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Species

Species diversity means a variety of species in a given region or area. This can either be determined by counting the number of different species present or by counting the number of different taxa present. Taxonomic diversity is more precise and considers the relationship of species to each other.

High ecosystem diversity is often associated with high species richness as each ecosystem tends to have a set of species unique to it. We will therefore consider the species occurring in Seychelles in accordance with the ecosystems they occur in.

The marine environment is central to Seychelles’ development; artisanal, semi-industrial and industrial fisheries are key to the economy and local food security and hence improvedmanagement of these activities and the ecosystems upon which they depend, is a priority for thecountry’s sustainable development (GoS 2014a).

Table 1: Marine Biodiversity Overview (GoS 2014b)
Taxonomic Group Species Notes
Macroalgae Approx. 330 Rich species composition on most islands. Domination of red and green algae and poor development of brown algae around the coral islands. Occurs in high density in nutrient-rich waters such as off Port Victoria and certain seabird colony islands. Commercially exploitable stocks of Sargassum and Gracilaria have been recorded around the granitic islands (Kalugina-Gutnik et al 1992).
Alismatales (Sea grasses) 8 species Commercially exploitable stocks of sea grass (Thalassodendron ciliatum) with biomass of 1-4 kg/m2 have been recorded in the coral islands (Kalugina-Gutnik et al 1992).
Porifera(Sponges) 350 351 species recorded (Van Soest 1994). Populations around the granitic islands are more diverse with 135 species exclusive to the granitic islands, 95 exclusive to the Amirantes and 121 shared. 14 species to date have been confirmed as endemic.
Anthozoa    
Sea anemones 55 species Species data not available.
Scleratinian corals (Stony corals) 200 Diversity much greater around the coral than the granite islands.Includes at least 39 species of free living scleratinians (Latypov 2007). At least 34 species are classified as Vulnerable or Endangered under IUCN criteria.
Octocorallian corals 70  
Molluscs    
Gastropods 500 (Jarret 2000)
Bivalves 100 (Jarret 2000)
Crustacea    
Shrimps 165 At least 5 endemic species: Eupontonia noctalba, Jocaste platysoma, Periclimenaeus manihinei, Periclimenes compressus, Periclimenes difficilis (Bruce 1971) (Fransen 1994).
Macrura(Lobster & crayfish)PalinuridaeScyllaridae   43 Fishery managed by periodic closures to allow stocks to recover.(Bautil 1991).Panulirus penicillatus, P. longipes, P. versicolor and P. ornatusThenus orientalis, Parribacus antarticus, Scyllarides elisabethae
Echinoderms    
Crinoids 10 (Sloan et al 1979)
Asteroidea 32  
Ophiuroidea 44 (Clark 1980)
Echinoidea 33  
Holothuroidea(Sea cucumbers) 43  43 species recorded (Clark 1984, Conand 2008). More than 20 commercial species have been identified in Seychelles waters, with some 15 currently making up the fishery with 6 species constituting the vast bulk of the catch.
Fish    
Osteichthyes 1,150 More than 400 of these species are coral reef associated species.Some 150 species make up the artisanal fishery, several of which are threatened. Endemism is low: considered to be at about 1%.
Chondrichthyes 79  
Selachii (Sharks)Batoidea (Rays)Rhinobatidae (Guitarfish) 60163 Of the 71 Chondrichthyes species that have been identified to species level, 30 are considered threatened (i.e. Vulnerable or Endangered), 15 species are Data Deficient and 1 species has not been evaluated.
Turtles(Chelonii)  5 The critically endangered Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) and the endangered Green turtle (Chelonia mydas) nest in Seychelles though much reduced from historical numbers. The critically endangered Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), the endangered Loggerhead (Caretta caretta) and the vulnerable Olive Ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) utilise Seychelles waters but do not nest there.
Mammals    
Cetaceans Sirenia 27 1 Including the endangered Sei, Blue and Fin Whales (Balaenoptera borealis, B. musculus & B.physalus), and the vulnerable Sperm Whale (Physeter macrocephalus) and eight species of dolphin.There is a small but apparently increasing population (approx. 20-25) of the Dugong (Dugong dugong) at Aldabra atoll.(Kizka et al 2009, Dalebout et al 2014).

