggests that by approximately 375 million years ago[3] the bony fish best adapted to life in shallow coastal/swampy waters (such as Tiktaalik roseae), were much more viable as amphibians than were their arthropod predecessors. Thanks to relatively strong, muscular limbs (which were likely weight-bearing, thus making them a preferable alternative to traditional fins in extremely shallow water),[5] and lungs which existed in conjunction with gills, Tiktaalik and animals like it were able to establish a strong foothold on land by the end of the Devonian period. As such, they are likely the most recent common ancestor of all modern tetrapods.

Terrestrial gastropods

Gastropod mollusks are one of the most successful animals that have diversified in the fully terrestrial habitat.[6] They have evolved terrestrial taxa in more than nine lineages.[6] They are commonly referred to as land snails and slugs.

Terrestrial invasion of gastropod mollusks has occurred in Neritopsina, Cyclophoroidea, Littorinoidea, Rissooidea, Ellobioidea, Onchidioidea, Veronicelloidea, Succineoidea, and Stylommatophora, and in particular, each of Neritopsina, Rissooidea and Ellobioidea has likely achieved land invasion more than once.[6]

Most terrestrialization events have occurred during the Paleozoic or Mesozoic.[6] Gastropods are especially unique due to several fully terrestrial and epifaunal lineages that evolved during the Cenozoic.[6] Some members of rissooidean families Truncatellidae, Assimineidae, and Pomatiopsidae are considered to have colonized to land during the Cenozoic.[6] Most truncatellid and assimineid snails amphibiously live in intertidal and supratidal zones from brackish water to pelagic areas.[6] Terrestrial lineages likely evolved from such ancestors.[6] The rissooidean gastropod family Pomatiopsidae is one of the few groups that have evolved fully terrestrial taxa during the late Cenozoic in the Japanese Archipelago only.[6] Shifts from aquatic to terrestrial life occurred at least twice within two Japanese endemic lineages in Japanese Pomatiopsidae and it started in the Late Miocene.[6]

About one-third of gastropod species is terrestrial.[7] In terrestrial habitats they are subjected to daily and seasonal variation in temperature and water availability.[7] Their success in colonizing different habitats is due to physiological, behavioral, and morphological adaptations to water availability, as well as ionic and thermal balance.[7] They are adapted to most of the habitats on Earth.[7] The shell of a snail is constructed of calcium carbonate, but even in acidic soils one can find various species of shell-less slugs.[7] Land-snails also live in deserts, where they must contend with heat and aridity.[7] Terrestrial gastropods are primarily herbivores and only a few groups are carnivorous.[8] Carnivorous gastropods usually feed on other gastropod species or on weak individuals of the same species; some feed on insect larvae or earthworms.[8]

See also

Further reading

  • Clack J. A. (2002). Gaining ground: the origin and evolution of tetrapods. Indiana University Press, 369 pp., ISBN 978-0-253-34054-2.
  • Cloudsley-Thompson J. L. (1988). Evolution and adaptation of terrestrial arthropods. Springer, 141 pp., ISBN 978-3-540-18188-0.
  • Dejours P. et al. (1987). Comparative physiology: life in water and on land. Liviana Editrice, Italy, 556 pp., ISBN 978-0-387-96515-4.
  • Gordon M. S. & Olson E. C. (1995). Invasions of the land: the transitions of organisms from aquatic to terrestrial life. Columbia University Press, 312 pp., ISBN 978-0-231-06876-5.
  • Little C. (1983). The colonisation of land: Origins and adaptations of terrestrial animals. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. 290 pp., ISBN 978-0-521-25218-8.
  • Little C. (1990). The terrestrial invasion. An ecophysiological approach to the origin of land animals. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. 304 pp. ISBN 978-0-521-33669-7.
  • Zimmer, Carl (1999). At the Water's Edge : Fish with Fingers, Whales with Legs, and How Life Came Ashore but Then Went Back to Sea. New York: Touchstone. ISBN 0684856239.


