From mountains to lakes to rivers, the Earth has dozens of different types of habitats, with each one hosting many different types of wildlife that are, in turn, essential for human survival. River-based wildlife is especially valuable for human survival as we have been harvesting fish and other animals since Ancient Egyptian times. Indeed, throughout the world there are various different species that make their home in rivers.
The Diversity of River-Based Wildlife
As mentioned, many different types of animals make their homes near or in rivers and streams. One such animal is the anaconda. Snakes have the ability to live on land or on water, but they move much more naturally in water. Anacondas in particular like to stay submerged under the surface waiting for the right moment to attack their prey through constriction. It is for this reason that anacondas can pose a dangerous threat for anyone boating on South American rivers, especially the Amazon River. Various other amphibians call rivers their home, including crocodiles, alligators, salamanders, hellbenders, and turtles.
Many mammals also call rivers home. One of the most familiar of these mammals are beavers, which are well-known for their dam building talents. The reason beavers build dams is to create a pool of deep, still water that serves as a method of transporting materials, as well as protection from predators. The beaver population was once over 60 million but is now closer to 6 million due to over hunting.
Otters are another type of mammal that makes their homes in rivers. While it can also live on land, the preferred den of an otter is deep within a river bank. Since otters are very strong swimmers, they have adapted to feed on frogs, fish, and other aquatic life.
One mammal that many people would be surprised to find is river-based is is the boto, or river dolphin. Located in the Amazon River basin, this freshwater dolphin is almost identical to its saltwater counterpart. They feed on local fish and pose no threat to human river activity.
Lastly, there are of course thousands of species of fish swimming through the world's rivers and streams. The sheer number of fish located in rivers is the primary reason why most ancient civilizations developed near rivers.
For example, Ancient Egypt developed near the Nile to utilize its waters as a food source. There was not much game to be hunted in Egypt, so fish from the river played an important part of their diet.
The Consequences of Industry
Ever since the Industrial Revolution, industrialized countries and their factories have been polluting their rivers and streams. The gallons upon gallons of radioactive waste dumped into rivers around the world can affect the health of humans and fish alike. Humans who eat too many fish from a contaminated river run the risk of becoming severely ill from radiation poisoning.
There are thousands of species of river-based wildlife around the world, ranging from fish to mammals to amphibians. It is important that humans realize the negative effect that river pollution is having in order to protect these delicate ecosystems filled with diverse life.