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Terrestrial Sea Life

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It's not usually wise to be chummy with a shark.

Aquatic animals capture people's imagination, as they can be both beautiful and terrifying. However, having them interact with human characters is complicated, since they live in a very different element. The solution: give them a way to live on land, of course!

Sub-Trope of Artistic License – Marine Biology. Compare Flying Seafood Special, Sand Is Water. Many examples of Giant Enemy Crab and/or Fish People fall under this trope as well, though neither is exclusively terrestrial. May involve Tailfin Walking. Super-Trope to Land Shark. See also Misplaced Wildlife, of which this is a fairly extreme form.

Not to be confused with Fish out of Water, which is something else entirely.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Some of the monsters in Delicious in Dungeon appear to be based on aquatic creatures adapted to live on land indefinitely. Mimics are depicted as basically hermit crabs of giant size that take residence in any hollow container. Doppelgangers are essentially shapeshifting octopi. Nightmares are clams that like to hide in bedding. Living armor is depicted as a mollusk, and there is surprise expressed when it drowns in water.
  • Little Shark's Day Out has a small shark doing everyday activities on land.
  • Fishmen in One Piece are one such example of amphibious cases of this.

  • A few of the more recognizable demons appearing in the works of Hieronymus Bosch appear to be weird, bipedal fish-things.

    Asian Animation 
  • Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: In Flying Island: The Sky Adventure episode 16, a fish named Bro Groupie unexpectedly shows up to play in the Rainbow Games and gets Weslie and Paddi to help him past an obstacle in a maze. As the fish explains, he does naturally live in water, but he and his pals are taking a vacation for the games.

    Comic Books 

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The titular giant, killer "mollusks" from The Monster That Challenged the World. They appear more like big, blubbery, bug-eyed centipedes than anything else, though it's possible that the writers may have gotten mollusks confused with crustaceans.
  • Sharktopus: The titular creature is part shark and part octopus, yet is capable of living indefinitely on land and walks and climbs about using its tentacles. Its later enemies, the Whalewolf and the Pteracuda, also apply, though they have the excuse of being half land animal.
  • The Mon Calamari from Star Wars are amphibious fish-like aliens. The most notable of them is Admiral Ackbar from Return of the Jedi.

  • Mr. Shark and Mr. Piranha from The Bad Guys are seen on land for a majority of the book series. They're only seen in the water during specified missions, and even then, Mr. Piranha can only swim in freshwater.
  • The Future is Wild features several species of terrestrial cephalopods that appeared 200 million years after humankind's extinction, including the amphibious swampus, which can move around on land, with four of its original eight arms adapted into flat snail-like feet, but still needs to lay eggs in brackish water. 100 million years later, there's also the enormous, elephant-like Megasquid and the tree-dwelling, monkey-like Squibbon.
  • The Deep Ones from The Shadow Over Innsmouth are a race of amphibian Fish People who can dwell on land with no problem.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Rutan Host from "Horror of Fang Rock" appear to be large, green terrestrial jellyfish with innate electrical abilities enabling them to move about on land using something akin to static cling, which also enables them to easily scale sheer vertical surfaces.
    • The titular Macra from "The Macra Terror" are human-sized, sentient crabs that feed on noxious gas. They later reappeared in "Gridlock", having evolved to much larger size in the intervening time but losing their sentience in the process.
    • The Hath, Fish People appearing in "The Doctor's Daughter" are a weird example, since they apparently live their entire lives on land, despite requiring what can best be described as "reverse scuba gear" in order to breath (though the liquid in the tanks is green, so it's possible that they just breath a different atmosphere than humans do, and have condensed their native "air" into liquid form for easier transport).
  • Chevy Chase's "Land Shark" sketches in Saturday Night Live.

