Outstanding animal colonies around the world
The list below includes some of the most amazing animal colonies and gatherings in the world:
- Látrabjarg – Iceland. Largest bird cliff in Europe, 14 km long and up to 441 m high. Hosts millions of birds including 230,000 razorbills (Alca torda) – 40% of total population.
- Aldabra – Seychelles, Aldabra atoll. Second largest coral atoll by land area in the world, with unique ecosystem. Contains world’s largest population of giant tortoises – 100,000 endemic Aldabra Giant Tortoises (Aldabrachelys gigantea), which dominate the ecosystem. Numerous other endemic species of animals and plants, including the flightless Aldabra rail (Dryolimnas cuvieri aldabranus).
- Lake Natron flamingo colony – Tanzania. Largest colony of lesser flamingo (Phoenicopterus minor) in the world, major part of c. 2,5 million birds stay in this lake.
- Black Hole of Andros – South Andros, Bahamas. 300 m wide and up to 47 m deep round water filled sinkhole with a layer of violet jelly layer of bacteria at 18 meters depth. Microorganisms have heated up the water to 40°C.
- Bracken Bat Cave – Texas, United States. Largest bat-colony and largest colony of mammals in the world. In the cave are living some 20 million Mexican free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis I.Geoffroy).
- Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve – Michoacán and State of México, Mexico. Wintering habitats of the monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus Linnaeus, 1758). Some trees are covered with a thick layer of millions of butterflies.
- Narcisse Snake Pits – Manitoba, Canada. Location with unusual concentration of snakes. Here in limestone caverns are wintering tens of thousands of Red-sided Garter Snakes (Hamnophis sirtalis parietalis). Mass gatherings of these snakes can be observed in spring time.
- Lagoa Salgada – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Hypersaline lagoon with unique columnar carbonate stromatolites – natural formations by 19 species of cyanobacteria.
Australia and Oceania
- Hamelin Pool and L’haridon Bight – Western Australia, Australia. Hypersaline shallows with unique biotope – active growth of stromatolites – oldest known form of life on Earth. Also other unique forms of life.
- Christmas Island subtropical forest – Christmas Island, Australia. Island covered with subtropical forest with numerous endemic species of plants and animals. Unique due to some 100 million red crabs (Gecarcoidea natalis Pocock) – dominant species, clearing the forest floor of leaves and other organic matter.
- Jellyfish Lake (Ongeim’l Tketau) – Eil Malk in Rock Islands, Palau. Unique marine lake, has underground connection to the sea. Stratified in two layers which do not mix. Isolated from the sea 12,000 years and contains a distinct population of two species of jellyfish – endemic Mastigias sp. and most likely endemic Aurelia sp. Millions of these jellyfishes make strict daily migration around the lake. Several more similar lakes in nearby islands but Jellyfish Lake is the only one open to tourists.
- Litchfield magnetic termite mounds – Lithcfield National Park, Northern Territory, Australia. Unique landscape formed by multiple flat termite mound formations oriented in north-south direction in order to control the temperature inside the mounds.
- Vailulu’u Eel City and Moat of Death – Nafanua volcano, near American Samoa, Pacific ocean. Group of hydrothermal vents inhabited by numerous eels (Dysommina rugosa). This is unusual – in general vertebrates do not live near hydrothermal vents.
- Île aux Cochons – Crozet Islands. The largest rookery of penguin species Aptenodytes patagonicus (approximately 0.5 million pairs) in the world. Here live many millions of other birds. Two endemic plant species, 59 endemic species of arthropods.
- Penguin colony of Lusitania Bay and other bird colonies on Macquarie Island, Australia. This subantarctic island has several endemic animal species and unusually looking biotopes of megaherbs. But especially impressive is the giant colony of royal penguins (Eudyptes schlegeli) – the island is the only known breeding ground of these beautiful birds. Lusitania Bay colony recently has been fully occupied and penguins are coming to other parts of island as well. In total it is estimated that there are 0.5 – 3 million penguins breeding in this island.
- Penguin colony on Zavodovski Island – Zavodovski Island. The largest colony of chinstrap penguins (Pygoscelis antarctica) in the world and one of the largest colonies of penguins worldwide – with 2 million birds.
- Salisbury Plain penguin colony – South Georgia, Antarctica. One of the largest king penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus) colonies in the world, consisting of more than 100,000 pairs. Contains also thousands of elephant seals and fur seals.
Described animal colonies
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Penguins are perhaps the most beloved birds. On land, their behavior appears so humorous and expressive that we can be excused for attributing to them moods and foibles similar to our own. Few realize how complex and mysterious their private lives truly are, as most of their existence takes place far from our prying eyes, hidden beneath the ocean waves.