Indian Ocean

Below you can find a complete list of Indian Ocean animals. We currently track 149 animals in Indian and are adding more every day!

After the Atlantic and the Pacific, the Indian Ocean is the third largest ocean in the world. It extends from Africa to Australia and has coastlines in Asia, Africa, and Australia. It connects to many seas and other large bodies of water. Among them are:

  • Andaman Sea.
  • Arabian Sea.
  • Bay of Bengal.
  • Flores Sea.
  • Great Australian Bight.
  • Gulf of Aden.
  • Gulf of Oman.
  • Java Sea.
  • Mozambique Channel.
  • Persian Gulf.
  • Red Sea.
  • Savu Sea.
  • Strait of Malacca.
  • Timor Sea.

The Indian Ocean is home to several unique types of animals, including sea turtles, sharks, sea snakes, dugongs, and whales. Although the ocean itself has less marine life than other oceans because of its low plankton levels, you will find a rich array of marine life in specific areas and islands. Some of these species are extremely rare. Many are endangered or nonexistent in other parts of the world.

Where To Find the Indian Ocean’s Wildlife Species

The coral reefs of Africa and Australia are important ecosystems protected by national and international conservation laws. These coral reefs provide feeding and breeding grounds to hundreds of tropical fish species, sea turtles, and other marine animals.

The island country of Madagascar is a primary breeding area for humpback whales. The Maldives and Seychelles Islands provide nesting and feeding areas for shrimp, manta rays, sea turtles, giant grouper, reef sharks, and stingrays.

The island of Mauritius is another island rich in rare marine and animal life. Some unique creatures endemic to Mauritius include the pink pigeon, the echo parakeet, and the Mauritius kestrel, which are among the world’s rarest birds. The island is one of the few places to see the Mauritius flying fox, and the Rodrigues flying fox, two rare bat species.

Native Animals

Spanning over 27 million square miles, it is difficult to distinguish species as “native” to the Indian Ocean. However, there are some endemic creatures roaming the waters, such as several species of shark. Additionally, many islands within the ocean are home to endemic and unique animals.

Hundreds of plant species are native to the Maldives, including mangroves and ferns. Endemic species of the archipelago are relatively few, only thought to be the flying fox and one shrew species.

Supposedly the smallest frog in the world, Gardiner’s tree frog, along with the only flightless bird of the Indian Ocean, the white throated rail, are found only in the Seychelles.

Probably the best known for endemic species is Madagascar, a large island surrounded by the Indian Ocean. About 90 percent of all flora and fauna found on the island is endemic to Madagascar. Out of these species, lemurs, cat-like fossa, and orchid species are some of the best known.

Interesting Facts About the Indian Ocean

  • It is the warmest ocean on earth.
  • More than 40% of the world’s offshore oil production occurs in the Indian Ocean.
  • Its primary islands are Comoros, Madagascar, Maldives, Mauritius, Seychelles, and Sri Lanka.

Extinct and Endangered Animals in the Indian Ocean

  • Sea turtles – Sea turtles are endangered everywhere. These large reptiles can live for many years. Habitat destruction, especially of coral reefs, threatens their survival.
  • African penguin – This flightless bird(Spheniscus demersus), also known as the Cape penguin, is native to South Africa. Unlike its cousins, this penguin prefers warm waters and lives on the southern coasts of the continent. Captive breeding programs have helped restore African penguin populations in some areas.
  • Aldabra giant tortoise – (Aldabrachelys gigantea): One of the largest reptiles in the world, this enormous creature can live more than 200 years. The largest population of Aldabra tortoises is on the Aldabra Atoll in Seychelles. More than 100,000 of them live there.
  • Blue whale – The blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) is the largest species on earth. A blue whale can reach more than 100 feet, which is the length of three school buses. This massive, magnificent creature looks blue in the water but gray-blue when in the air. Blue whales are protected under all whaling conventions and other marine mammal treaties, but they remain critically endangered. Climate change, oil spills, whaling, and plastic pollution continue to threaten them.
  • Dugong – This rare marine mammal (Dugong dugon) is a member of the Sirenia family, which includes manatees. This sweet-looking creature was hunted for its oil and meat to near extinction. Dugongs are now a protected species under most laws and are native animals to the coastal water of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Dugongs depend on healthy seagrass communities.
  • Angelfish, butterfly fish, and cuttlefish are among the endangered fish of the Indian Ocean. Giant clams, gray reef sharks, manta rays, and spiny dogfish are marine animals unique to this ocean that are facing endangerment or extinction.