This article incorporates CC-BY-2.0 text from the reference[6] and CC-BY-2.5 text from the reference[7] and CC-BY-3.0 text from the reference[8]

  1. ^ Shear WA: The early development of terrestrial ecosystems. Nature 1991, 351:283-289.
  2. ^ Vermeij GJ, Dudley R, Why are there so few evolutionary transitions between aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems? Biol J Linn Soc, 2000, 70:541-554.
  3. ^ a b c Garwood, Russell J.; Edgecombe, Gregory D. (September 2011). "Early Terrestrial Animals, Evolution, and Uncertainty". Evolution: Education and Outreach. New York: Springer Science+Business Media. 4 (3): 489–501. doi:10.1007/s12052-011-0357-y. ISSN 1936-6426. Retrieved 2015-07-21.
  4. ^ MacNaughton, R. B et al. First steps on land: Arthropod trackways in Cambrian-Ordovician eolian sandstone, southeastern Ontario, Canada. Geology, 30, 391 - 394, (2002).
  5. ^ Hohn-Schulte, Bianca, Holger Preuschoft, Ulrich Witzel, and Claudia Distler-Hoffman. "Biomechanics and Functional Preconditions for Terrestrial Lifestyle in Basal Tetrapods, with Special Consideration of Tiktaalik Roseae." Historical Biology 25.2 (2013): 167-81. Web.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Kameda Y. & Kato M. (2011). "Terrestrial invasion of pomatiopsid gastropods in the heavy-snow region of the Japanese Archipelago". BMC Evolutionary Biology 11: 118. doi:10.1186/1471-2148-11-118.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Raz S., Schwartz N. P., Mienis H. K., Nevo E. & Graham J. H. (2012). "Fluctuating Helical Asymmetry and Morphology of Snails (Gastropoda) in Divergent Microhabitats at ‘Evolution Canyons I and II,’ Israel". PLoS ONE 7(7): e41840. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0041840.
  8. ^ a b c Siriboon, T.; Sutcharit, C.; Naggs, F.; Panha, S. (2013). "Three new species of the carnivorous snail genus Perrottetia Kobelt, 1905 from Thailand (Pulmonata, Streptaxidae)". ZooKeys. 287: 41–57. doi:10.3897/zookeys.287.4572. PMC 3677355. PMID 23794847.
Belgica antarctica

Belgica antarctica, the Antarctic midge, is a species of flightless midge, endemic to the continent of Antarctica. At 2–6 mm (0.079–0.24 in) long, it is the largest purely terrestrial animal native to the continent, as well as its only insect.

It also has the smallest known insect genome as of 2014, with only 99 million base pairs of nucleotides (and about 13,500 genes).

Callopistria floridensis

Callopistria floridensis, the Florida fern moth or Florida fern caterpillar, is a moth of the family Noctuidae. It is found from North America (including Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, New Brunswick, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Ontario, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas), south through the Caribbean (including Cuba), Mexico and Central America (including Costa Rica) to Ecuador.

The wingspan is about 29 mm (1.1 in). Adults are on wing year round in Florida and the tropics.

The larvae feed on various ferns, including Nephrolepis exaltata and Pteris vittata. They are highly variable in coloration, ranging from green to brown, black or reddish. It is an occasional pest in greenhouses. The larvae were recently discovered to have high levels of arsenic when feeding on P. vittata, and are the only known terrestrial animal to accumulate arsenic.

Chinese salamander

The Chinese salamander (Hynobius chinensis) is a species of salamander in the family Hynobiidae endemic to China. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests, rivers, freshwater marshes, freshwater springs, and arable land. It is threatened by habitat loss.

The Chinese salamander is a terrestrial animal and only lives in water during its breeding period.


Eoarthropleura was a genus of millipede-like creatures which lived between the Late Silurian and Late Devonian periods. Fossils, mainly of cuticle fragments, have been found in Europe (Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany and Shropshire, England) and North America (New York, USA and New Brunswick, Canada). It is the earliest known member of the Arthropleuridea, and the oldest known terrestrial animal of North America.

Greater long-nosed armadillo

The greater long-nosed armadillo (Dasypus kappleri) is a South American species of armadillo found in Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, Peru, Bolivia and Brazil. It is a solitary, nocturnal, terrestrial animal that feeds on arthropods and other invertebrates, usually living in the vicinity of streams and swamps.

One of the larger species of armadillo, it measures 83 to 106 cm (33 to 42 in) in total length and generally weighing 8.5 to 10.5 kg (19 to 23 lb), though it can reach as much as 15 kg (33 lb). Spurs on its hind legs allow it to crawl on its knees into narrow tunnels.