    Myths & Religion 
  • The akhlut from Inuit Mythology is basically a quadrupedal killer whale with wolflike attributes that climbs up on land in order to hunt terrestrial prey.
  • While traditional tellings of the Nameless Thing of Berkley Square describe the tentacled creature as some bizarre sort of demon or corporeal ghost, cryptozoologists have suggested that it may instead be some sort of mutated octopus with the ability to survive on land.
  • The Darwin Fish bumper sticker, a popular parody of similar Jesus Fish stickers, is an ichthys with little legs.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The Giant Enemy Crab that the Player Characters encounter in White Plume Mountain (1979) is living out of water without any problems.
    • In the world of Nehwon from Deities and Demigods Cyclopedia (1980), the Behemoth is a 40-foot-long killer whale with four stubby legs that can move around on land. There are three varieties: the swamp behemoth, an arctic version with white fur and a jet-black type with long legs that lives in the plains and hills.
    • The Land Urchin from Monster Manual II (1983) is a large (three feet wide) land-dwelling relative of the sea urchin with five legs. It can fire its spines at opponents and prey.
    • The Mystaran decapus is essentially a ten-tentacled giant octopus with an ugly, humanoid head, which uses its tentacles to maneuver through woodland, hanging from a branch by one limb while the others lash at or grab prey. Funnily enough, there's also an aquatic variant that lives exclusively in the water like a normal giant octopus.
  • Warhammer: Age of Sigmar: The undersea-dwelling Idoneth elves and their assorted aquatic beasts of battle can get around on land by spreading a magical fog that lets them swim through the air like it's water.

    Video Games 
  • The Animal Crossing series features octopi as house-dwelling neighbors.
  • Cthulhu Saves the World features sea life on land as enemies. Dolphins, crabs, seahorses and octopi (and the Underground Monkey versions of the latter three) all appear on land with no problem to attack Cthulhu and his party. One of the bosses in the game is a land-dwelling fire-powered whale known as Fire Whale. Deep Ones and their variations also have no problem with attacking Cthulhu on land.
  • The hanar from Mass Effect are normally jellyfish-like beings who live in water, but thanks to special mass effect equipment they can live on land and interact with many other terrestrial beings of the galaxy.
  • Monster Sanctuary has Akhlut, an orca that grew legs so it could hunt on land.
  • In Octodad, you play an octopus who put on a suit, started walking on two legs, and began pretending to be a human. The whole point of the game is to keep Octodad from acting inhuman so he can keep up his charade.
  • Pikmin:
    • Pikmin (2001) features a type of rare enemy — only three appear — called pearly clamclamps, creatures almost identical to scallops in most respects... except that two of them found sitting on the forest floor, well away from water.
      Olimar: One would expect this creature to be a mollusk of the sea, but the fact that it is also found in the forest is typical of this planet's oddities.
    • Pikmin 3 introduces waddlepuses, creatures resembling small purple octopi. While this trope is downplayed somewhat — all waddlepuses are found in the game's water-themed area — very few of them are actually in the water: almost all waddlepuses are encountered napping on dry land.
  • The citizens of Psychonauts's Lungfishopolis are all Hideous Hulking Lungfish (basically angler fish with arms and legs), hence the name, but live in a terrestrial city based on Tokyo as portrayed in 1960s Kaiju films (casting the human protagonist and villain as the Kaiju). However, this trope is largely subverted by Linda, the Hideous Hulking Lungfish whose Mental World Lungfishopolis is, who never ventures onto shore for more than the few seconds it takes to pick up or drop off the protagonist on the shore.
  • Puyo Puyo:
    • Suketoudara is a talking, land-dwelling fish with arms and legs. His main character trait is his love of dancing, though he does make lots of ocean-based puns too.
    • Suketoudara's Fever-era equivalent, the Ocean Prince (Prince Salde in the Japanese originals), is exactly what he sounds like — an anthropomorphic fish who happens to be the prince of the sea. Him breathing on land can be justified because he actually is biologically a human, but willingly let himself be transformed into a fish to avoid his royal duties.
  • Save Me Mr. Tako: Tasukete Tako-San features an octopus named Mr. Tako who, after rescuing a woman from drowning, is granted the ability to survive on land, as he attempts to resolve the conflicts between his own kind and the land-dwelling humans.
  • In Slime Rancher 2, Angler Slimes used to live deep in the Slime Sea, but their Slimepedia entry speculates that they came to the surface to eat Sea Hens. Anglers are usually found in costal areas where sponges and corals grow on land.
  • Splatoon has the Inklings, which are humanoid squids that live on land. In fact, they actually dissolve when immersed in water. Their sister species, the Octarians, are octopuses (some humanoid, some literally severed tentacles) that have the same weakness. There are terrestrial forms of other sea life such as sea urchins and the jellyfish common all over Inkopolis and Splatsville as well, though they seem to have far less trouble with the whole water thing. In this case, modern sea life evolved to live on land after the previous land dwellers were wiped out by rising sea levels and global conflict.
  • The Liir Seeker from Sword of the Stars: The Pit has very good weapon skills, scientific training, and psionics powerful enough to pick himself off the ground and hover everywhere. He's also an aquatic alien operating on dry land, which comes with some problems: he needs specialized, hard-to-replace armor that provides his body with water, and his species-specific weapons are inefficient in an air environment compared to the guns created by land-dwelling species.
  • The Warcraft franchise has several species of amphibious humanoids resembling aquatic creatures. The Murlocs are savage, barbaric Fish People, the Jinyu are their more civilized relatives who live in Pandaria and practice water magic, and the Naga are eel-like Snake People descended from mutated elves.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Darwin from The Amazing World of Gumball is a goldfish who evolved to grow legs and lungs.
  • Sid the Squid, one of Walter Wolf's lackeys in Animaniacs, is shown on land so much that he never appears in the ocean in any of the episodes he shows up in.
  • Jabberjaw is a shark who is able to walk around and breath air no problem. He lives among humans in an undersea civilization, but no explanation is given as to how he can survive out of water.
  • The titular main character in Kenny the Shark is a tiger shark who moved onto land from the ocean.
  • Misterjaw and Catfish generally live in the ocean, but there are multiple episodes where they walk on land without issues.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants is an interesting example.
    • The show takes place underwater and most of its cast is made up of aquatic creatures, yet they all act as if they were on dry land, walking on the sea floor rather than swimming. They occasionally visit the surface world, but how well they survive there varies from one instance to the next.
    • The character of Sandy Cheeks is an inversion. She's a "land squirrel" who lives in an underwater dome, and is able to get around in a diving suit.
  • The main cast of Street Sharks are a gang of teenage boys turned into anthropomorphic sharks, who primarily live on land, and can swim through concrete by biting through it.
  • Zig & Sharko: The marine creatures have no problem going around on land (in several episodes, Sharko's job is a beach lifeguard), while Zig (a hyena) needs scuba diving equipment to go around underwater.