 

The central archipelago is made up of granitic islands, except for the two northernmost islands of Bird and Denis which are coralline. The Seychelles bank is in fact a sunken micro-continent with the granite islands constituting the mountain peaks of this geological plate. The granite that underlies the bank and emerges in outcrops as the islands is some 750 million years old and is a fragment of the former super continent of Gondwana. The remainder of the Seychelles archipelago i.e. the numerous islands to the south and southwest of the Mahe Plateau are composed of coral rock or are calcareous sand cays built on reefs. An older class of raised reef-rock atolls can be distinguished in the south-west – Aladabra, Astove and Cosmoledo – and Assomption and St Pierre islands arecomposed of partly recrystallized elevated reefs (Baker 1963).

The first European explorers found the granitic islands densely forested except for the hill sides of Curieuse Island and some of the smaller islets such as Recif. The mountainsides of Mahe and Silhouette from 200 metres upwards harbour the bulk of Seychelles known endemic biodiversity whilst Praslin Island supports unique stands of Coco de Mer dominated forest and associated species. The great antiquity of the granite islands coupled with their isolation and topography has served to create and maintain high endemic biodiversity. The relative “youth” of the coralline islands coupled with their lack of topographic relief means that endemism is much less prevalent. The greater age and larger size of some of the raised atolls and islands, in particular Aldabra, has however resulted in higher rates of endemism.

Table 3: Terrestrial Vertebrate Biodiversity Overview
Taxonomic Group Species Notes
Mammals 6 All indigenous mammals are bats, 4 endemic. (Plus 11 introduced species (Nevill 2009))
Birds 65 65 species of bird are resident in the Seychelles:
SeabirdsLand birds 1847 18 breeding seabird species, 47 land and water birds of which 13[1] are endemic, plus 13 introduced species (Gerlach [ed] 2007)
Reptiles    
Snakes 2 Both endemic (plus 1 introduced species).
Lizards 19 species 12 endemic (plus 3 introduced). (Gerlach [ed] 2007). Assessment complicated by various endemic subspecies classifications.
Tortoise   1 endemic species: the Aldabra giant tortoise (Aldabrachelys gigantea). (Gerlach [ed] 2007)
Amphibians 11 11 endemic (4 frogs, 7 caecilians), (plus 1 Introduced) species.Scope for further speciation within currently recognised endemic frog species under investigation.
Fish  15 15 indigenous species, 2 endemic (Gerlach [ed] 2007, (Senterre et al 2013). Several introduced species.

[1] This does not include the Aldabra rail (Dryolimnas (cuvieri) aldabranus) which has yet to receive mainstream recognition as distinct species but work is in progress to determine this.

Seychelles’ flora is unique in the world: it survives as a relic of the ancient flora that existed on the Gondwana supercontinent. Millions of years of isolation created ideal conditions for diversification and speciation of the original flora (adapted from http://www.pcaseychelles.org/seychelles-flora.html).

The granitic islands of Seychelles support approximately 200 indigenous flowering plant species. Of these, around 70 are endemic species, and there are several endemic subspecies and varieties. There is one endemic family of flowering plants, the Medusagynaceae, 6 monospecific endemic palm genera including the iconic Coco de Mer, and 5 other endemic genera, only one of which contains more than one species.

In addition, there are circa 90 ferns and fern relatives in the granitic islands, approx. 110 mosses, around 110 liverworts and more than 200 lichens. By comparison, there are probably more than 1,100 introduced species, many of which were introduced to provide food, timber, medicines and for other useful purposes.

Table 2: Terrestrial Plant Biodiversity Overview (GoS 2014b)
Taxonomic Group Species Notes
Fungi Unknown Fungal diversity is poorly known in the Seychelles with the predominant focus being on the study of crop and forestry pests.A 2004 survey (Watling & Seaward) recorded 17 taxa, mostly macromycetes, all of widespread i.e. regional or pan-tropical nature.Some work has been undertaken on ectomycorrhizal fungi with 37 species being identified from just 6 species of tree 30 species associated with just two native species (Tedersoo et al. 2007, Suvi 2011). However, overall species richness is considered low due to long-term isolation and also extensive removal of natural vegetation.16 species of lichens and lichenicolous fungi have been recorded (Seaward & Soest 2013).
Bryophytes 218  
Mosses Liverworts 110 108 110 species of moss have been identified (O’Shea 2006) and 108 species of liverworts (Wigginton 2009). The bryophyte flora is still insufficiently known with each survey making new discoveries and a mid-90s estimate of 15 endemic species being reduced to 4 and 4 endemic varieties (Frahm & Ho 2009) with increasing study in this domain throughout the African region.
Pteridophytes(Ferns & allies) 72  90 species of ferns recorded – 12 endemic, 60 indigenous and 20 probably introduced. (Awmack 1997, Senterre et al 2014)
Vascular plants 707 136 endemic and 571 indigenous species (plus 913 introduced species) (Soquet et al 2014).