Guinea baboon

The Guinea baboon (Papio Papio) is a baboon from the Old World monkey family. Some (older) classifications list only two species in the genus Papio, this one and the hamadryas baboon. In those classifications, all other Papio species are considered subspecies of P. papio and the species is called the savanna baboon.

The Guinea baboon inhabits a small area in western Africa. Its range includes Guinea, Senegal, Gambia, southern Mauritania and western Mali. Its habitat includes dry forests, gallery forests, and adjoining bush savannas or steppes. It has reddish-brown hair, a hairless, dark-violet or black face with the typical dog-like muzzle, which is surrounded by a small mane, and a tail carried in a round arc. It also has limb modifications that allow it to walk long distances on the ground. The Guinea baboon is the smallest baboon species, weighing between 13 and 26 kg (28.6–57 lbs). Their life spans are between 35 and 45 years.

It is a diurnal and terrestrial animal, but sleeps in trees at night. The number of suitable sleeping trees limits the group size and the range. It lives in troops of up to 200 individuals, each with a set place in a hierarchy. Group living provides protection from predators such as the lion and various hyena species. Like all baboons, it is omnivorous, eating fruits, buds, roots, grasses, greens, seeds, tubers, leaves, nuts, cereals, insects, and small mammals. Because it eats almost anything available, it is able to occupy areas with few resources or harsh conditions. Its presence may help improve habitats because it digs for water and spreads seeds in its waste, encouraging plant growth.

The Guinea baboon is a highly communicative animal. It communicates by using a variety of vocalizations and physical interactions. In addition to vocalizations to each other, this animal has vocal communications apparently intended to be received and interpreted by predators.

Due to its small range and the loss of its habitat, the Guinea baboon is classified as "near threatened" by the IUCN.

Jean-Charles Jacobs

Jean-Charles Jacobs (1821–1907) was a Belgian doctor and entomologist, a pupil of Constantin Wesmael. He graduated in medicine from the University of Brussels, but never abandoned the study of insects, and was one of the founders of the Société entomologique de Belgique. He concentrated on the Hymenoptera, often in collaboration with Jules Tosquinet, turning to Diptera later in life. Among his later studies was a report on the insects collected by the Belgian Antarctic Expedition, including that continent's largest fully terrestrial animal, the fly Belgica antarctica .

Jonathan (tortoise)

Jonathan (hatched c. 1832 (186−187 years old) is a Seychelles giant tortoise (Aldabrachelys gigantea hololissa), a subspecies of the Aladabra giant tortoise (Aldabrachelys gigantea hololissa), and the oldest known living terrestrial animal in the world. Jonathan resides on the island of Saint Helena, a British Overseas Territory in the South Atlantic Ocean.

Kilu Cave

Kilu Cave is a paleoanthropological site located on Buka Island in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea. Kilu Cave is located at the base of a limestone cliff, 65 m (213 ft) from the modern coastline. With evidence for human occupation dating back to 29,000 years, Kilu Cave is the earliest known site for human occupation in the Solomon Islands archipelago.

Makara (Hindu mythology)

Makara (Sanskrit: मकर) is a sea-creature in Hindu culture. It is generally depicted as half terrestrial animal in the frontal part (stag, deer or elephant) and half aquatic animal in the hind part (usually a fish or seal tail, snake tail though sometimes a peacock or even a floral tail is depicted). Even though Makara may take many different forms throughout Hindu culture, in today's modern world, its form is always related to the Marsh Crocodile or a Water Monitor. In Hindu astrology, Makara is equivalent to the sign of Capricorn, tenth of the twelve symbols of the Zodiac.

Makara appears as the vahana (vehicle) of the river goddess Ganga, Narmada and of the sea god Varuna. Makara are considered guardians of gateways and thresholds, protecting throne rooms as well as entryways to temples; it is the most commonly recurring creature in Hindu and Buddhist temple iconography, and also frequently appears as a Gargoyle or as a spout attached to a natural spring. Makara-shaped earrings called Makarakundalas are sometimes worn by the Hindu gods, for example Shiva, the Destroyer, or the Preserver-god Vishnu, the Sun god Surya, and the Mother Goddess Chandi. Makara is also the insignia of the love god Kamadeva, who has no dedicated temples and is also known as Makaradhvaja, "one whose flag depicts a makara".


