6 Plants and Animals You’ll Only Find in the Seychelles Islands

February 6, 2015 by

Middle East & Africa

In a remote stretch of the Indian Ocean, nearly 1,000 miles off the coast of Africa, the tiny archipelagic country of Seychelles is home to many of the world’s most unusual plants and animals, many of which you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else on the planet. From skyscraping palms to miniscule frogs, here are six of Seychelles’ most remarkable plants and animals.

Giant Tortoise

The Aldabra Giant Tortoise.

Coco de Mer

The best known of Seychelles’ numerous unusual endemic plant species, the Coco de Mer (Lodoicea maldivica) is an enormous palm species, capable of growing up to 100 feet tall. The trees, which only grow on Praslin and Curieuse Island, are best known for its gargantuan bi-lobal seeds, the largest of which measure about a foot in length and can weigh around 40 pounds. For many centuries, these seeds would wash up on the shores of the Maldives and India. As explorers had yet to visit Seychelles and carry back news of the islands’ unusual plant life, locals assumed that the seeds grew from underwater trees, hence the name coco de mer, which translates to sea coconut.

Gardiner’s Tree Frog

Among the world’s tiniest frogs, the Gardiner’s Tree Frog (Sooglossus gardineri) measures less than half an inch in length, making them smaller than a dime. Despite their name, the Lilliputian amphibians spend most of their time on the ground, preferring the detritus that carpets the ground of the jungle over trees and bushes. Unusually, the frogs lack middle ear cavities, which in most creatures is necessary for hearing. However, in 2015, a team of scientists discovered that the creatures instead used their mouths to amplify sound.

Aldabra Giant Tortoise

With males of the species topping out at over 400 pounds, the Aldabra Giant Tortoise (Aldabrachelys gigantean) is the second largest reptile on earth, second only to the Galapagos Tortoise. Hailing from the remote Aldabra atoll (which is, incidentally, the world’s second largest coral atoll), this behemoth spends its days languidly foraging in low-lying vegetation, basking in the sunlight, and sleeping. In 1979, efforts were undertaken to introduce populations to Curieuse Island, and today, about 500 of the tortoises reside at the Curieuse Marine National Park.

Seychelles Black Parrot

Although the Seychelles Black Parrot (Coracopsis barklyi) looks to be the color of jet from a distance, it’s actually a muddled grayish-brown hue when viewed up close. Although its feathers are unusually pallid (by parrot standards), what the Black Parrot lacks in color it makes up for with a strikingly melodious birdsong. It’s the national bird of Seychelles, and estimates peg the population at anywhere between 300 and 900 in total, most of which are spotted on the bird’s native Praslin. Although the parrot was long believed to be a subspecies of the lesser vasa parrot (C. nigra), but is now recognized as its own distinct species.

Seychelles Scops Owl

Believed to inhabit only the Morne Seychellois National Park on Mahé, the largest island in Seychelles, the Seychelles Scops Owl (Otus insularis) once had a wider habitat, and there have been reports of the owl’s coos and hoos on both Praslin and Silhouette islands. These birds of the night – known locally as syer — are notoriously elusive, and scientists believed they were extinct until 1959, when one was rediscovered. Today, conservationists are hopeful that with continued breeding efforts, the Seychelles Scops Owl might one day be reintroduced to other islands.

Jellyfish Tree

The Jellyfish Tree (Medusagyne oppositifolia) derives its name from its small fruit, which resemble jellyfish when split open. This critically endangered tree endemic to Mahé was assumed extinct until the 1970s, when a small number of trees were found on granite slopes on the island. Despite extraordinary efforts at increasing the species’ numbers, many conservationists believe the tree’s future is bleak, primarily because the seeds – which are spread by the wind – are no longer able to germinate naturally.

Conributed by Margot Bigg

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