Fauna of the Marquesas Islands


Fauna of the Marquesas Islands

The Marquesas Islands have a diverse aquatic zoölogy, and a rather limited endemic terrestrial zoölogy.

Contents

Aquatic fauna

Unlike most of the warm-water islands of the South Pacific, the Marquesas are not protected by coral reefs, and therefore do not have the wide array of reef denizens found in neighboring archipelagos such as the Tuamotus and Society Islands. The one exception to this is the island of Motu One in the extreme north of the group, which is a small atoll, and the only low island in the Marquesas.

Aside from Motu One, coral growths are found in several protected bays, especially on the northern and western sides of several of the islands, especially on Nuku Hiva.

Sharks are common in the offshore waters.

Terrestrial fauna

This should be considered in two separate groups—endemic species and introduced species, as follows:

Endemic species

The endemic fauna of the Marquesas has been extensively affected by human activity as well as by the introduction of domestic and pest species. Owing to their remoteness from continental landmasses (while they are not the most isolated islands in the world, they are the most distant from any continent), the Marquesas exhibit a paucity of endemic terrestrial species. This is limited to birds, insects (including 16 species of fruit fly), lepidoptera (moths, butterflies, etc.), arachnids, and a single species of bat.

Among the 11 resident terrestrial avifaunal species are:

Nineteen species of seabirds breed in the Marquesas, and a number of other species visit the islands, including:

The negative impact of introduced species on the endemic avifauna is seen through the extinction of the Red-moustached Fruit Dove (Ptilinopus mercierii), as well as in the drastic decline of such species as the Nuku Hiva Imperial Pigeon, of which only a few hundred specimens remain on Nuku Hiva, and several dozen specimens reintroduced to Ua Huka. Once common throughout the archipelago, the ultramarine lory is now found only on Ua Huka, and as a result of a reintroduction effort, is again found on Fatu Hiva. Various other species which are either threatened or endangered endemic are the Marquesas Ground-dove, Marquesas Kingfisher, Fatu Hiva Monarch (Pomarea whitneyi), Iphis Monarch (Pomarea iphis, found only on Ua Huka), and Marquesas Monarch (Pomarea mendozae).

Introduced species

The early seafaring Polynesians brought with them dogs, junglefowl, pigs, and were responsible for introducing the widespread Polynesian rat as well as several species of geckos, skinks and snails.

Following contact with Europeans, a number of other species were also introduced, including horses, which were brought from Chile by Admiral Dupetit-Thouars in 1842. Other European-introduced species include goats, sheep, cattle, and, as stowaways, several insect species (mosquitos and the no-no sandflies), and, on Fatu Hiva, scorpions. With the exception of Fatu Hiva, the black rat (Rattus rattus) has been introduced to all the islands, in some cases with drastic impact on native bird species. On Hiva Oa, the common myna and Great Horned Owl have been intentionally introduced.

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