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Biological wonders

The unique Harenna Forest
The unique Harenna Forest in Ethiopia. / Roberto Marchegiani, Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

WorldBlue Described biological wonders

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WorldYellow What is included in this category?

Daintree Rainforest - the oldest rainforest in the world
Daintree Rainforest – the oldest rainforest in the world. / Cory Doctorow, Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

This is a kind of super-category where are included all locations of the world with unusual living nature or, at least, traces of the former life. This super category includes the following categories:

  • Biological extremes – Biological landmarks with extreme parameters, e.g. world’s tallest tree, northernmost forest.
  • Ecosystems – Areas with unique, uniform environmental conditions and specific communities of life.
    • Animal colonies – Locations where gatherings of a large number of animals are permanent or regular.
  • Fossil finds – Places where are found remains or traces of life forms of outstanding value for science.
    • Early human finds – Locations where are found valuable remains or artifacts left by early hominins and humans.
  • Trees – The most impressive and interesting separate trees in the world.

WorldViolet Top 25 biological wonders

Asia

Denisova Cave

Russia, Altai Krai

This cave contains at least 125,000 years old artifacts left by ancient hominins. After a splinter of bone here has been identified new species of early humans – Denisova hominin or Denisovan.

Denisova Cave
Callao Cave

Philippines, Cagayan

An enormous cave system with beautiful speleothems. Here have been found the earliest human remains in the Philippines, at least 67 thousand years old. These remnants belong to an extinct species of humans – Homo luzonensis.

Sun shines in Callao Cave
Kaas plateau

 

This plateau has an area of 1,000 ha area and is covered with millions of wild flowers in August – September. More than 850 species of plants grow here, some are endemic – met only here.

Liang Bua

Indonesia, Lesser Sunda Islands

In the cave (and only here) there were discovered remnants of a newly discovered, extinct species of human – Homo floresiensis.

Liang Bua cave, Flores, Indonesia

Africa

Kairei hydrothermal vents

(central part of the Indian Ocean)

Group of hydrothermal vents with very high H² concentration. It is possible that the unique ecosystem around these vents closely resembles the ancient ecosystems (consisting mainly of microorganisms) that existed on Earth in the seas before the photosynthesis process started. This unique ecosystem exists due to specific geological conditions around the vents. Here lives also a unique gastropod with shells made of iron oxides.

Aldabra

Seychelles

Second largest coral atoll by land area in the world, with a unique ecosystem. Contains the world’s largest population of giant tortoises – 100,000 endemic Aldabra Giant Tortoises (Aldabrachelys gigantea) that dominate the ecosystem. Numerous other endemic species of animals and plants, including the flightless Aldabra rail (Dryolimnas cuvieri aldabranus).

Aldabra Atoll, Seychelles
Table Mountain

South Africa

Flat-topped mountain surrounded by steep cliffs, approximately 3 kilometers long. Its plateau is covered with a spectacular scrubland with some 2,200 species of plants representing the smallest floral kingdom of the world – the Cape floral kingdom. Numerous endemic species.

Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, Suth Africa
Vallée de Mai (Vallee de Mai)

Seychelles

Relict of Gondwana, natural palm forest with the endemic coco de mer palm (Lodoicea maldivica) grove and five other endemic palms. Coco de mer grows up to 34 m tall and has the largest seeds in the plant kingdom – up to 42 kg heavy nuts. Many other endemic species of plants and animals, numerous vanilla orchids.

Vallée de Mai, Seychelles
Ngorongoro Crater

Tanzania

The largest volcanic caldera in the world, up to 610 m deep and 260 km² large. Area of an exceptional concentration of wild animals, with 25,000 large animals living in the crater.

Antarctica and Subantarctic islands

Blood Falls

Antarctica

Unusual natural feature – an outflow of hypersaline water, seeping through the ice, tainted with iron oxides in blood color. This approximately 15 m tall fall provides insight into a unique ecosystem that has been isolated from the outside world for 1.5 million years.

Blood Falls from above, Antarctica
Bird Island

South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (United Kingdom)

One of the richest wildlife sites in the world. The size of this island is just 400 ha but here live 50,000 pairs of penguins, 14,000 pairs of albatrosses, 700,000 petrels, 65,000 breeding pairs of Antarctic fur seals.

Australia and Oceania

Lord Howe Island

Australia

This remote, 56 km² large Australian island has its own ecoregion where half of the plants and some birds and other animals are endemic. Unique characteristics are diverse glowing mushrooms in the forest, some bright enough to be used for reading at night. Endemic kentia palms are popular, beautiful houseplants.