Birds in the Indian Ocean

The Indian Ocean surrounds several countries and islands, providing feeding and breeding space for countless species of seabirds. Seabirds, as the name reveals, spend a majority of their lives at sea. They are also some of the most endangered birds, threatened by overfishing, invasive species, and fishing lines. A decline in population of seabirds is detrimental to marine ecosystems, as these birds create a bridge between land and sea, increasing reef productivity. Following are several examples of birds of the Indian Ocean.

  • Albatross – Amsterdam, Black-browed, shy, light-mantled, wandering, grey-headed, Indian yellow-nosed
  • Booby – Brown, masked, red-footed
  • Tern – Antarctic, bridled, roseate, white, sooty, greater-crested
  • Penguin – Gentoo, macaroni, southern rockhopper
  • Petrel – Common diving, great-winged, cape, blue, soft-plumaged, black-bellied, grey-backed

Many other seabirds and other bird species exist near the Indian Ocean or on islands bordered by this ocean. Madagascar, the Maldives, Seychelles, and the African coast are ideal destinations for bird watching, inviting people worldwide to some of the most beautiful locations and unique species to see.

Native Fish

Along with unique marine species such as sea turtles, sharks, manta rays, sea snakes, and dugongs, the Indian Ocean holds countless fish, found on the reefs or swimming in the depths. The Indian Ocean is a crucial grounds for fisheries, supplying 14 percent of the global demand for fish caught in the wild. Unfortunately, about 30 percent of these fish are already being overfished, leading to decline in populations. Fisheries also damage seabirds, many of them becoming ensnared in fishing lines and nets, threatening species populations as well.

Fish species popularly bred and caught in fisheries include cuttlefish, squid, tuna, shads, mackerel, sharks, and many more. Rules and regulations have been put into place by conservation organisations along with governments in attempts to prevent negative impacts from fisheries.

Sport fishing is also in high demand in costal regions of the Indian Ocean. Listed are several islands within the Indian Ocean along with popular fishing in the area.

  • The Seychelles are of particular interest to anglers in search for marlin, bonefish, Indo-Pacific permit, dogtooth tuna, giant trivially, and the exotic jobfish. Fly fishing is also largely popular in this area.
  • Off the coast of Mauritius is also exquisite game fishing. Several fishing records have been broken in this area, such as the blue marlin, a billfish able to grow up to 2,000 lb. Shark catches have also broken world records at over 1,000lb. Sailfish are also a sought after catch along the Mauritian coast.
  • Southwest of India lie the Maldives, known for its dependence on fishing for its economy but also to sustain the people of the island. Renowned skipjacks, sailfish, schools of tuna, barracuda, squirrelfish, and sharks swim off the coast of this unique archipelago. The main export of the Maldives is skipjack, also a delicacy on the islands.

While it is exciting to adventure to new and beautiful waters to catch extraordinary fish, it is also important to respect conservation efforts and country guidelines for fishing upon arrival.

Native Snakes

The Indian Ocean is known for sparkling blue waters, diversity of nature, and incredible beaches. However, visitors should be wary of certain oceanic creatures, such as sea snakes. Sea snakes of many species are abundant in the Indian Ocean. Only found in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, not a lot is known about sea snakes. Almost every sea snake is venomous, not including genus Emydocephalus. Well-adapted to aquatic life, these snakes still breathe air through dorsal nostrils. Genus Laticuda are able to manoeuvre on land to a certain extent, however, most sea snakes are completely adapted to aquatic dwelling. Most common genera of sea snakes found in the Indian Ocean include:

  • Aipysurus – olive sea snakes; 9 species
  • Hydrophis – sea snakes; 36 species
  • Laticauda – sea kraits; 8 species
  • Pseudechis; black snakes; 9 species

Where To See Wildlife in the Indian Ocean

In 2015, the British government established the Chagos Marine Protected Area. It is one of the world’s protected areas in the world. Chagos is a former British colony that is part of the 70-island Chagos Archipelago. This area has healthy and diverse coral, which is essential for many ocean species.

