For the whole of October, The Nature Nook has been looking at Madagascan wildlife. We’ve already looked at lemurs, fossas, tenrecs, and the smallest reptile in the world, among others – but the end of the month is rapidly approaching and we still have many more weird and wonderful Madagascan creatures to cover. So today we are posting a ‘Madagascan Miscellany’ – a list of eight strange animals that live on this great island, from a chameleon that only lives for five months to an ant that sucks the blood of its own larvae…
Madagascar, it can be said, is the greatest stronghold of chameleons in the world. Of the 200 or so species, almost half can be found on this huge island. The rest are primarily found in Africa, with a few in Asia, and two species – the common chameleon and the African chameleon – even extending into southern Europe. It may even be the case that the chameleon family as a whole originated in what is now Madagascar before it split off from mainland Africa.
Like many wealthy people of the Victorian Era, Charles Darwin was a passionate orchid collector. He was amazed by their beautifully complex shapes, patterns and structures, and he began amassing a collection of rare specimens from around the world. Even before he wrote On the Origin of Species, Darwin knew that every unique orchid flower must be a result of some advantage that was bestowed upon that species in its particular habitat.
The animal in the picture above looks so much like a miniature hedgehog that you’d be forgiven for thinking that it actually is one. But October here at The Nature Nook is Madagascar Month, and since true hedgehogs don’t live on Madagascar, it must be a different type of creature. And indeed it is – but what?
The fossa is Madagascar’s top dog. Not that it’s actually a dog, of course, because Madagascar doesn’t have any wild dogs. Nor does it have any wild cats, bears, badgers, weasels or raccoons. In their absence, the top predator on the island is an elusive, medium-sized brown animal that looks a bit like a cross between an elongated puma and a giant otter.