Myriapoda is a subphylum of arthropods containing millipedes, centipedes, and others. The group contains over 16,000 species, most of which are terrestrial. Although their name suggests they have myriad (10,000) legs, myriapods range from having up to 750 legs (the millipede Illacme plenipes) to having fewer than ten legs.

The fossil record of myriapods reaches back into the late Silurian, although molecular evidence suggests a diversification in the Cambrian Period, and Cambrian fossils exist which resemble myriapods. The oldest unequivocal myriapod fossil is of the millipede Pneumodesmus newmani, from the late Silurian (428 million years ago). P. newmani is also important as the earliest known terrestrial animal. The phylogenetic classification of myriapods is still debated.

The scientific study of myriapods is myriapodology, and those who study myriapods are myriapodologists.

Orizaba deer mouse

The Orizaba deer mouse (Peromyscus beatae) is a small species of rodent in the family Cricetidae, native to El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico. It is found in thorn scrub and favors rocky areas with brush and scattered trees. They are nocturnal, and have been discovered to feed on arthropods, seeds, and green plant material. Breeding takes place year-round, and the mean litter size is two to three young in Oaxaca, Mexico. It is known to be a terrestrial animal.


Pantylus is an extinct lepospondyl amphibian from the Permian period of North America.

Pantylus was probably a largely terrestrial animal, judging from its well-built legs. It was about 25 centimetres (10 in) long, and resembled a lizard with a large skull and short limbs. It had numerous blunt teeth, and probably chased after invertebrate prey.


Petasina is a genus of air-breathing land snails, terrestrial animal pulmonate gastropod mollusks in the family Hygromiidae, the hairy snails and their allies.

Plutomurus ortobalaganensis

Plutomurus ortobalaganensis is the deepest terrestrial animal ever found on Earth, living at 1,980 metres (6,500 ft) below a cave entrance. It is a species of springtail (arthropods) endemic to the Krubera-Voronja cave system in Georgia. It was discovered in the CAVEX Team expedition of 2010.

Schaefferia profundissima

Schaefferia profundissima is a species of springtail (arthropods) endemic to the Krubera-Voronja cave system in Georgia. It is one of the deepest terrestrial animal ever found on Earth, living at >1,800 metres (5,900 ft) below the cave entrance. It was discovered in the CAVEX Team expedition of 2010.

Seven-banded armadillo

The seven-banded, long-nosed armadillo or just seven-banded armadillo, Dasypus septemcinctus, is a species of armadillo from South America found in Paraguay, Argentina, Bolivia and Brazil.

It is a solitary nocturnal, terrestrial animal, living mostly in dry habitats, outside of rainforest regions.


Terrestrial refers to things related to land or the planet Earth.

Terrestrial may also refer to:

Terrestrial animal, an animal that lives on land opposed to living in water, or sometimes an animal that lives on or near the ground, as opposed to arboreal life (in trees)

A fishing fly that simulates the appearance of a land insect is referred to as a terrestrial fly.

Terrestrial ecoregion, land ecoregions, as distinct from freshwater ecoregions and marine ecoregions

Terrestrial ecosystem, an ecosystem found only on landforms

Terrestrial gamma-ray flash, a burst of gamma rays produced in Earth's atmosphere

Terrestrial locomotion, evolutionary adaptation from aquatic types of locomotion

Terrestrial plant, a plant that grows on land rather than in water or on rocks or trees

Terrestrial planet, a planet that is primarily composed of silicate rocks, and thus "Earth-like"

Terrestrial radio, radio signals received through a conventional aerial, as opposed to satellite radio

Terrestrial radiation, due to the insolation of heat by the earth surface, earth re-radiates the heat to the atmosphere in the form of long waves

Terrestrial reconnaissance, a type of reconnaissance that is employed along the elements of ground warfare

Terrestrial reference frame, the reference frame as one views from earth

Terrestrial television, television signals received through a conventional aerial, as opposed to satellite television or cable television

Terrestrial Time, an astronomical time standard

Terrestrial Trunked Radio, a specialist walkie talkie standard used by police departments, fire departments, ambulance services and the military

Cretaceous Terrestrial Revolution, the intense diversification of land animals

Truncatellina atomus

Truncatellina atomus is a species of minute air-breathing land snail, a terrestrial animal pulmonate gastropod mollusk in the family Vertiginidae.

This species is endemic to the Canary Islands.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.