BY MATTHEW M. SULLIVAN
Madagascar is one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems on the planet.
It is located off the southeast coast of Africa’s mainland in the Indian Ocean, and roughly eighty percent of its wide variety of species are endemic to the island, and cannot be found in any other part of the world.
The island’s ecological diversity and relative isolation allowed many species to thrive as their counterparts disappeared from more hostile environments. However, since ninety percent of Madagascar’s sprawling habitats have been destroyed by agricultural development, soil erosion, and natural resource exploitation, many of the island’s native species are now threatened or endangered.
CHECK OUT THE MOST FASCINATING AND THREATENED SPECIES THAT LIVE ONLY IN MADAGASCAR:
At the top of Madagascar’s food chain is the little-known fossa — a carnivorous mammal species that resembles a cat, but is genetically closer to a mongoose. Their retractable claws and sharp teeth make fossas formidable predators, despite their modest distribution.
Fossas generally live in solitude, spending much of their time patrolling huge spans of the forest, both at night and during the day. Occasionally, fossas have been spotted hunting cooperatively in order to capture large prey. Despite being Madagascar’s top predator, fossas are currently listed as vulnerable.
2. GIRAFFE WEEVIL
The giraffe weevil, which got its name because the species’ males have ridiculously long necks, was first discovered in 2008. Male giraffe weevils use their elongated necks, which are about three times the length of females’ necks, to build nests and to fight for the right to mate with female weevils.
Adult giraffe weevils spend much of their lives feeding off a plant that’s commonly called the “giraffe beetle tree.” When it’s time for a female weevil to lay an egg, it will roll up one of the host plant’s leaves and deposit the egg inside. The leaf offers protection for the egg, and ultimately an immediate food source for the newly hatched weevil.
3. MADAGASCAR POCHARD
This diving duck was thought to have gone extinct in 1991, but a small colony of Madagascar pochards were rediscovered at Lake Matsaborimena in 2006. It was promptly upgraded from “extinct” to “rarest duck in the world,” as there were only 22 known individuals — the low number was likely the result of insufficient food supplies at the lake.
However, the ducks’ population is now on the rise. A breeding program that began in 2009 has yielded thirty-eight ducks, while another forty-two remain in the wild. The program, designed as a safety net in case the wild population once again disappears, hopes to introduce their captive-bred ducks to the wild once they find a safe and suitable habitat.
4. BROOKESIA MICRA CHAMELEON
Besides being the smallest chameleon on the planet, the Brookesia micra is also one of the smallest known vertebrates. While adults can reach up to half an inch in length, juveniles (like the one pictured below) can be unbelievably small.
According to the researchers who discovered B. micra, the chameleon’s miniature size is likely the result of limited food and resources in its natural habitat — an islet off the northern coast of Madagascar called Nosy Hara. The B. micra was just one of four dwarf chameleon species discovered on the nearly five-year expedition that lasted from 2003 to 2007.
5. DARWIN’S BARK SPIDER
This incredible arachnid has both the strongest, and the largest web of any known spider on the planet. The Darwin’s bark spider was first discovered in 2009, when researchers found a massive web suspended above a Madagascan river.
Although the creatures themselves are relatively small in size, Darwin’s bark spiders’ webs can span up to 25 m (82 feet) across, with silk that’s stronger than any other biological substance on record.
6. TOMATO FROG
These endangered amphibians are most notable for their bright coloration, and overall tomato-like appearance. Tomato frogs are relatively large, and when startled can puff themselves up to look even larger. If that doesn’t scare the predator off, they can also discharge a white substance through their skin that gives other species a severe allergic reaction.
While tomato frog numbers were once dangerously low due to habitat destruction and their popularity in the pet trade, conservation organizations have had some success with captive breeding, and the vibrant frogs are making a comeback.
7. INDRI LEMUR
Lemurs are a type of primate that are found only on Madagascar. Their ancestors likely traveled to the island from mainland Africa, and the lack of competition from other primates and tree-bound mammals allowed them to thrive. Indris are among the largest extant lemurs, and are distinguishable by their black and white coat.
Unlike most other varieties of primates, indris (and a number of other lemur species) have a matriarchal society, in which the females are the dominant gender. Indris spend most of their time in the trees, even more-so than other lemur species, and mostly eat leaves, fruits, seeds, and flowers. They are among the most endangered lemurs in Madagascar.
Source: The Rainforest Site