Endemism. An endemic animal or plant is one that is only found in a certain region or island. Endemic animals are often endangered. Without protection, they might disappear within a few years.
HOW DO ENDEMIC SPECIES ARISE?
Endemic animals cannot leave their environment. This is because there is a big geographical barrier in the way. For example, animals on islands that cannot swim, cannot leave. Animals in a valley cannot leave if they aren’t able to fly or climb. Fish are endemic to some lakes if they have no river to leave the lake by.
Endemic animals evolve gradually over time. Around 335 million years ago, all land was connected. All animals were found across the land with no barriers between them. After many years, land started to move and sea appeared between land masses such as Australia and the Asian continent. Certain animals were then trapped on this new land mass of Australia. They couldn’t swim and so had to stay on these new islands. These islands such as Madagascar, had different temperatures, hills, and other environmental factors. The animals changed to adapt to these new conditions. They became new species and were not found anywhere else.
Endemic species can still arise in the present day. A lake may get split up, naturally or by a dam. The fish are separated. The lakes then have different environmental conditions that change the fish’s behaviour and looks. These conditions are called ‘selection pressures.’ Each lake will have different selection pressures. One lake may be hotter than the other or have more shade. Therefore, the fish will change to adapt to the heat or shade. After many years, the fish in each lake will not be able to reproduce with each other. They are different species and each one is endemic to the lake.
AFRICAN ENDEMIC SPECIES
There are lots of animals that are only found in Africa. So they are endemic. It is very important to conserve these animals and not hunt them. This is because if hunters kill all the endemic animals, there are none of them left in other parts of the world. Most endemic African animals are found in Madagascar. This is because it is an island and the animals cannot leave as the sea prevents them. Lemurs are similar to monkeys and are in the family of ‘primates.’ They are the smallest primate.
The largest bird in the world is the ostrich. It is only found in Africa, especially in the savannas and deserts of Central Africa. Ostriches cannot fly and can weigh up to 160kg. Ostriches are also known as ‘camel birds’ as they can survive in high temperatures. They can also go a long time without drinking water. These are beautiful birds that need protection.
There are also many more endemic animals and plants across Africa.
Africa has an amazing variety of animals. Lots of these animals you can only see in small parts of Africa such as lemurs in Madagascar and some fish in the lakes of Tanzania. Many of these special animals are under threat from hunters. These animals are also losing their homes as roads are being built on them. Conservation is very important in saving these animals that are only found in Africa.