Biodiversity of Andaman and Nicobar Islands
Due to geographical isolation, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are home to a variety of unique endemic animal and plant species. The islands’ isolation from mainland India has allowed several birds, mammals, and reptiles to evolve into distinct subspecies found nowhere else on Earth.
There are few mammalian sub-species that are endemic exclusively to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. These include Andaman Wild Pig (subspecies of mainland wild pig), Andaman Horseshoe Bat, Andaman Rat, Nicobar Tree Shrew etc.
The Narcondam shrew (Crocidura narcondamica) is a white-toothed shrew in the family Soricidae. It is endemic to Narcondam Island, a small, remote, volcanic island situated in Andaman Sea and considered part of the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago. It was recently discovered in 2020.
Several bird species are endemic to the emerald forests of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Most important among them are as follows:
Narcondam hornbill (Rhyticeros narcondami) is a large black hornbill with a colorful yellow and red beak and throat pouch. It is a critcally endangered species, with an estimated population of only about 350 remaining exclusively on the small Narcondam Island.
Andaman woodpecker (Dendrocopos fusciolatus) is a small black and white woodpecker with a red crown found in the broadleaf forests of the Andamans archipelago. Though not considered threatened presently, it has an extremely small range, putting it at future risk.
Other bird species include Andaman Serpent Eagle, Andaman Crake, Andaman Coucal, Andaman Nightjar, Andaman Treepie etc.
Some of the notable reptiles endemic to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are Andaman Water Monitor, Andaman Day Gecko, Nicobar Cat Snake, Andaman Keelback, Nicobar Flying Lizard, Andaman Giant Gecko etc.
Some notable plant species endemic to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are as follows:
A stately timber tree with reddish-brown wood. It is endemic to the Andaman Islands and has been overharvested, making its future uncertain.
An evergreen tree that towers up to 60 meters tall and is related to the nutmeg. This species grows nowhere else besides the Andaman forests.
A small understory tree with showy red bracts and white flowers that bloom directly on its trunk. It is threatened by logging and invasive species that degrade its specialized forest habitat.
Nicobar Palm (Arenga nicobarica)
This attractive feather-leaved palm tree produces an edible sap collected by indigenous groups. It is used for thatching and weaving but faces habitat pressure from growing settlement.
Mangrove Fern (Acrostichum nicobaricum)
As its name suggests, this fern grows among the tangled mangrove forests of Car Nicobar island. Nowhere else harbors this unusual fern species adapted to the coastal ecosystem.