Conservationists have spotted more than 780 different species in the protected area. These include unique fish like the Chagos clownfish (Amphiprion chagosensis), manta rays, whale sharks, and tuna. These waters are a protected breeding ground for silky sharks, which are an endangered species.

Besides this and similar large-scale protected areas, each country in the Indian Ocean has its own reserves and protected areas. Mauritius, for instance, has two sea turtle reserves, Fregate Island Turtle Reserve and Pearl Island Turtle Reserve. It also has Baie de l’Arsenal marine park, Black River Gorges National Park, and other preserves.

In 2020, the Seychelles Islands established a vast marine protected area in a deal conducted with the U.S.-based Nature Conservancy. Under the agreement, half of Seychelles’ marine protected areas will be “no-take zones,” which prohibit fishing, mining, and drilling. The others allow strictly regulated fishing.

Protected Dive Sites

The Maldives has established 25 protected dive sites to preserve coral reefs, sea turtles, tropical fish, and endangered white terns. The Maldives has also made it illegal to export dolphins, lobsters, pufferfish, whales, corals, oysters, and other threatened fish species.

The islands of the Indian Ocean offer unique opportunities for snorkelers, scuba divers, and other tourists to see marine life up close. If you want to see this vivid wildlife, visiting the protected areas of these islands is the best way.

The Most Dangerous Animals in the Indian Ocean

There are many dangerous types of animals in the Indian Ocean, including sharks, stingrays, and barracudas. Here are some dangerous sea creatures unique to this ocean.

  • Sea snakes: These long, brightly colored snakes live almost exclusively in the Indian Ocean. They are adapted for ocean life, and some of them never need to venture onto land. Sea snakes are extremely venomous. You don’t feel the bite when it happens, but it can be fatal if left untreated. Fortunately, sea snake bites on humans are very rare.
  • Box jellyfish: With no claws or teeth, this watery creature is one of the most dangerous animals in the world. A box jellyfish has 50 or more tentacles, and each tentacle can reach 15 feet. A bite from one tentacle is enough to kill 50 humans. Box jellyfish are also called sea wasps or marine stringers. Scientists estimate that box jellyfish kill more than 100 people every year.

Rare Animals

The Indian Ocean boasts a rich array of unique, colorful wildlife in its waters and on its coastlines. Like sea creatures everywhere, these animals face the threats of habitat loss, climate change, overfishing, and plastic pollution. Conservationists hope more countries will take action to halt the destruction of this beautiful, vibrant ocean.

Indian Ocean Animals

African Penguin

The only penguin species in Africa!

Albacore Tuna

The albacore is a very fast swimmer

Aldabra Giant Tortoise

One got to be 255 years old!

Anchovies

November 12th is celebrated as National Pizza with the Works Except Anchovies Day

Angelfish

There are 70 different species!

Anglerfish

The anglerfish has a glowing lure on its head to attract unsuspecting prey

Australian Flathead Perch

This small fish fetches a high price tag, with individuals selling from $1,000 to $5,000.

Baleen Whale

“Sings” a whale song during breeding season.

Barnacle

Closely related to crabs and lobsters!

Barracuda

Can grow to nearly 2 meters long!

Barramundi Fish

Scale rings indicate age

Bird

Not all birds are able to fly!

Black Marlin

Every black marlin is born as a female.

Blanket Octopus

Females can weigh up to 40,000 times more than their partners.

Blue-Ringed Octopus

The blue-ringed octopus produces some of the deadliest poison in the world

Blue Shark

Blue sharks can have up to 135 pups at a time.

Blue Whale

The largest animal on Earth

Bluefin Tuna

The bluefin is one of the largest fish in the world

Bonito Fish

May eat squid or other small invertebrate ocean life

Bottlenose Dolphin

Stays in groups from 15 to 2,000 in number!'

Boxfish

Can release a toxin from its skin

Bronze Whaler Shark

The Bronze Whaler Sharks only hunt in large groups.

Bull Shark

Unpredictable and aggressive temperament!

Butterfly Fish

There are more than 100 different species!

