Endemic Species of Madeira
Considered a biodiversity hotspot of the Atlantic Ocean, the islands of the Madeira archipelago have a highly valuable Natural Heritage. The archipelago belongs to the Macaronesian biogeographical region, with a great number of endemic species, rich habitats, and a large diversity of terrestrial and marine species. More than 7000 species and subspecies of fungi, plants and terrestrial animals have been identified on the islands, 1200 of which can only be found there.
Boettger’s wall gecko or Selvagens wall gecko
This subspecies of Boettger’s wall gecko is a crepuscular and nocturnal reptile indigenous to the Savage islands and can be found in all three islands: Selvagem Grande, Selvagem Pequena and Ilhéu de Fora. On Selvagem Grande island, it can be found at sea level and along the cliffs in small numbers, up to the central plateau in greater abundance. It is frequently spotted in dry stony areas and in scrublands, feeding on insects. Its breeding season is in spring, between April and July, and some pregnant females can still be found in August. It is classified as Vulnerable (VU) in the Red Book of Vertebrates in Portugal, because it has a very restricted distribution and is concentrated in only three populations, two of which on very low islands, thus vulnerable to sea level rise (Selvagem Pequena and Ilhéu de Fora).
Madeiran land snail
Discula lyelliana is a species of land snail endemic to the Deserta islands, with only one population known in nature. It occurs in an area of undergrowth in Deserta Grande and can be found under rocks or around the stems of the common fern. This snail is active mostly during the night, when humidity is generally higher, and can be found wandering among the stones and leaf litter. As detritivores, they feed on dead animal and plant matter present in the soil. Predation by domestic rats and the loss and degradation of its habitat by roaming goats are, along with its low population and reduced distribution area, the main threats to the conservation of this species, which is considered Critically Endangered (CR).
Madeiran wall lizard
The omnivorous Madeiran wall lizard can be found in almost all types of terrestrial habitats on Madeira island, from the sea coast up to the highest mountains. This lizard can grow to a full length of up to 20 cm, and its colour varies from light brown to dark grey. Some specimens (usually males) may show iridescent colours, such as green, blue and violet.
Deserta Grande wolf spider
This spider is endemic to Vale da Castanheira on the most northern point of Deserta Grande, one of three Desertas islands in the Madeira archipelago. The Deserta Grande wolf spider can grow to a size of 4 cm in body length, with a 12 cm leg span. Its habitat is characterised by open ground with crevices and holes where it can hide, but it has been losing range in recent years. The estimated number of adult specimens is 4000, which makes it one of the rarest wolf spiders in the world, listed as Critically Endangered (CR) by IUCN.
Since there are no indigenous terrestrial mammals in Vale da Castanheira, this species is one of the main predators in its small distribution area. It preys mostly on smaller spiders and other invertebrates, though adult animals have been observed attacking young lizards.
Institute for Nature
Conservation and Forests