The Indian Ocean provides a habitat to a broad diversity of animals, including reptiles, mammals and thousands of species of fish. New species continue to be discovered, indicating the depth of the species richness found in the Indian Ocean. Unfortunately, some of these animals are in danger of becoming extinct due to man's activities.
Six species of turtles are found in the Indian Ocean, including the green turtle, which is the largest hard-shell sea turtle in existence. Sea turtles are primarily herbivores, feeding on sea grass and algae. The Indian Ocean is also home to other reptiles, such as sea snakes. Sea snakes, such as the yellow bellied sea snake, are mostly found in warmer coastal waters. Like other reptiles, they have to come to the surface to breathe.
There are many kinds of fish in the Indian Ocean, and new species are discovered frequently. This includes species that humans harvest for consumption, such as tuna, and various types of exotic fish that are used as pets. The coral reef is home to many fish species, such as butterfly fish and triggerfish. Fishing practices in the Indian Ocean are becoming increasingly regulated to help maintain the diversity of fish populations.
The best-known mammals in the Indian Ocean include dolphins, manatees, and whales. Bottlenose dolphins are the most widely studied dolphin species, living in most oceans. Some species, such as Tursiops aduncus, only inhabit the Indian Ocean. The dugong manatee lives in the coastal waters of the Indian Ocean, reaching well over 454 Kilogram. Manatees are the only marine mammals that are herbivores. Whales are the largest mammals on earth, sometimes measuring over 90 feet long.
Fishing exploitation and ship and oil pollution have placed many animals in the Indian Ocean on the endangered species list. Several turtle species are at risk due to the over-harvesting of their meat and eggs. The Indian Ocean Whale Sanctuary was established in 1979 to help preserve species of whales that were endangered because of human activity. Other organisations, such as the World Wildlife Federation, also work to preserve the rich biodiversity found in the Indian Ocean.