When we think of black animals, certain ones like black cats, black dogs, black bears, and black panthers often come to mind first. But there are many more animals out there that come in black varieties. Black coloration provides certain evolutionary advantages for animals in nature. The black pigmentation in animal fur, feathers, or skin is called melanin. Melanin helps absorb more heat from the sun to allow animals to stay warm easier. It also provides camouflage and protection from predators in shaded forests and at night. So what are some of the most common black animals in the animal kingdom? Let’s take a look.
Many mammalian species have black-furred varieties, most often due to melanism which increases the amount of black pigment. Here are some of the most well-known:
– Black cats – Houscats with full black fur are common. In some cultures they are seen as bringing good luck while in others they symbolize bad luck or witchcraft. But there is no scientific correlation between coat color and personality in cats.
– Black dogs – Like cats, black coats are common in dogs. Certain breeds like German Shepherds and Poodles frequently have solid black coats. The black fur can range from a brownish to true jet black.
– Black panthers – These powerful big cats actually come in two varieties – black jaguars which live in the Americas and black leopards which are found in Africa and Asia. Their distinctive black coat provides great camouflage while hunting prey at night.
– Black bears – In North America black bears can range from black to cinnamon to blonde. Approximately 1/3 of black bears have black fur and 2/3 have lighter brown fur. The black coats help absorb heat in cooler climates.
– Black wolves – These majestic apex predators generally have gray, brown, or black coats. Melanistic black wolves occur due to a genetic mutation and are less common than gray or timber wolves. The black fur provides an adaptive advantage at night.
– Black squirrels – Most common in colder regions of North America, black squirrels are actually a subtype of the eastern gray squirrel. Their black fur helps absorb heat in the winter to keep warm.
Many species of birds also have black colored plumage, especially in the corvid and icterid families:
– Crows – All-black American crows are ubiquitous birds found throughout North America. Their black feathers provide camouflage and heat absorption.
– Ravens – Larger than crows, these iconic jet black birds are found from the Arctic to deserts. Their dark plumage matches their mysterious, intelligent persona.
– Blackbirds – The common blackbird has black feathers in the male and brown in the female. They are found throughout Europe, Asia and North Africa.
– Grackles – These noisy black birds thrive in urban areas. There are several species of black grackles, including the common grackle of North America. The males have striking iridescent black feathers.
– Starlings – Not native to North America, European starlings were introduced in 1890 and have thrived since. These stocky black birds travel in massive murmurations.
– Cormorants – Found worldwide, most cormorant species are black or dark colored. They often hold their wings outspread to dry which adds to their ominous look.
– Ravens, crows, blackbirds, starlings, grackles and other black birds belong to the icterid and corvid families of songbirds. Their melanistic plumage provides shared benefits like camouflage, heat absorption, and signaling strength.
Reptiles with black scales or patterns also occur in certain habitats:
– Black racers – These harmless colubrid snakes are found across central and eastern North America. They eat mice, frogs, eggs, and other small prey.
– Black rat snakes – Also called black constrictors, these big snakes thrive in barns where they hunt rodents. Despite their fearsome name, they pose no risk to humans.
– Black mamba – One of the deadliest snakes in Africa, the black mamba is actually brownish-grey. Its mouth lining is black, which it displays when threatened.
– Black-headed python – Found in Australia and Papua New Guinea, these snakes have black heads with yellow to brown bodies. They constrict prey like rodents and birds.
– Black tegu – A large lizard from South America, black tegus are an invasive species in Florida. They have black scales with light speckling and lay large clutches of eggs.
– Komodo dragon – The largest lizard in the world, Komodo dragons have a black and gray coloration that provides camouflage in their volcanic island habitats.
– The black coloration helps these reptiles absorb heat, provide camouflage, and warn predators through aposematism. Melanism is common in snakes, lizards, and turtles living in damp, shaded habitats.
Amphibians like frogs and salamanders also make use of black skin pigmentation:
– Black salamander – Found across North America, these slender amphibians have black skin with yellow spots. They live under logs and leaves and eat invertebrates.
– Emperor newt – A type of aquatic salamander found in China, emperor newts are black with orange undersides. Their bright coloration warns predators that their skin secretes toxins.
– Black rain frog – This rotund, giant-eyed frog lives in the deserts of Namibia. When threatened, it arches its back and exposes bright red patches underneath.
– Budgett’s frog – Native to South America, this species has a scary appearance, with a large head, big mouth, and black body. It advertises its toxicity with flashy red legs.
– Black lace-lidded frog – Found in the rainforests of Queensland, Australia, these tree frogs have delicate black skin with green patches. Only the males have the lace-like eyelids.
