Biological diversity is one of the most significant features of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Because the park is located in several ecological transition zones, the diversity is many times greater than that of most areas of similar size. Remnant species from past climatic changes have managed to survive in sheltered habitats throughout the lakeshore. The moderating effect of Lake Michigan along with the great variety of habitats within a small area explain much of the plant and animal diversity found in the dunes. The exceptional biological diversity was a primary reason for the national lakeshore's establishment.
Thirty-seven species of mammals have been documented at the national lakeshore. The largest herbivore in the park is the white-tailed deer, and the largest predator is the coyote.
Three-hundred-and-fifty-two species of birds have been identified in the national lakeshore area. Of these, 113 are considered regular nesters. The national lakeshore provides habitat for a great blue heron rookery.
Eighteen species of amphibians are found in the national lakeshore. Park visitors can hear several different species of frogs and toads calling during the spring and summer. Twenty-seven species of reptiles have been documented. People hiking through dunes and blowouts may catch a glimpse of the six-lined racerunner darting through the grass.
An inventory of invertebrates has not been completed, but the park has about 100 different species of lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) and 60 species of odonata (dragonflies and damselflies). The national lakeshore provides critical habitat for the federally endangered Karner blue butterfly.