Learn All About The Astounding Animals In The Chesapeake Bay

Oluwatosin Michael
Nov 02, 2023 By Oluwatosin Michael
Originally Published on Jan 05, 2022
a region with abundant fish

There are over 100 estuaries that are present across the United States and the Chesapeake Bay is not only the largest but also the most productive of all.

The Chesapeake Bay watershed almost covers six states of the United States including Virginia and Pennsylvania. The Chesapeake Bay region is separated from the Atlantic Ocean by a peninsula.

The Chesapeake Bay is located in the mid-Atlantic region that comprises the eastern shore of Maryland, Virginia, and Delaware. It has more than 150 rivers and streams flowing through it.

The drainage basin of the rivers and streams covers the areas of Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and the entire Washington DC. The Chesapeake Bay is widely acknowledged for its diverse habitat and unique species.

Seafood is an important part of the life of the inhabitants here as oysters, crabs are mussels and other is the primary source of economy.

Blue crab is a popular species that can be found in the Chesapeake Bay. However, the flora and fauna are not affected by human activities, also, it has a marine dead zone.

Thus the Chesapeake Bay's ecosystem is large and complex, therefore it is the dwelling of several animals. If you want to learn more about the animals that can be found in the Chesapeake Bay region then keep reading this article, as you will come across more interesting facts below.

If you like this article then check our other article on animals in Iceland and animals in the Arctic Ocean, and share these facts with everyone.

Reptiles And Amphibians

The Chesapeake Bay has distinct habitats to support all its species, there are forests, uplands, marshes, wetlands, tidal flats, beaches. These amphibians and reptiles are often referred to as herps and they can range from snakes, skinks, turtles, frogs, and salamanders. Some of the important species are stated below.

Besides mammals, fishes, invertebrates, birds, and insects, there is a variety of reptiles and amphibians that can be found abundant on both, land and water sides of the watershed. Non-venomous species like the black rat snake, to venomous species like the copperhead snake, can be found in this upland habitat.

Other snake species like the eastern garter snake, eastern milksnake, northern water snake, the rainbow snake can be found in this bay.

Common snapping turtle, eastern box turtle, Kemp's ridley sea turtle, loggerhead turtle, red-bellied cooter, spotted turtle, diamondback terrapin.

The broad-headed skink, five-lined skink is limited within the premises of the upland habitat while frogs like northern spring peeper can be found in both upland habitats as well as marshland habitat. Variety of salamanders is a part of Chesapeake Bay’s wildlife for example the - marbled salamander, northern red salamander, and spotted salamander.

Chesapeake Bay Wildlife

The Chesapeake Bay watershed has over 3,000 native species, migratory species, invasive species, and keystone species like the eastern oysters. However, the blue crab is the most popular species of all.

Other species of this watershed comprises various mammals such as bears, minks, beavers, ducks, squirrels, red fox, rabbits, bobcat, sika deer, and more. Besides mammals, there are marine animals, birds, and insects.

The wetlands, rivers, marshes, and forests have unique wildlife. In the forests, there is the wild bobcat which is a common phenomenon across the watershed.

Also, there are mammals like Delmarva fox squirrel, eastern cottontail, gray fox, little brown bat, marsh rabbit, North-American porcupine, raccoon, and various other upper land species.

The wildlife of wetland may include nutria, river otter, Virginia possum, birds like the bald eagle, barn swallow, blue-winged teal. Invertebrates like Atlantic ribbed mussels, fairy shrimps, marsh crabs, and various others.

The open and shallow water wildlife contains Atlantic ghost crabs that can be found on the beaches, blue crab is an important species considered as a delicacy too. Brief squid, bristle worms, common sea stars are some of its examples.

The streams and rivers are comprised of small fish such as the pipefish and big fish too like the bull shark.

Some other examples are American shad fish, northern sea robin fish, northern pufferfish, cobia which is a long fish, and more. The aquatic reef and piling have Eastern oysters, boring sponges, barnacles, and many other species.