Chimaera

Also called ghost shark

Christmas Island Red Crab

During the breeding season, roads can dangerous for cars as well as the crab. Their shells are so hard they can puncture tires.

Clownfish

Also known as the anemonefish!

Cobia Fish

It has teeth not only in its jaws but in its tongue and the roof of its mouth

Conger Eel

The European Conger ( Conger conger) can weigh as much as an adult human!

Cookiecutter Shark

The cookiecutter shark takes its name because it leaves a cookie-shaped bite hole in its prey.

Coral

There are more than 6000 species of coral in the world's oceans.

Crab

There are 93 different crab groups

Crappie Fish

The crappie is one of the most popular freshwater fish in North America.

Cuttlefish

Found throughout the world's oceans!

Dolphin

Can reach speeds of up to 25 mph!

Dragon Eel

Dragon eels have double jaws and two sets of razor-sharp teeth

Drum Fish

The drum fish makes a croaking sound with its swimming bladder!

Dugong

Closely related to the Manatee!

Dusky Dolphin

Communicates using whistles, squeaks and clicks!

Eel

Eels can be a mere few inches long to 13 feet!

False Killer Whale

The false killer whale looks like a cross between a dolphin and orca!

Fangtooth

Has the largest teeth compared to body size of any known fish

Fin Whale

Found throughout ocean waters worldwide!

Fish

Respire through the gills on their heads!

Fly

There are more than 240,000 different species!

Flying Fish

Can glide in the air for hundreds of feet

Football Fish

The football fish is named after its unusual round or oblong shape

Frigatebird

Found inhabiting tropical islands and coasts!

Frogfish

The frogfish can change colors, but it takes several weeks to do so

Garden Eel

Garden eel colonies are made up of hundreds to thousands of individuals.

Ghost Crab

Their eyestalks, which are sometimes horned, can swivel 360 degrees

Giant Clam

Can reach nearly 4ft in length!

Great Hammerhead Shark

Great hammerhead sharks have a 360 view because their eyes are situated on the ends of their mallet-like heads.

Great White Shark

Can grow to more than 8 meters long!

Grey Reef Shark

One of the most common shark species!

Grouper

Many grouper can change their sex, and it is always from female to male.

Hagfish

Can use slime to suffocate marine predators or escape capture

Hammerhead Shark

Found in coastal waters around the world!

Hermit Crab

There are over 500 different species!

Herring

People enjoy the taste of the oily fish in many different ways including pickled, smoked, salted, dried and fermented.

Hook-Nosed Sea Snake

Sea snakes are the most numerous venomous reptiles on earth.

Horseshoe Crab

Changed little in over 500 million years!

Humpback Whale

There are thought to be 80,000 left in the wild!

Immortal Jellyfish

Excellent hitchhiker on long-trip cargo ships

Indian Palm Squirrel

Natively found in parts of India and Sri Lanka!

Insects

There are an estimated 30 million species!

Jellyfish

Have tentacles around their mouths!

John Dory

The John Dory is often labeled one of the ugliest fish in the world and has no known relatives.

Killer Whale

Typically consumes over 200 kg of food a day!

King Crab

Can have a leg span of nearly 2 meters!

Krill

The krill is perhaps the most important animal in the marine ecosystem!

Lionfish

Females can release up to 15,000 eggs at a time!

Lion’s Mane Jellyfish

Though it’s a huge animal, the lifespan of the lion’s mane jellyfish is only a year.

Little Penguin

The smallest species of penguin!

Livyatan

The Livyatan had 1 to 1.2 foot long, interlocking teeth

Lobster

Have been known to reach 100 years old!

Mahi Mahi (Dolphin Fish)

It's called the rabbit of the ocean because it multiplies so quickly.

Man of War Jellyfish

Named for an 18th century warship

Manta Ray

Can grow up to 9m wide!

Megamouth Shark

Swims with its mouth open to capture prey

Milkfish

Females lay up to 5 million eggs at one time in warm, shallow and salty waters

Mojarra

The mojarra's protruding mouth allows it to sift along the seabed for food

Mola mola (Ocean Sunfish)

The ocean sunfish is the biggest bony fish in the world

Moon Jellyfish

Moon Jellies are bioluminescent, so they glow in the dark! They can also de-age!

