A Spotlight on Maltese Endemic Fauna
A Spotlight on Maltese Endemic Fauna
The Maltese Islands are known for their unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. Despite their small size, they are home to a variety of endemic species. Out of the approximately 10,000 terrestrial and freshwater species found in the Maltese archipelago, a considerable 78 are unique to the region. In our last issue, we discussed Maltese endemic flora (you can head over to our website and check that out). As a result, today we will cover some unusual fauna that contributes to our national biodiversity.
The Maltese field beetle (MT: Hanfusa tar-Raba')
The Maltese field beetle (MT: Hanfusa tar-Raba’) is an indigenous beetle that can only be found on the Maltese Islands. The Maltese field beetle belongs to the genus Pimelia, which is distinguished by its elongated and flattened body form. The Maltese field beetle is a medium-sized insect that is 16-20 mm in length. It has an elongated and flattened body that is black with a glossy surface that reflects light. The beetle’s wings are shortened and are no longer functioning, rendering it flightless.
Maltese freshwater crab (MT: Qabru)
The Maltese freshwater crab (MT: Qabru) is a rare and endemic subspecies of crab that can only be found in freshwater habitats on the Maltese Islands. The crab belongs to the family Potamidae, which is characterized by its freshwater habitat. The Maltese freshwater crab is a small-sized crab, measuring approximately be 7-8cm in length, and has a brownish-green colour. It lives around pools and springs, where it hides beneath stones in the water, amid plants, or by burrowing into tunnels excavated in the mud or clay. It is a predatory creature that feeds on smaller animals such as snails and tadpoles after sunset. It may be particularly spotted in Bahrija, Mtahleb, San Martin, and Lunzjata Valley (Gozo). Unfortunately, its numbers have been declining in recent years due to the drying up of the springs it dwells in, as well as human capture. So, if you spot a Qabru, do relish in its beauty from a distance!
Maltese wall lizard (MT: Gremxula ta’ Malta)
The Maltese wall lizard (MT: Gremxula ta’ Malta) is a small-sized lizard, measuring approximately 15 cm in length. Its body is elongated, and its head is triangular-shaped. The lizard’s coloration varies from brown to grey, with a distinct pattern of dark bands or spots along its back. The Maltese wall lizard is a diurnal species, meaning that it is active during the day and spends most of its time basking in the sun on rocks or walls. The lizard feeds on a variety of invertebrates, including insects, spiders, and snails. The Maltese wall lizard is one of the most studied reptile species on the Maltese Islands and interestingly, there are four endemic subspecies of the wall lizard, all of which are endemic to the country. All of these subspecies differ in morphology, coloration, and distribution on the Maltese Islands.
Maltese ruby tiger moth (MT: Rubin)
One of the most fascinating species that inhabits our tiny island is the Maltese ruby tiger moth (MT: Rubin). The endemic moth belongs to the family Arctiidae, which is known for its vibrant colours and distinctive patterns. The Maltese ruby tiger moth is a medium-sized moth, measuring approximately 30-40 mm in wingspan. Its wings are chocolate brown, with distinct spots and a ruby-red abdomen. The moth’s coloration acts as a warning signal to predators, indicating that it is unpalatable and potentially toxic. The Maltese ruby tiger moth’s habitat is mainly in open areas, such as fields and meadows, but it can also be found in forested areas. The moth’s vibrant coloration and distinctive patterns make it an iconic species on the Maltese Islands.
A number of these species are threatened by habitat loss, climate change, and other sentient factors. To safeguard these species, conservation measures are being carried out, including the establishment of protected areas and the implementation of conservation initiatives. It is critical to maintain preserving the Maltese Islands’ distinctive flora and wildlife for future generations to enjoy!