    Real Life 
  • Crabs:
    • There are several species of land-dwelling crabs (mostly hermit crabs), ranging from mostly-aquatic crabs whose migrations take them on surprisingly long journeys across dry land, to others that legitimately live on land full time. Most of the fully terrestrial crabs must still keep themselves damp in order to survive — some preferring to spend their entire lives within sight of a known body of water, others cleverly using their hermit shells as makeshift water-tanks — but many are better adapted to life on land and require no such accommodation.
    • The coconut crab is actually so well adapted to life on land that it can't swim or breathe underwater at all (though it can apparently hold its breath for about an hour). It's also notable for being both the largest terrestrial invertebrate on earth—often growing to over 3 feet across (about the size of an adult human torso!), which some scientists believe may be the largest any terrestrial arthropod can grow in the current makeup of the earth's atmosphere—and the only species of hermit crab with a hard enough carapace to protect itself without having to scavenge another creature's discarded shell to live out of.
    • Even aquatic crabs can survive out of the water more or less indefinitely so long as their gills stay moist (such as in damp, humid environments), but prefer not to.
  • Snails and slugs technically count, being the only members of the otherwise exclusively aquatic mollusc phylum to evolve for life on land. However, most people consider aquatic snails to be the aquatic "equivalent" of their terrestrial brethren rather than the other way around, even though there are far more aquatic species.
  • Mudskippers are amphibious fish that spend significant amounts of time on land.
  • Epaulette sharks can also survive on land and without oxygen for up to several hours. They can even walk using their fins to get from tide pool to tide pool when hunting, and tend to live in areas with low or variable water levels to begin with, like the intertidal zone.
  • Though not exactly terrestrial, there are species of fish which can survive for up to several days on land, capable of breathing air and slithering long distances out of the water. In many parts of North America, for instance, the walking catfish and snakehead have both become notorious as invasive pests, traveling between bodies of water and preying on the resident fish—in some cases covering miles of travel by resting in puddles and ditches between major bodies of water.
  • Woodlice (also known as pillbugs) are crustaceans from the order Isopoda who live on land, in dark, humid places. They have numerous aquatic relatives, including freshwater isopods and giant marine ones.
  • Most of the earliest land creatures to evolve were terrestrial versions of either fish or early aquatic arthropods.
  • Many early naturalists believed that every land creature had a marine counterpart, and vice versa, though the overwhelming number of creatures with no identified counterpart eventually led to this belief being discarded.
    • Several living crocodilians, such as the dwarf caiman, dwarf crocodile and Cuban crocodile, are very at home on land. The first two actually spend most of their time in forests where they hunt smaller animals.
  • The Abdopus octopus can hunt on land when the tide goes out. While many octopuses can crawl on land for short amounts of time if they have to, Abdopus is unique in that it can "hold its breath" long enough to spend hours out of water.