New Jersey is one of the most biologically diverse states in the country, and home to over 1000 different species of animal wildlife. Its many different ecosystems of coastal marine areas, pine forests, upland hardwood forests, fresh and salt water marshes, as well as 1000’s of lakes and rivers provide ample habitat for its many critters. For the animal lover, there’s no shortage of wild critters to spot when visiting Jersey Shore beaches. You just have to look hard enough.
1. Humpback Whale
The humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) is a species of baleen whale. One of the larger rorqual species, adults range in length from 12–16 m (39–52 ft) and weigh about 36,000 kg (79,000 lb). The humpback has a distinctive body shape, with long pectoral fins and a knobbly head. It is known for breaching and other distinctive surface behaviors, making it popular with whale watchers. Males produce a complex song lasting 10 to 20 minutes, which they repeat for hours at a time. Its purpose is not clear, though it may have a role in mating.
2. Black Skimmer
The black skimmer is a tern-like seabird, one of three very similar birds species in the skimmer genus Rynchops in the gull family Laridae. It breeds in North and South America. Northern populations winter in the warmer waters of the Caribbean and the tropical and subtropical Pacific coasts, but the South American races make only shorter movements in response to annual floods which extend their feeding areas in the river shallows. Also resides on Jersey shore.
3. Horseshoe Crab
Four species of horseshoe crabs exist today. Only one species, is found in North America along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts from Maine to Mexico, mostly in Jersey area. The other three species are found in Southeast Asia. Horseshoe crabs are not true crabs at all. Those crabs are more closely related to arachnids, than to crustaceans (a group that includes true crabs, lobsters, and shrimp).
Horseshoe crabs are often called “living fossils” because fossils of their ancestors date back almost 450 million years–that’s 200 million years before dinosaurs existed.
4. Bottlenose Dolphin
Bottlenose dolphins, the genus Tursiops, are the most common and well-known members of the family Delphinidae, the family of oceanic dolphin. Recent molecular studies show the genus contains two species, the common bottlenose dolphin and the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin, instead of one.
Despite the fact that they live underwater and can hold their breath for up to 7 minutes, dolphins must come to the surface to breathe air. A muscular flap covers their blowhole while underwater and opens to exhale once they reach the surface. Dolphins can exhale air at 160 km/hr (100 mph). When they inhale, they can exchange up to 80% of the contents of their lungs. Humans, by comparison, only exchange 17% of the air in their lungs when they breathe.
5. Northern Diamondback Terrapin
The diamondback terrapin or simply terrapin, is a species of turtle native to the brackish coastal tidal marshes United States. It belongs to the monotypic genus, Malaclemys. It has one of the largest ranges of all turtles in Jersey Shore, North America.
We believe that diamondback terrapins is to be the only turtle in the world that lives exclusively in brackish water (containing some salt, but not as much as ocean water), habitats like tidal marshes, estuaries and lagoons. Most terrapins hibernate during the winter by burrowing into the mud of marshes. Although diamondback terrapins live in tidal marshes, estuaries and lagoons, their preferred nesting sites are sandy beaches.
These turtles range from a shiny silver or off-white to gray or even black! Their shells can be brown, gray, yellow-brown, or black. Safe to say, they come in all shades!