Madagascar Flora and Fauna

By | May 1, 2021

Due to the detachment of Madagascar from the original continent Gondwana and its long isolation, highly specialized endemic plant and animal species have developed on the island. They represent a unique biodiversity that is outstanding in global comparison. Many species are also still undiscovered. Recent scientific findings suggest that various animal species could also have reached the island through ocean currents.

The vegetation is initially influenced by the climatic and geomorphological-soil-ecological conditions.

Tropical rainforests with high biodiversity can be found on the east coast up to a height of 800 m. The rainforests of Atsinanana are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and are particularly worthy of protection. However, only a small part of the once huge primary forests remains, and there are also secondary plantings in many cases. Up to a height of 1200 m, the tropical rainforests merge into a cool, moist mountain cloud forest, above which are the mountain forests. In the west there are dry forests and, depending on the climatic conditions, in the south thorn forests, which are characterized by a biodiversity in the area of ​​the Euphorbiaceen (spurge family) and other succulents. The mangrove forests lining the banks are important in connection with the coastal protection of Madagascar; they can be found on the east coast near Antsiranana and on the west coast near Toliara and Morondava.

Among the 12,000 endemic plant species in total and the 4,000 tree species only native to Madagascar, the baobab should be emphasized. Six of the eight species of baobab known worldwide are endemic to Madagascar. The often gigantic trees can store large amounts of water and survive longer dry periods without damage. Ebony and rosewood are popular for carving work. The flame trees of the genus Delonix (French: Flamboyants) with their flame-red flowers or the Jakaranda trees (Jacaranda mimosaefolia), which bloom in lilac colors, develop a true splendor of flowers. The endemic tree species Tapia (Uapaca bajeri) is also of economic importance, as it is the silkworm caterpillars of the species Borocera madagascariensis offer a home and therefore represent an important basis for the local silk production. The rosewood tree (Dalbergia latifolia), also known as rosewood, grows in the tropical rainforests of Madagascar and is a sought-after precious wood.

The milkweed family comprises around 700 different species in Madagascar. Mention should be made of the Euphorbia leuconeura, also known as a houseplant in Germany, which is also known as the spit palm because its capsule fruit tears open explosively and the seeds are thrown out. In addition to the milkweed plants, the large number of palm plants is also interesting. The Tahina palm should be mentioned here, a huge species of palm that only blooms once after about 100 years and then dies. The tree of travelers, actually a palm-like type of banana, is widespread in Madagascar, culturally significant and is considered the island’s coat of arms. The frequently encountered in Madagascar pachypodiums belong to the succulents. One of them is the thick foot, also known as the Madagascar palm, but one of the dog-poison plants. There are numerous aloes in Madagascar, with the total number of this genus comprising around 500 different species. The aloes belong to the leaf succulents and are of cosmetic and nutritional importance.

Among the most fascinating plants in Madagascar are the more than 1000 different orchid species that grow mainly in the forests of the east coast. These include the star vanilla (Angracum sesquipedale), which is also called the star of Madagascar, and the spice vanilla (Vanilla planifolia), which is economically important.

Among the useful plants, rice (Oryza sativa) is the most important plant in Madagascar and the main food of the Madagascans. However, the productivity of the grain grown in wet rice cultivation is low. Sugar cane is used as a supplier of sugar, but also for brewing rum. However, the total production volume can be described as economically insignificant. Also, bananas are an important food and are grown in many ways. The coffee and cocoa production in Madagascar is comparatively low, but the cultivation of pepper (“Piper borbonese” in contrast to the normal pepper “Piper nigrum”) and cloves(the dried buds of the clove tree Sycygium aromaticum) are an important source of economic income for the rural population. The raphia palm, the sisal agave and the coconut palm should be mentioned as useful all-rounders. At least sisal and coconut palms are grown on huge plantations, for which large areas of primary forest had to give way. The tapia bush, which forms low forests on the plateaus of Madagascar, is one of the socio-cultural but also endemic plants of the island. The population is threatened.

According to a2zgov, the biodiversity of Madagascar’s fauna is as legendary as the diversity of flora. Madagascar was once home to a peculiar megafauna, of which the elephant bird (Aepyornithidae) can be described as the most famous representative. As in many other countries, these flightless birds were exterminated relatively quickly after the island began to be inhabited by hunting or by introducing unknown domestic animals such as pigs or rats.

Madagascar Flora and Fauna

The best known endemic species of Madagascar are certainly the lemurs. They belong to the wet-nosed monkeys and can therefore be assigned to the primates. The smallest representatives are the cat, mouse and fat-tailed lemurs. The Indri, which the Malagasy people call Babakoto, grows relatively large and is threatened with extinction. In addition to the eastern woolly and Sifakas (must be mentioned the Golkronensifaka and the Black Sifaka mainly) is from the actual lemurs the ring-tailed lemur (Lemur catta) best known with its striped tail or the Vari. The bamboo lemurs feed exclusively on bamboo, while the finger animals (aye aye) are some of the strangest representatives of mammals. The nocturnal tree dwellers have elongated fingers, of which the middle finger is remarkably thin and long. They use it to knock off the tree trunk in order to find any small animals behind the bark; biological characteristic that the European woodpeckers recalls. In addition to the lemurs, there are also other unique mammals such as the hedgehog-like tenreks (Tenrecidae), which zoologically show a relationship with rock slate or elephants, as well as the numerous fruit bats(Megachiroptera) and bats (Microhiroptera) should be mentioned. Madagascar has not produced any large predators, but known are the puma-like fossa or ferret cats (Cryptoprocta ferox), which feed mainly on lemurs, but also do not spurn chickens, so they are also often hunted. Other small carnivores are the ant crawling cats (Eupleres goudotii), also called falanuks, and the ring- tailed mongoose (Galidia elegans).

Among the reptiles, the giant snakes (boas) and especially the Nile crocodile are important. Many species of marine and land turtles are native to Madagascar, of which the radiated tortoise is also popular as a pet. However, several other species of turtles are threatened. The amphibians of Madagascar are mainly represented by the colorful Madagascar frogs (Mantellidae). In addition, the various endemic chameleon species deserve special mention. The multitude of different chameleon species is extraordinary, many are still undiscovered, others are fascinating because of their tiny size. Geckos too impress both scientists and nature lovers. The tropical rainforests of Madagascar are also home to many insects such as butterflies, cicadas, bed bugs, mosquitoes and mosquitoes or scares. The migratory locust also frequently visits Madagascar. Tarantulas can be found in Madagascar, but comparatively rarely, while the large webs of orb-web spiders are more common. Also silk spiders are encountered frequently. The centipede (scolopendra) bite is extremely painful. In the wetlands of the island are many different species of birds at home, of which Vangas, endemic to Madagascar couaand the ibis birds deserve special mention. The world’s third largest coral reef with a north-south extension of approx. 300 km is located off the southwest coast of Madagascar. Here you can next to a stunning underwater world the now extremely rare coelacanth find (Coelacanth).