Hippopotamus amphibius


  • Domain Eukarya~ Domain Eukarya contains organisms that are multicellular or single celled. Each of their cells contains a nucleus.
  • Kingdom Animalia~ All are multicellular, and consume other organisms for energy, making them heterotophs. They also have tissues made up of cells that are specialized to preform different functions that help them survive.
  • Phylum Chordata~ This group contains a notochord, which is a rod-like cord of cells, have bilateral symmetry, and have a single, hollow nerve cord that connects to the brain.
  • Subphylum Vertebrata~ All have a vertebral column, which is a chain of bony elements, and a bony endoskeleton, which is the internal skeleton of the animal. Their movements are provided by their muscles.
  • Order Artiodactyla~ Most species in this group have two to four toes on each foot. They are herbivores, and have laterally positioned eyes, rotating ears, and powerful legs.
  • Family Hippopotamidae~ Members of the hippopotamus family live in both land and water, and are excellent swimmers. They are herbivores, and eat different types of vegetation. They have four toes on each foot that support the body.
  • Genus Hippopotamus~ This genus includes the hippopotamus.
  • Species~ Hippopotamus amphibius

General Description

Weight~ An average hippopotamus weighs approximately 2,200 to 9,920 lb (1,000 to 4,500 kg).

Length~ The hippopotamus's head and body is 9.5 to 16.5 ft (2.5 to 5 m). Its tail is about 1 and 1/3 to 1 and 3/4 ft.

Color~ The hippopotamus's main color is a deep purple-grey color to a blue-black color.

Their underparts and areas around the eyes and ears are a brownish-pink color. Since they lack a large amount of fur and hair, they do not have a pattern on their bodies. However, the color on their skin helps them blend with their surroundings.

Natural Range~ Hippopotamuses mostly live near waters of tropical and subtropical Africa.

Diet~ During the day, hippos eat water plants. At night, they walk on land in order to look for different types of vegetation to eat.

Habitat Description~ Hippopotamuses live in areas with water that is deep, and stay in habitats with reed beds and grasslands.

Predators~ Humans are the main predators of this animal. They hunted hippos for their meat, and presently for their teeth that are made of ivory. Other predators include lions and crocodiles.

Physical Adaptations

Hippopotamuses are adapted to living in water; hippos' ears, eyes, and nostrils are on top of their heads in order to hear, breathe, and see when most of their body is underwater. They have a clear membrane that covers their eyes for protection. Because of this, they are able to see underwater, and search for water plants for food. The color of their skin is a deep purple-grey to a blue-black color, which helps them hide and protect themselves from predators. The hippos' body is almost completely hairless; they have hair only inside their ears, muzzle, and the tip of their tail. This helps them keep safe from heat. Hippopotamuses have unique skin that keeps them moist. Their skin contains a layer of what is referred to as "blood sweat", that protects these animals from sunburn in their warm environment. They also have specialized ears that help them hear sounds of falling fruit, and have a sense of smell that help them find food to eat. Hippopotamuses have a long jaw with large tusks. This helps them protect themselves from enemies and predators in order to survive.

Behavioral Adaptations

Hippopotamuses have different behavioral adaptations that help them survive. Hippos graze for long period of time, about five to six hours per night on land, and rest during the day for eighteen to nineteen hours to have enough energy to collect food to survive; they do it at night to stay safer from predators. They are sociable in water, but are alone when foraging so no animal can steal their food. To communicate with other hippos inside and out of water, they bellow or grunt. Hippos are usually inactive unless they are eating; this conserves their energy so they are able to search for food or shelter. To ward off enemies, male hippos yawn, scoop water with mouth, shake head, lunge, roar, grunt, and make loud wheezing sounds to threaten their enemies. Males are territorial in water, not at night on land. Territories are defended for mating rights, yet not for food.

The Life of a Hippopotamus

The link to the video below shows hippopotamuses in their habitats and what they frequently do during the day:


Burton, M. (2002). Hippopotamus. In International wildlife encyclopedia (3rd ed., Vol. 9, pp. 1192-1195). New York, NY: Marshall Cavendish.

Distribution [Image]. (2015). Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/life/Hippopotamus

Eating hippo [Image]. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.hippoworlds.com/wp-content/uploads/eating_hippo_624.jpg

Hippopotamus. (n.d.). Retrieved March 19, 2015, from Encyclopedia of Life website: http://eol.org/pages/311532/overview#Reproduction

Hippopotamus. (n.d.). Retrieved March 14, 2015, from Animal Planet website: http://www.animalplanet.com/wild-animals/hippopotamus/

Hippopotamuses wallowing and swimming [Video file]. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.arkive.org/hippopotamus/hippopotamus-amphibius/video-02.html

Hippopotamus hiding [Image]. (2015). Retrieved from http://www.redbubble.com/people/davidodd/works/624253-hippopotamus-hiding

Hippopotamus, hippopotamus amphibius, & pygmy hippopotamus, choeropsis liberiensis. (2001). Retrieved March 19, 2015, from San Diego Zoo Global website: http://library.sandiegozoo.org/factsheets/hippo/hippo_summary.htm

Mammals | hippo. (2015). Retrieved March 18, 2015, from San Diego Zoo Global website: http://animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/hippo

mason, k. 2013. "Hippopotamus amphibius" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed

March 11, 2015 at http://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Hippopotamus_amphibius/