 

(This section is adapted from GoS 2014b). There are 6 species of indigenous land mammals in Seychelles and they are all bats. 4 of the species are endemic including the recently discovered Triaenops pauliani (Goodman & Ranivo 2008). 3 of the species are classified as Least Concern, 2 are classified as Threatened – 1 Vulnerable and 1 Critically Endangered. The newly discovered T. pauliani has not yet been evaluated but will likely be considered threatened due to its very restricted range on an island of the Aldabra atoll. The Seychelles Sheath-tailed bat (Coleura seychellensis) is Critically Endangered, numbering less than 100 and apparently extirpated now on all but the islands of Mahe and Silhouette. It is one of the world’s rarest mammals with the main cause of its demise being degradation of its coastal habitats – including a roosting site degraded by a recent tourism development (EDGE 2014).

 

52 species of bird are considered indigenous to Seychelles – 18 seabirds and 47 landbirds – 14[1] species of which are considered endemic. 13 resident species are introduced . Another 25 species are classified as annual migrants whilst approximately 150 additional species have been recorded as vagrants. Of the 52 indigenous species 39 are classified as Least Concern, 2 as Near Threatened and 11 species, or 21% of bird species, as threatened (including 5 classified as Vulnerable, 5 as Endangered (Abbott’s Booby, the Madagascar Pond Heron, the Madagascar Sacred Ibis, the Seychelles Scops Owl and the Seychelles Magpie Robin) and 1 – the Seychelles Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone carvina – as Critically Endangered (GoS 2014b).

Important Bird Areas (IBAs) (GOS-UNDP-GEF 2014)

20 sites have previously been identified as IBAs in the Seychelles (GOS-UNDP-GEF 2014, adapted from Rocamora & Skerrett 2001; see Table 4). They cover approximately 76.5 km2 of land area in the granitic islands and 161 km2 in the outer islands.

Table 4: Existing IBAs (GOS-UNDP-GEF 2014)
Code Island Group Existing IBAs
SC012 Amirantes African Banks
SC020 Aldabra Aldabra atoll
SC002 Granitic inner islands Aride island
SC001 Granitic inner islands Bird island
SC015 Amirantes Boudeuse island
SC011 Granitic inner islands Conception island
SC019 Aldabra Cosmoledo atoll
SC004 Granitic inner islands Cousin island
SC005 Granitic inner islands Cousine island
SC013 Amirantes D’Arros island
SC017 Amirantes Desnoeufs island
SC014 Amirantes Etoile island
SC008 Granitic inner islands Frégate island
SC018 Farquhar Islets of Farquhar atoll
SC006 Granitic inner islands La Digue island
SC010 Granitic inner islands Mahé highlands and surrounding areas
SC016 Amirantes Marie Louise island
SC009 Granitic inner islands Montagne Glacis
SC003 Granitic inner islands Praslin National Park and surrounding areas
SC007 Granitic inner islands Silhouette Island

 

Another 16 important bird areas have recently been identified (GOS-UNDP-GEF 2014, see Table 5).

