The biodiversity of the Comoros

As an archipelago of small volcanic islands, the Comoros does not have a high level of species diversitydue to its recent formation in geologic terms. However, it is home to a large number of endemic species.

The Comoro Islands form part of Madagascar’s biodiversity ‘hotspot’, which include the other islands in the Indian Ocean (Mauritius, Réunion, Rodrigues and Seychelles). This area is considered to be one of the five ‘hottest’ biodiversity spotsin the worlddue to the large number of species that are found here and nowhere else on the planet. The animals and plants which reached these islands wereseparated from their species and evolved independently to become new species in their own right.However, evolving in isolation has made them vulnerable to new threats and changes in their environment.

Approximately 2000 species of plants are listed in the Comoros and there is a significant link between the flora of the Comoros and that in Madagascar and East Africa. Amongst endemic species found in the Comoros are Weinmannia comorensis, Ocotea comorensis and Saba comorensis.

101 species of birds, 56 of them endemics, can also be found here.Each island has its own endemic species –19 in Anjouan, 27 in Grande Comore and 22 in Mohéli –several of which are considered to be endangered. The Scops Owl is a striking example, witha different species in every island – the Karthala Scops Owl (Otus pauliani), endemic to Grande Comore, the Mohéli Scops Owl (Otus moheliensis) and the Anjouan Scops Owl (Otus capnodes). These owls are currently classified as ‘Critically Endangered’ on the IUCN Red Listof Threatened Species.

The Comoro Islands are also home to a rich and dense variety of reptiles, such as geckos, chameleons, snakes and skinks. There are 24 species of reptile, 10 of which are endemics. Two of the best known are the St Johann’s Tree Snake (Lycodryassancti johannis), which is classified as ‘Near Threatened’ and the Comoro Ground Gecko (Paroedurasancti johannis), considered to be ‘Threatened’, according to the IUCN.

62 species of butterflies are also listed, 14 of them endemics and 21 endemic subspecies. In Anjouan, 40 species of butterfly are listed, 16 of them endemics and sub-endemics. Several species of butterfly in the Comoros are threatened; in particular, theFalse Chief or False Diadem, also known as Pseudacrealucretia comorana.

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