About 88 million years ago, Madagascar drifted off from the subcontinents and continents of India and Antarctica to form its own landmass in the Indian Ocean. This natural separation marked a historic shift — the wildlife of Madagascar began to develop separately from the rest of the world, resulting in some of the most unique species of flora and fauna are known to man. Madagascar, the second largest island country, is subsequently home to a vast array of plants and animals that were given both time and space to evolve in isolation. Here are six species endemic to Madagascar and found nowhere else on earth.
These tree-lovers are probably the most popular species from Madagascar. With a long snout and bright, vivid eyes, the lemurs have called Madagascar their home long before humans ever arrived on the island country. There are different subspecies of lemurs, but the most common ones weigh up to 9 kilograms and have distinct ring-shaped marks on their tails.
The ghostly cries of the lemur can often be heard at night, as these animals are notoriously nocturnal. Their wet noses, sharp teeth, bat-like ears, and tails are all features that, across species, make lemurs incredibly unique. Lemurs mainly feed on plants, tiny vertebrates, insect secretions, and other substances available on the island. Lemurs nest in groups during the day, with most lemur groups having 12-15 members. At night, these animals prowl alone.
2. Brookesia micra
The smallest known chameleon in the world, the Brookesia micra, grows up to just 29mm in its lifetime. This reptile lives freely in Madagascar, spending its time nestled in leaf litter and tall trees. Their orange tails and tiny snouts make them unique among chameleons and definitely unique among their Madagascar counterparts.
During the night, these chameleons find trees with suitable branches to nest in, and during the day, they prowl the leafy greens of the island. These species are most prevalent in an islet known as Nosy Hara in Antsiranana, Madagascar. Many researchers have hypothesized that these animals are close to extinction due to their tendency to settle in areas where illegal logging occurs.
3. Comet Orchid
The Comet Orchid, also referred to as Darwin’s Orchid or Christmas Orchid is one of the most celebrated species is adding credence to the theory of evolution. This flower was instrumental in Darwin’s prediction that an undiscovered moth was responsible for its pollination. It was only 21 years after Darwin’s death that Xanthopan morganii praedicta was the moth that pollinates these flowers.
The white, star-shaped flower is one of the most beautiful and prized flowers that can be found in Madagascar. The flower grows in great light intensity, most particularly in the months of September and November. Researchers and botanists have also managed to take the species back to home countries like the United Kingdom and grown it in warm and intermediate environments. The comet orchid, among the many other flora species, is one of Madagascar’s dazzling flower collections.
4. Bernier’s Teal
Bernier’s teal bird is a rare bird native to Madagascar. It is an endangered species that boasts of a grayish teal that is unique to the west coast of Madagascar. These birds are a type of duck, building their habitats along with mangrove forests. The male Bernier’s teal, which is slightly larger than the female, has been known to make a whistling sound, while the female makes a “croaking quack.” Apart from these sound differences, the male and female Bernier’s teal birds are not too different from each other and can be hard to tell apart by the untrained eye.
These birds are also unique in that they do not build nests with any material but simply incubate their eggs in the floor cavities of the mangrove forest. Due to excessive timber cultivation, there are only 1,500 species of Bernier teal birds left in the world. Conservation attempts are currently underway at the Kentucky Zoo in the United States of America.
5. Madagascar Jumping Frog
As the name suggests, the Madagascar Jumping Frog or the Aglyptodactylus madagascariensis is a species of frog endemic to Madagascar. These frogs are very common and are vastly spread across the eastern coast of Madagascar. They are one of the many amphibian species that sprawl all across the island. These frogs are available all across forests, wetlands, and even terrestrial (artificial) habitats. Though they are very adaptable to distinct environments, they prefer leaf litters and tropical forest habitats where they can breed and coexist in relative peace.
Perhaps the most popular predator in all of Madagascar is the fossa. Often compared to mongooses and cougars, the fossa is the largest carnivore in Madagascar. Fossa has been known to travel across wide ranges in the forest, with most of them never returning to the same sleeping sites. Mothers and cubs, however, do sometimes frequent caves and another nesting they’ve made for themselves at tender ages.
Most fossa are born blind and without teeth, their skin gleaming a soft white or gray colour before they become long and slender with tawny brown muscles. Fossa is a now vulnerable species, but the Madagascar government has taken measures like setting up national parks to preserve their species. Fossa is active both during the day and the night, so if one is spotted lurking near the dim-lit lakes of Madagascar it wouldn’t be that big of a surprise!
How many of these have you heard of? Let us know in the comments below!
Read Also: The 4 Most Appealing Animals on the Planet.