Table 5: New IBAs (GOS-UNDP-GEF 2014)
Group New Terrestrial IBAs Trigger Species
Alphonse Alphonse Black-naped tern (40-50 ind.)Greater crested tern (100-125 ind.)
Amirantes Saint Joseph atoll Black-naped tern (4-20 pairs)Roseate tern (300-400 pairs)Wedge-tailed shearwater (23,000 p.)Frigate bird sp. (100-6000 ind.)
Granitic inner islands Booby island Roseate tern (17-128 pairs)
Granitic inner islands Lilot Fregate Brown noddy (15,000-24,000 pairs)
Granitic inner islands Recif Sooty tern (47,000 pairs)
Alphonse St Francois island Black-naped tern (15-30 pairs)Greater crested tern (100 ind.)Saunder’s tern (1,800 ind.)
Alphonse [Bijoutier] Black-naped tern (26 ind.)
Group New Marine IBAs Trigger Species
Granitic inner islands Seychelles bank Terns, frigate birds, tropicbirds and shearwaters
Amirantes Amirantes bank & trench  
Aldabra Coastal waters of Aldabra group Terns, frigate birds, boobies
Farquhar Coastal waters of Providence and Farquhar  
Southern coral Coastal waters of Coetivy?  
Southern coral Coastal waters of platte?  
Shelf claim [Southern Saya De Mahla] Wedge-tailed shearwater
Aldabra [Asquith Rise] Boobies
High seas [Madingley Rise]  

 

 

Reptiles (GoS 2014b)

Seychelles has 23 recognised species of indigenous terrestrial reptile – 2 species of snake, 19 species of lizard, 1 species of Giant tortoise and 1 terrapin. There is some debate on these figures in particular due to the status of some lizard taxa currently recognised as endemic sub-species. Previous claims about multiple species of endemic giant tortoise (Gerlach & Canning 1998) have not been supported by genetic analyses (Austin et al 2003, Palkovacs et al 2003) and have been strongly questioned by peers (Frazier 2006, Shah 2003); as such only one species is recognised here. One terrapin, Pelusios subniger, previoulsy considered an endemic sub-species, has recently been shown to be an introduced species whilst the other, Pelusios castanoides, may also later prove to be an introduction. Of the 23 species, 3 have not been evaluated for their conservation status, 9 are classifed as Least Concern, 1 as Near Threatened and 10 or 44% as Threatened (3 Vulnerable, 6 Endangered and 1, P. castanoides sub-species, as Critically Endangered).

Amphibians (GoS 2014b)

To date, 11 indigenous species of amphibian, all endemic, have been recorded in Seychelles, consisting of 5 frog species and 6 caecilians. 6 species are classified as Least Concern, 4 Endangered and 1 Critically Endangered, meaning that 45% of Seychelles indigenous amphibians are considered threatened.

 

Freshwater Fish (GoS 2014b)

15 species considered indigenous have been recorded to date. 5 species, including the 2 endemic species, have not thus far been evaluated for IUCN status whilst the other 10 species are classified as Least Concern.

Invertebrates (GoS 2014b)

The greatest invertebrate diversity and endemism is found in the larger granitic islands. In the arachnids and some insect orders, species number in their hundreds. The list of taxonomic groups given in Table 6 is not exhaustive.

Table 6: Terrestrial Invertebrate Biodiversity Overview (GoS 2014)
Taxonomic Group Species Notes
Diptera (Flies) 589 295 endemic, 294 indigenous (plus 41 introduced). (Gerlach [ed], 2009)
Coleoptera (Beetles) 825 506 endemic, 319 indigenous, (plus 35 introduced species). Highest diversity found on large granitic islands (Aldabra has 122 species, 40 endemic). (Gerlach, J. [ed] 2009a).
Orthopteroidea 162 56 endemic, 106 indigenous (plus 5 introduced) species. Greatest diversity on the large granite islands, Aldabra has 34 species, 11 of which are endemic (Gerlach & Hass 2008).
Lepidoptera (Butterflies) 546 275 endemic, main diversity on larger granite islands (Aldabra: 57, 20 endemic; Alphonse: 46, 35 endemic). The 271 non-endemic taxa include 11 probable introductions.(Plus 6 migrant records) (Gerlach & Matyot 2006).
Myriapoda 76  34 endemic, 34 indigenous, 8 uncertain origin (plus 3 introduced). Main diversity and endemism in granitic islands (Aldabra has 6 species, only 1 of which is endemic) (Gerlach & Marusik 2010)
Arachnida (Spiders) 347  204 endemic, 128 indigenous, 15 uncertain origin (plus 15 introduced). (Gerlach & Marusik 2010)
Mollusca (Terrestrial and freshwater snails) 76  69 terrestrial species – 50 endemic, 19 indigenous (plus 8 introduced) (Gerlach 2006).7 freshwater species – 1 endemic, 6 indigenous (plus 5 introduced)

 

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