Lord Howe Island
Jellyfish Lake (Ongeim’l Tketau)

Palau

A unique marine lake with an area of 5.0 ha, has an underground connection to the sea. Stratified in two layers that do not mix. Isolated from the sea for 12,000 years and contains a distinct population of two species of jellyfish – endemic Mastigias cf. papua etpisoni and most likely endemic Aurelia sp. Millions of these jellyfishes make strict daily migration around the lake. Four more marine lakes with jellyfish on the nearby islands but Jellyfish Lake is the only one open to tourists. The number of jellyfish has reached up to 31 million (January 2005), currently some 5 million.

Jellyfish Lake from air with swarms of jellyfish visible, Palau
Christmas Island crab forest

Christmas Island (Australia)

The forest of Christmas Island is unique in the world due to dominant species – some 50 – 100 million red crabs (Gecarcoidea natalis) – clearing the forest floor of leaves and other organic matter. These crabs are endemic to Christmas Island. Once per year they migrate to the sea to lay their eggs, on the way blocking the roads and paths.

Red Crabs during the migration, Christmas Island
Ecosystem of Henderson Island

Pitcairn Islands (United Kingdom)

The only forested atoll with an intact ecosystem in the world. Endemic species – 9 species of plants and all 4 species of land birds. Numerous invertebrates are endemic, although they are poorly researched. Island is not walkable – it is covered with thicket and rugged limestone peaks.

Shore of Henderson Island
The Daintree Rainforest

Australia

Possibly the oldest rainforest in the world, growing 135 million years. Largest continuous rainforest in Australia, 1,200 square kilometers large, extremely high biodiversity. Contains unique, endemic primitive flowering plants. The oldest part could be centered around Noah Creek.

The Daintree Rainforest, Queensland

North America

General Sherman tree

United States

Giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum), the largest tree in the world by volume. Volume 1,487 m3. Height 83.8 m, girth at the breast height 25.9 m. Believed to be 2,300 – 2,700 years old.

Giant Forest with General Sherman tree - the largest tree in the world in the centre
Giant Forest

United States

Unique forest with stands of giant sequoia trees (Sequoiadendron giganteum) – the largest trees in the world. This is the easiest to access sequoia grove but also contains the largest trees – five of the ten largest trees on Earth are located in this grove. Area – 7.6 km2. In California are located several more notable groves of these giant trees.

Giant Forest, California
Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

United States

Grove of Great Basin Bristlecone Pine (Pinus longaeva), contains the oldest known individual trees in the world, more than 4,750 years old.

Grove of very old Great Basin bristlecone pines, California
General Grant Tree

United States

Giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum (Lindl.)), the second largest tree in the world. Height 81.5 m, girth at breast height 27.8 m, volume 1,320 m3. This beautiful tree is declared as a National Shrine, a memorial to those who died in the war.

General Grant Tree sometimes around 1936
Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve

Mexico

Wintering habitats of the monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus). Some trees are covered with a thick layer of millions of butterflies.

Wintering of monarch butterflies near Angangueo
Bracken Bat Cave

United States

Largest bat colony and the largest colony of mammals in the world. In the cave are living some 20 million Mexican free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis).

Bracken Bat Cave, Texas, United States

South America

Caño Cristales

Colombia

A unique river. Its bottom is covered with the endemic Macarenia clavigera plants. From late July to November these plants turn bright red. Then this colorful river is one of the most spectacular sights in Colombia.

Caño Cristales with waterfall and the red Macarenia clavigera, Colombia. September 2012
Forest on Robinson Crusoe Island

Chile

Temperate forest with a unique level of endemism – out of 211 local plant species 132 are endemic – e.g. met only on this island. The dense forest is formed from trees that are not met anywhere else. Hundreds of endemic species of insects.

Robinson Crusoe Island, San Juan Bautista village in the forefront
Yasuni Forest

Ecuador

Possibly the most biodiverse area in the world. In this rainforest, the diversity of reptiles, amphibians, freshwater fishes, birds, mammals, and vascular plants (with 2,700 – 4,000 species of plants per hectare) reaches their maximum for Western Hemisphere and often – world. Uncontacted tribes live in the forest. Endangered and affected by oil extraction.

The mysterious Yasuni forest, Ecuador

WorldYellow Recommended books

Atlas of Ocean Adventures


A natural history lesson in an adventure book, each spread features 10 captions and facts about every destination. The 5th title in the best-selling Atlas of Adventures series has now been translated into 31 languages.

The Wonder Book of Plant Life


Fabre is one of the glories of the civilized world… one of the most profound admirations of my life. – Maurice Maeterlinck.


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