Fauna of Great Britain

Fauna of Great Britain

‎The island of Great Britain, along with the rest of the archipelago known as the British Isles, has a largely temperate environment. Animal diversity is modest due to several factors including; the size of the land area, seasonal changes and the age of the habitats found on the island. The fact that Great Britain has such a small area, means that the number of species that can evolve is severely limited because there is not enough land mass to support extensive animal diversity. The environment and the ecology is also very young due to the appearance of an Ice Age, which means that there has been much less time for such diversity to develop. In most of Great Britain there is a temperate climate which receives high levels of precipitation and medium levels of sunlight. Further northwards, the climate becomes colder and coniferous forests appear replacing the largely deciduous forests of the south. The seasonal changes that occur across the country means that plants have to cope with many changes linked to levels of sunlight, and this has led to a lack of plant diversity. Ultimately this has limited animal speciation and diversification because there are fewer edible types of vegetation in the habitats found on the island. Since the mid eighteenth century, Great Britain has gone through industrialisation and increasing urbanisation. This has had a major impact on indigenous animal populations. Song birds in particular are becoming more scarce and habitat loss has affected larger mammalian species. Some species have however adapted to the expanding urban environment, particularly the Red Fox, which is the most successful urban mammal after the Brown Rat.


There are 209 species of non-marine molluscs in the wild in Britain, and two of them ("Fruticicola fruticum" and "Cernuella neglecta") are locally extinct. In addition there are 14 gastropod species in greenhouses. [cite journal
journal = Journal of Conchology
pages = 607–637
title = An annotated list of the non-marine molluscs of Britain and Ireland
last = Anderson
first = Roy
coauthors =
volume = 38
issue = 6
month =
year = 2005
issn = 1753-2205
doi =
url = http://www.conchsoc.org/pages/n_m_list.htm
language = English
format = dead link|date=June 2008 – [http://scholar.google.co.uk/scholar?hl=en&lr=&q=author%3A+intitle%3AAn+annotated+list+of+the+non-marine+molluscs+of+Britain+and+Ireland&as_publication=Journal+of+Conchology&as_ylo=2005&as_yhi=2005&btnG=Search Scholar search]



In general the avifauna of Britain is, of course, similar to that of Europe, consisting largely of Palaearctic species. As an island, it has fewer breeding species than continental Europe, with some species, like Crested Lark, breeding as close as northern France, yet unable to colonise Britain.

The mild winters mean that many species that cannot cope with harsher conditions can winter in Britain, and also that there is a large influx of wintering birds from the continent or beyond.

There are about 250 species regularly recorded in Great Britain, and another 300 that occur with varying degrees of rarity.


Large mammals are not particularly numerous in Great Britain. Many of the bigger species, such as the Grey Wolf and the Brown Bear, were hunted to extinction many centuries ago. However, in recent times many of these large mammals have been tentatively reintroduced to some areas of mainland Britain. The largest mammals that remain in Britain today are predominantly members of the Deer family. The Red Deer is the largest mammal native species, and is found commonly throughout England, Scotland and Wales. The other indigenous species is the Roe Deer. The common Fallow Deer is in fact not native to Britain, and was brought over from France by the Normans in the early 9th century and has become well established. The Sika Deer is another small species of deer which is not indigenous, and instead comes from Japan. It is widespread and expanding in Scotland from west to east, with a strong population in Peeblesshire. Bands of Sika exist across the north and south of England though it is absent in Wales. [cite journal|author=Ratcliffe, P. R. |year=1987 |title=Distribution and current status of Sika deer, "Cervus nippon", in Great Britain |journal=Mammal Review |volume=17 |pages=39–58]

There are also several species of insectivore found in Britain. The hedgehog is probably the most widely known as it is a regular visitor to urban gardens. Sadly it is also vulnerable to road traffic, and many are killed crossing busy motorways and dual carriageways. The mole is also widely recognised and its subterranean lifestyle causes much damage to garden lawns. Shrews are also fairly common, and the smallest, the Pygmy Shrew, is one of the smallest mammals in the world. There are also several species of Bat found in Britain, and the Pipistrelle Bat is the smallest and the most common of them all. Rodents are also numerous across Britain, particularly the Brown Rat which is by far the most abundant urban animal after humans. Some however, are becoming increasingly rare. Habitat destruction has led to a population decrease in the number of dormice and Bank Voles found in Britain. Due to the introduction of the alien Grey Squirrel, the Red Squirrel had become largely extinct in England, with the last population existing in parts of Scotland, North West England and Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour in Dorset. Rabbits and Hares are also abundant in Britain. There are a variety of carnivors, especially from the weasel family (ranging in size from the Weasel, Stoat and European Polecat to the Badger and Pine Marten and including the introduced Mink and semiaquatic Otter). In the absence of the extict Wolf and Brown Bear the largest carnivores are the Red Fox, the adaptability and opportunism of which has allowed it to proliferate in the urban environment, and the Scottish Wildcat whose elusiveness has caused some confusion over population numbers, and is believed to be highly endangered.

Various species of seal and dolphin are found seasonally on British shores and coastlines.

ee also

* Fauna of Europe
* Atlases of the flora and fauna of Britain and Ireland
* Institute of Terrestrial Ecology atlases
* List of endangered species in the British Isles
* List of extinct animals of the British Isles


External links

* [http://delta-intkey.com/britmo/ The Families of British Non-marine Molluscs (Slugs, Snails and Mussels)]

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