Terrestrial Fauna

Like for the vegetals, there is also a few number of animal species in French Polynesia : less than 700 insects -against 50,000 in Australia- and hardly no vertebrates. Even birds, which method of moving allows to cross the wide Pacific ocean, only count about 120 species – 6 times less than in Australia.

Actually, it is known that islands isolation encourages the birth of indigenous species but also emphasizes the phenomenon of some species disappearance. Thus it is estimated that 90% of the extinct species of the world used to live on islands.

The invertabrates gather insects, shellfish, and mollusks.

The first category includes several species of dragonflies –eight of which are endemic, a lot of moths and some butterflies among which the very esthetical Danaida plexippus. There are also coleopters, bees and bumblebees, aedes mosquitoes, spiders and scorpions.

The main shellfish are the tupa, the only terrestrial crab which is very common on roadsides near the sea and nests on deep holes ; the kayeu commonly called “coconut tree crab” is actually part of the Hermit-crab family. Finally, the wild fresh water shrimp -greatly prized for its fine flesh- is the most famous fresh water shellfish.

The vertebrates are many times less numerous than invertebrates.

Among the main fresh water species we can find eels, that are the most widly spread family. Reptiles includes 4 gecko species and 3 lizard species usely called “margouillats” by the locals.

Mammals essentially includes porc, dogs, horses and rats. Pig and dog were the first domestic animals known to the Polynesians before the arrival of the Europeans, and both were raised for food. The Marquesas islands are famous for their horses, probably brought from Chile. Finally, Polynesia also counts bovines and goats, most of them living wildly.

Atolls shelter a little more than one hundred bird species and gather more sea birds than terrestrial birds, and vice versa for high volcanic islands. Comomn Myna is one of the most common birds in Tahiti and her islands. Introduced in the early XIXth century, nowadays he undangers many other species like the Tahiti Kingfisher or the Pacific Swallow living essentially around rivers that also attract the Little Heron. The Tahiti petrel -which is part of the albatross family- nests on the ground, as well as the Murphy petrel.There are several varieties ofstern among which the Great-crested stern and the White stern that doesn’t buid nests : its egg and chick have to keep on the branch by themselves. Several varieties of pigeons are also to be found, among other the very big Carpophage (50 cm) from Nuku Hiva, in the Marquesas.

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