The island of Madagascar located in the Indian Ocean is one of the most intriguing places for animal lovers on this entire planet. That’s because the island split off from India about 90 million years ago when the supercontinent Gondwana broke up into smaller chunks. Since then, life on Madagascar evolved in complete isolation until we came along. This has led to the existence of an incredibly rich and diverse wildlife which, for the most part, cannot be found anywhere else on the planet. We all know of the famous Madagascar lemurs which are exclusive to the island, but the truth is that up to 90% of all animal species there are completely unique to Madagascar. Here are a few of the most astonishing.
1. Silky Sifaka
The sifakas are actually nine different species of primates comprising a subcategory of the well-known lemurs which are indigenous to Madagascar. Each one of them is beautiful and interesting enough to warrant an inclusion on this list, but the silky sifaka easily stands out thanks to its gorgeous snow white fluffy coat. Like most animals in Madagascar, the sifaka is endangered due to it losing its natural habitat. In fact, the silky sifaka is now listed as one of the rarest mammals on the planet. There is other interesting information about this wonderful creature, but it sounds much, much better coming from David Attenborough.
2. Brookesia Micra
Madagascar is home to a very large number of species of chameleons. Since one of their best traits is the ability to hide from prying eyes, it has taken us quite a long time to discover most of them and we are still finding new species all the time. In fact, the chameleon in question, Brookesia Micra, was just recently discovered a few years ago.
What makes this little guy so good at hiding? The simple fact that it is the smallest chameleon in the world. It is, in fact, one of the smallest reptiles or, for that matter, vertebrates. The size of a full grown adult can be just a little more than 1 inch (30 mm) and that is with tail which is about half its body length.
3. Giraffe Weevil
Insects are a pretty eclectic group. They come in all shapes, sizes and colors so, for one of them to stand out, it has to be pretty bizarre. Well, the giraffe weevil pretty much fits the bill perfectly. The name suggests exactly what there is about this insect that might be particularly noteworthy.
It has an extremely long neck which can bend around the halfway mark so it is not necessarily as restrictive as that of its mammalian counterpart. If you ever see one of these guys and the neck is really long, you are probably looking at a male. Typically, male giraffe weevils have a neck that can be anywhere up to three times longer than that of the female. This is because they use it for fighting (very much like giraffes), as well as for building nests.
Depending on your perspective, this little guy might be one of the ugliest or one of the most adorable things you’ve ever seen in your life. To be sure, the aye-aye is not a looker. He is a nocturnal primate so seeing one in good lighting kinda makes it look like a cross between a rat and a squirrel. Most people would find the aye-aye creepy, but those of us who enjoy nature at its weirdest will find the aye-aye to be remarkably appealing.
Unfortunately, the aye-aye’s less-than-stellar looks have been quite a detriment to the animal. Locals considered it a demon and it was thought to be a bad omen whenever a person saw an aye-aye. Consequently, people used to go to great lengths to kill these little critters whenever they saw them. Of course, we now know that the aye-aye isn’t a threat to you unless you are an insect larva or a piece of fruit (and since you’re reading this, you’re probably not).
5. Sickle-billed Vanga
Birdwatchers have a lot to see in Madagascar. Out of the roughly 280 species of birds present on the island, almost half of them are found nowhere else (except maybe the tiny islands located near Madagascar). The birds here run the gamut in terms of size and colors so it can be tricky to single out just one particularly noteworthy example, but the sickle-billed vanga is as good as any.
The key distinguishing feature of this bird is its bill which is shaped like…well, a sickle. It is very long, thin and curved, measuring up to 3 inches (77 mm) on a bird that reaches about 13 inches (32 cm) in length. The vanga also has a beautiful white and black/dark blue plumage which makes it pretty easy to spot. It is a very social creature, willing to form mixed flocks with other species of birds found on the island.
Featured image courtesy of Jeff Gibbs via Wikimedia Commons.