– Their dark skin allows amphibians to blend into leaf litter and absorb heat. Warning coloration on certain species tells predators to stay away from their toxic or bad-tasting skin.
Many species of fish feature striking black coloration:
– Orca – One of the most familiar black and white animals, killer whales or orcas are actually the largest dolphin species. Their black and white coloration provides camouflage when hunting in the ocean depths.
– Zebra pleco – A freshwater aquarium fish, the zebra pleco has an ink-like, dark body with white zebra stripes. These armored catfish live in rivers in Brazil.
– Blacktip reef shark – One of the most common sharks in shallow coral reef habitats, they have black tips on their fins and countershaded gray bodies.
– Black angelfish – Found in freshwater South American habitats, these cichlids have velvety black bodies and striking yellow fins. They are popular aquarium fish.
– Black ghost knifefish – A strange-looking species, the black ghost has a long, black knife-like body with finned tail. They generate electric fields to sense prey.
– The black coloration of many fish species provides camouflage and signaling advantages in the dimly lit undersea world. Countershading and disruptive color patterns break up the fish’s outline when viewed from below.
There are too many black insects to list them all, but here are some of the most common:
– Black widow spider – The iconic black widow has a shiny black body with a distinctive red hourglass marking. The female spider’s venom is potentially dangerous to humans.
– Black beetles – Many beetle species are black including stag beetles, dung beetles, June bugs, and weevils. Their hardened exoskeletons come in black, brown, and green.
– Black butterflies – Butterfly species like the pipevine swallowtail, red-spotted purple, and viceroy exhibit stunning black coloration. Many evolve to mimic poisonous relatives.
– Black wasps – While most wasps have yellow and black markings, some species like the black jacket wasp are entirely black with bluish-purple wings.
– Black house ants – These small scavenging ants live in colonies underground and forage for food inside homes. Workers are black while reproductives can be black, brown, or red.
– Black fly – These biting flies are the scourge of campers and hikers. They swarm in large numbers and the females need blood meals to reproduce.
In addition to black widow spiders, other arachnid species display black coloration:
– Brown recluse spider – Despite its name, this venomous spider has uniformly dark brown or black coloring. A dark violin shape marks its cephalothorax.
– Tarantulas – Many tarantula species kept as pets have black hair covering their bodies including Chilean rose, Mexican redknee, and Texas brown varieties.
– Camel spiders – Growing up to 6 inches long, these solifugid arachnids have tan, brown, yellow, or black color variations. They lurk in deserts and can run 10 mph.
– Scorpions – Most scorpions have black exoskeletons to blend into desert and forest habitats. Species like the emperor scorpion exhibit black with greenish-blue highlights.
– Ticks – Well-known carriers of disease, ticks like the black-legged tick have black front legs and reddish-black bodies before taking a blood meal.
– Horseshoe crabs – These marine and coastal arachnids have a black-brown carapace covering their rounded bodies. Despite their name, they are more closely related to spiders.
A few of the most popular black-colored crustaceans include:
– Black tiger shrimp – Also called the giant tiger prawn, these large shrimp are black with distinctive yellow banding. They are an economically important seafood species.
– Giant isopods – Reaching over 16 inches long, these aquatic crustaceans have black exoskeletons and seven pairs of legs. They are abundant in deep ocean habitats.
– Horseshoe crabs – Already covered under arachnids, these are blackish-brown aquatic chelicerates related to spiders and scorpions, not true crabs.
– Copepods – Tiny planktonic crustaceans just barely visible to the naked eye, many copepod species are black in coloration to camouflage in the deep sea.
– Black urchin – There are over 200 species of black, spherical sea urchins in oceans worldwide. Their black spines cover a rounded body.
– Vampire crabs – These tiny crabs have black bodies with crimson legs and claws. Found in freshwater habitats, they got their name from appearing to cover themselves like a Dracula cape.
|Black bear||Mammal||Forests of North America|
|Crow||Bird||Across North America|
|Black racer snake||Reptile||Central and Eastern North America|
|Black widow spider||Arachnid||North America, Europe, Africa, Australia|
In summary, black is a common coloration in the animal kingdom. It provides many adaptive benefits like camouflage, heat absorption, and warning coloration across different habitats and taxa. The black pigmentation is due to melanin and occurs in mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, insects, arachnids, and crustaceans. Some well-known examples are black cats, crows, black bears, black panthers, ratsnakes, orcas, emperor newts, black widows, scorpions, and giant isopods. So if you see a black animal, it could be any one of hundreds of species!