Updated: Aug 3, 2022
With alpine ecosystems, low coastal plains, deep canyons in the center, sweeping deserts in the north, and dense tropical rainforests in the south, Mexico is truly a land of diversity in every direction.
The Lacandón Forest, that covers part of Mexico, is one of the most famous of all rainforests in the world, and houses more than 25% of Mexico’s species. However, having such rich biodiversity oftentimes comes with a price. According to the IUCN, Mexico has over 520 unique mammal species, with more than a 100 of them being threatened, making the land one of the countries with the highest numbers. More interestingly, many of these threatened species, like the San Quintin Kangaroo Rat, are considered endemic, meaning that they are extremely rare and not found anywhere else in the world. Like everywhere else, these species depend heavily on their environment for their survival. Unfortunately, for the same reasons found in many other parts of the world, poaching, hunting (both legal and illegal), logging, and habitat loss due to human expansion, contribute to putting the animals’ existence in jeopardy. Here, we illustrate some of the most interesting endangered flora and fauna found in the Mexican terrains. Highlighting the plethora of wildlife in Mexico and knowing more about these species can only bring them more value and move towards a day when see them in abundance.
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Reptiles of Mexico: Interesting on an enormous scale
The semi-desert areas in northern Mexico and the southern located forests and rainforests harbor an assorted number of reptiles, including the Mexican alligator lizard and the iguana. Mexican alligator lizards are also called “Green Arboreal Alligator Lizard” because of their distinct, bright green skin and can be found residing in the Oaxaca, Veracruz, and Puebla regions of Mexico, particularly in the humid rainforests as they are mostly arboreal. In contrast, the iguana is native to the hot and dry areas of southern Mexico, many of which are considered endemic, such as the Mexican spiny-tailed iguana. These creatures are noted for their keeled scales on their long tails, are highly sociable, and excellent climbers.
Insects of Mexico: Pests? Not these incredible creatures
There are over 900 species of insects in Mexico! Endangered insects of Mexico include beetles, the quino checkerspot, and the monarch butterfly.
Monarch butterflies are one of the most precious species on earth. They play a prominent role in protecting and nourishing plant life and are considered ambassadors of nature. They cover immense areas in colossal numbers while on their quest to breed. At the same time, they help distribute pollen over these vast areas and are therefore priceless guardians of innumerable plant life. Every year, millions of these butterflies undertake a remarkable journey of up to 3,000 miles in their annual migration from Canada and the United States to their wintering grounds in Mexico. Once in Mexico, they congregate in the oyamel fir trees of Michoacán and Mexican states. However, sadly, their numbers are decreasing alarmingly due to loss of habitat in Mexico.
Trees and Plants of Mexico: Leaves you breathless
Mexico boasts the highest number of pine and oak species in the world, having nearly ¼ of the global number. Other notable trees include mahogany, zapote and ceiba (also known as pochote), the sacred tree of the Mayans. The 2,000-year-old Montezuma Cypress Tree, also known as the El Árbol del Tule, is one of the oldest, largest, and widest trees in the world. In addition, the Mexican desert vegetation is sparse but impressive. For instance, the prickly pear cactus, even found as a symbol on the Mexico’s national flag, is thought to have a variety of medicinal properties, such as treating diabetes, high cholesterol, antiviral and anti-inflammatory characteristics.
Birds of Mexico: Oh the colors!
Hailing as the largest montane rainforest in North America, the Lacandón contains 33% of all Mexican bird species. The Lacandón is home to an extensive list of bird fauna, including toucans, harpy eagles, and the scarlet macaw.
Belonging to one of 17 macaw species, the scarlet macaw is part of a group called Neotropical parrots, meaning that they largely inhabit rainforests, woodlands, and forested areas near the rivers. They can be characterized as having wide, strong wings and are equipped with hollow bones to aid them during flight. Because of these specialty traits, these majestic birds can reach speeds of 35 miles per hour (56 kilometers per hour). The diet of the macaw consists primarily of nuts, seed, fruits, and leaves. They have strong, curved beaks to crack hard nuts and seeds and even use their tongue to hold onto the kernel to pull it from the shell. Macaws usually find a mate and stay with them for life, subsequently living in pairs. These highly intelligent birds are able to quickly mimic speech and accurately distinguish shapes and colors. Truly amazing!
Did You Know?
Keystone species are those who are critical to the survival of other species in their region or habitat. If they are eliminated, other species who depend on them for survival will also perish. The ivory tree coral, aka Oculina, is an example of a keystone species found in the Gulf of Mexico. Over 300 other species of invertebrates are known to reside in the branches of this coral.
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