Endemism: meaning and examples

Endemism: meaning and examples

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Endemism. If not about endemism, we often hear about endemic species, both when dealing with plants and when describing some animals. Why do we define them like this? It is important to understand this and it is closely linked with the enhancement of biodiversity which is particularly important to us.

Endemism: meaning

With this term we define that phenomenon for which some animal or plant species are exclusive to a given territory. In theory, the term endemism also applies when we are talking about very large territories, such as America, or Oceania, but actually the ones that interest us most are endemic species of restricted areas. Often these correspond with some islands, but it is not clear why an area with so many endemisms is that around Etna, isolated on an island, and which hosts the Etna birch.

The Swiss naturalist coined this term in 1820 Augustin Pyramus De Candolle who took it from medicine to apply it in the botanical field, then gradually we began to use it in many other areas.

The reason why the islands are richer in endemic species is quite evident. They have obvious geographic barriers that they avoid zoological dispersion. There are also areas that are in the middle of a continent that is also vast but in which we find perhaps climatic conditions so particular and punctual as to create phenomena of endemism. We think of high mountain peaks, caves, deep lakes, ocean pits.

Endemism: plants

Two examples for both Italians. The Neapolitan alder, an endemic plant of southern Italy and Corsica, and the Limonium todaroanum, an endemic plant of Sicily. I leave you the wonder of discovering them by traveling or reading.

Endemism: animals

Let's stay in Italy and explore the animal kingdom to find the Salamandrina terdigitata, limited to the Tyrrhenian side of the peninsula south of the Volturno river, or the Sardinian wildcat. There are also the moth Brahmaea europaea, limited to Basilicata, and the Montecristo snail Oxychilus oglasicola, limited to the island of Montecristo and Pianosa, and then the beetle Malthodes zangherii, typical of National Park of the Casentinesi Forests, Monte Falterona and Campigna.

Endemism: synonym

More than synonyms, we can speak of a sub-category, to better describe endemism. There is the Paleoendemism, which indicates those species that were once widespread in large areas, then disappeared or almost disappeared and that today we can only find in restricted environments. There is the Neoendemism which, on the contrary, indicates the species which appeared relatively recently in certain environments following ancestral hybridization with other species or for other similar and complex phenomena.

Point endemism can also be added, a particular type of endemism that refers to species that characterize really small areas such as the Carpione del Garda and Carpione del Fibreno.

Endemism: examples

Coming out of Italy, we find truly wonderful endemic species that can appear as a figment of the imagination like those that come from the Galapagos Islands, the Hawaiian Islands, New Caledonia, the island of Socotra, from Madagascar, New Zealand or the Canary Islands. There is also an embarrassment of choice in Europe, a continent where we find the largest center of plant biodiversity that I am the Alps with 5500 species of plants (43% of the European flora) of which 350 are endemic (7% of the total).

Endemism: book

If it is difficult to travel the world in search of endemics scattered here and there, here is a book that tells us about those of Pantelleria. On Amazon it is on sale for 25 euros and is a 'great guide and then go on a holiday in this splendid destination.

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Video: Endemic Species (May 2022).


  1. Hakan

    It is the excellent idea

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