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Term Endemic species

A species that is unique to a specific geographic region. It is said that a species is endemic when it has evolved within an ecosystem without expanding to others.

The levels of endemism in Hispaniola (the Dominican Republic and Haiti) are very high. In terms of fauna, records show that 53% of fish, 97% of amphibians, 94% of reptiles and more than 10% of birds are endemic. Of the 6,000 species of vascular plants, 31 genuses are endemic, as well as some 2,050 species, which represents 34% of endemism in flora. This ranks the island in second place of Caribbean islands, after Cuba.1

The high levels of endemism in the island are the result of isolation, altitude, soil composition and microclimates.2,3

There is evidence that until relatively recent times, geologically speaking, the island was divided by a marine channel that separated the southern end from the rest, thus forming two ancient islands or paleoislands. This division contributed to the high degree of endemism in reptiles, amphibians and plants.2,3

The different altitudes on the island enable the diversity of microclimates (areas with climates different from those generally documented for the island). The presence of caustic soils (soils with high contents of limestone and other water-soluble minerals) also favor endemism because organisms-- primarily plants-- in the process of adapting to these soils, have developed characteristics that have led them to be cataloged as new species.2,3

The high levels of endemism on the island and the limited size of the areas in which these species are distributed has led to many of them becoming threatened. It is estimated that at least 10% of all species of flora and fauna in the country is in danger of extinction.1 This is also occurring on other Caribbean islands. The Caribbean has been included as one of the hotspots in the world (places where the highest levels of biodiversity on the planet are concentrated and that have a high degree of endemism and threat).7

1 Ministerio de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales; UASD (Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo); PNUMA (Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Medio Ambiente). Informe GEO República Dominicana 2010: Estado y Perspectivas del Medio Ambiente; PNUMA: Santo Domingo, D.N., 2010, p. 110.

2May, T. El endemismo de especies de plantas vasculares de República Dominicana, en relación con las condiciones ambientales y factores biogeográficos. Moscosoa. 2001, 12.


Additional Information
LinkEndemic Species in the Dominican Republic
PhotoEspecie endémica - Caracol terrestre (Lygus viginianus)
PhotoEspecie endémica - Hicotea
PhotoEspecie endémica - Iguana de Ricord
PhotoCactus melón espinoso (Melocactus pedernalencis)
PhotoPalo de cruz
PhotoGuano (Coccothrinax argentea)
TableEndemic Flora of Hispaniola
TableEndemic Fauna of Hispaniola
Topic  BiodiversityForest resourcesProtected areas