Life In Chesapeake Bay

The Chesapeake Bay region has had the presence of human beings for more than 11,500 years. The Chesapeake Bay has a distinct past and it has witnessed several settlements.

Being a region with abundant fish, fishing became an integral part of the life of the people who live in the Chesapeake region.

Blue crabs, oysters, and clams are some of the major seafood that the Chesapeake Bay is known for. And now it is a popular tourist destination too, hence it also enables for boosting the of the economy of Maryland.

The watershed delivers almost 500 million lb (226.8 million kg) of seafood every year. The animal life here is now largely impacted by human activities as the natural habitat is degrading with every passing day making it difficult for many species to survive on both land and water.

The plants that produce oxygen in the water for the survival of the aquatic creatures are being destructed by either agriculture or construction.

This watershed is a dwelling for various fishes such as sea turtles, dolphins, jellyfish, sharks, rays, sea horses besides oysters and crabs.

Besides fishes, birds like the geese, ducks, swans, herons, and other thousand species too consider this watershed as their home. To make their lives, better human beings are forgetting about the wildlife, their habitat, and their role in the ecosystem.

natural communities of chesapeake bay

Natural Communities Of Chesapeake Bay

Natural communities can be described as the chief elements of biological diversity. The preservation of rare and extraordinary natural communities acts as an umbrella for preserving the less-known species.

The natural communities of Chesapeake Bay are categorized into distinct categories. The concept is taken from the Natural Heritage Program, North Carolina Heritage Program, and Virginia Heritage Program. It has the system, class, ecological community group, and community type that are described below.

The system is possibly the broadest classification level and the five systems are encompassed in this classification have individual features that can be distinguished based on their geomorphic, hydrological, biological, and chemical features. First is the terrestrial system that comprises the upland habitats.

Then comes the Palustrine system that has perennial and non-tidal habitats. The third is the Estuarine system that embodies the adjacent and deepwater tidal habitat.

The fourth is the Riverine system constitutes the submerged or floating vegetation and fifth is the marine system that is chiefly the open ocean.

After System, next in the order is Class which is established on the parallel ecological peculiarities. There are almost 11 classes and each class is composed of ecological community groups and presently there are 79 ecological community groups under the class.

Shallow Water And Submerged Aquatic Vegetation

Did you know that one of the most crucial parts of the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem is its shallow water and submerged aquatic vegetation widely known as underwater grasses? These underwater grasses not only inundate nutrient pollution but also reduce erosion. Many aquatic animals seek shelter and this vegetation acts as a primary food source for many animals.

Some important watergrasses that can be found in the Chesapeake Bay watershed include the water stargrass or the mud plantain. The water stargrass can be observed in the freshwater of the upper part and it bears beautiful star-like yellow flowers, nevertheless, it can grow on land as well if washed ashore.

Other species may include Hydrilla that was introduced in the 1960 and now it can be discovered near the freshwater region of the bay. The widgeon grass is present in the saltier brackish area.

It is a prominent variety of plants that can be found in Virginia and is popularly called ditchgrass.

Furthermore, it can be spotted near ditches, farms, and roads. Another prominent variety is the eelgrass and similar to the wideon grass this plant can be detected in the saltier water.

The leaves of this plant can grow almost 4 ft (1.2 m) and provide shelter to the blue crabs. Some invasive species of plants might include the Brazilian waterweeds that can affect the water quality by restricting its flow.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for animals in the Chesapeake Bay, then why not take a look at animals that live in death valley or animals in Iran?

We Want Your Photos!
We Want Your Photos!

We Want Your Photos!

Do you have a photo you are happy to share that would improve this article?
Email your photos

More for You

See All

Written by Oluwatosin Michael

Bachelor of Science specializing in Microbiology

Oluwatosin Michael picture

Oluwatosin MichaelBachelor of Science specializing in Microbiology

With a Bachelor's in Microbiology from the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Oluwatosin has honed his skills as an SEO content writer, editor, and growth manager. He has written articles, conducted extensive research, and optimized content for search engines. His expertise extends to leading link-building efforts and revising onboarding strategies. 

Read full bio >