Moray Eel

Sometimes, groupers invite moray eels to help them hunt!

Nudibranch

They get toxins from their prey to use it against predators.

Octopus

There are around 300 different species!

Opah

Opah are brightly colored, with red-orange fins and a silvery body.

Oyster

Can process up to 10 litres of water an hour!

Parrotfish

The parrotfish can change from female to male at some point in its life.

Penguin

Spends 75% of it's time hunting for food!

Prawn

Closely related to crabs and lobsters!

Pufferfish

The second most poisonous creature in the world!

Pygmy Shark

Pygmy sharks underbelly glows to attract prey that swims beneath it.

Reef Shark

Grey reef sharks can give birth without males

Rockhopper Penguin

There are 3 different species!

Sand Tiger Shark

The sand tiger is the shark most commonly seen in aquariums.

Sardines

Schools of sardines can be miles long and are often visible from an airplane

Sawfish

Sawfish teeth keep growing as the fish gets older

Scorpion Fish

There are more than 200 recognised species!

Sea Anemone

Creatures have characteristics of both animal and plant

Sea Eagle

The sea eagle tends to mate for life with a single partner

Sea Lion

It's flippers allow it to walk on the land

Sea Slug

All sea slugs have both male and female sex organs

Sea Snake

The sea snake is incredibly venomous, even more than a cobra!”

Sea Squirt

There are more than 3,000 known species!

Sea Turtle

Always return to the same beach to lay eggs!

Sea Urchin

Can live for up to 200 years!

Seagull

Some gulls are capable of using tools

Seahorse

Males give birth to up to 1,000 offspring!

Seal

There are 30 different species worldwide!

Sei Whale

This whale is one of the fastest of the cetaceans

Shark

No shark species has any bones in their bodies

Shortfin Mako Shark

Shortfin Mako sharks can jump 20 feet above the water!”

Shrimp

There are 2,000 different species worldwide!

Silky Shark

Has an extremely acute sense of hearing

Sixgill shark

The sixgill shark has six pairs of gills instead of the normal five

Skipjack Tuna

The skipjack is the most commonly caught tuna in the world

Sleeper Shark

The Greenland shark is one of the longest living vertebrates in the world.

Snail

There are nearly 1,000 different species!

Sperm Whale

Each tooth weighs 1kg!

Spinner Shark

Can have up to 20 babies

Spiny Dogfish

Found in ocean waters worldwide!

Sponge

There are more than 9,000 known species!

Squid

Some species are known to have 10 arms!

Starfish

Has 2 stomachs to aid digestion!

Stingray

It's stinger is razor-sharp or serrated!

Strawberry Hermit Crab

When strawberry hermit crabs find shells that are larger than their own, they gather in a line from biggest to smallest. Once the biggest one sheds its shell, the next one in line will claim it, which is repeated down the line.

Sturgeon

Large species can swallow whole salmon

Tang

Found around shallow coral reefs!

Tarpon

Its genus dates back to the Cretaceous period – 113 million years ago

Telescope Fish

Swallows food, much of it larger than them, whole

Thresher Shark

Thresher Sharks have a distinctive, thresher-like tail.

Toadfish

Can be heard out of water

Tropicbird

Nests on tropical islands and cliffs!

Tuna

The tuna has a sleek body that enables it to swim quickly through the water

Turtles

Some species of aquatic turtles can get up to 70 percent of their oxygen through their butt.

Vampire Crab 

Vampire crabs do not depend on saltwater for their development; instead, they live near freshwater rivers and in forests amongst rocks and dense vegetation.

Viperfish

Viperfish have a bioluminescent spine on their dorsal fin.

Wahoo Fish

Wahoo can change colors when they're excited and while they hunt

Wandering Albatross

Featured in “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”

Whale Shark

The largest species of fish in the world!

White Shark

White Sharks live in all of the world's oceans.

Wrasse

There are more than 500 different species!

Yellow-Bellied Sea Snake

Sea snakes spend approximately 90% of their lives under water.

Yellowfin Tuna

The yellowfin forms schools with other tuna species

Zebra Shark

Can get to be 30 years old in the wild!

Indian Ocean Animals List