About Animals in Puerto Rico

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Puerto Rico, a U.S. commonwealth, is a complex of six islands located 1,185 miles to the southeast of mainland Florida. Puerto Rico's size is 5,320 square miles, divided between 3,420 square miles of land and 1,900 square miles of water, and is home to many invertebrates, marine animals and birds, with relatively few species of indigenous mammals. Most mammals currently living on the islands, including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, monkeys, livestock and donkeys, were introduced by settlers beginning in the 16th century. Puerto Rico has a national zoo, an estuary research reserve and six national wildlife refuges.

Mammals

  • The current-day mammals that are native to Puerto Rico comprise 13 species of bats and 18 species of marine mammals, including whales, dolphins and manatees. Scientists have found fossil evidence in Puerto Rico of extinct species of rodents, a shrew and a sloth. Ships visiting Puerto Rico brought rodent stowaways, including Norway rats and house mice. Rhesus macaques, squirrel monkeys and other primates have also been introduced. The Antillean manatee, a Caribbean native, is an endangered marine mammal that plies the waters surrounding Puerto Rico. The islands are also an important breeding ground for humpback whales.

Birds and Fish

  • Of the approximately 350 species of birds living in Puerto Rico, 18 are unique to the area, 42 were introduced by people and about 165 are sighted only rarely. Scientists estimate that about 120 bird species breed in Puerto Rico and its surrounding islands. Birds have migrated to Puerto Rico from North, Central and South America. Close to 700 fish species live in the freshwater bodies of the Puerto Rican islands, with about 30 species each of native and introduced fish. Fishing for largemouth bass is a popular sport in Puerto Rico. A government agency in Puerto Rico runs a hatchery for these fish with an annual capacity of about 25,000 fish and a few turtles.

Reptiles and Amphibians

  • Puerto Rico is home to approximately 60 reptile species and 25 amphibian species, mostly frogs and geckos. Settlers introduced several families of frogs. The Puerto Rican crested toad is a native species that is endangered. The common coqui frog often serves as a Puerto Rican national symbol. Reptiles living in Puerto Rico include freshwater and marine turtles, some of which are critically endangered, and one species of crocodile, the spectacled caiman. Most of the 11 snake species that make their home in Puerto Rico are nonvenomous. Various lizards, including iguanas and sharp-mouthed lizards, call Puerto Rico home.

Spineless in Puerto Rico

  • Puerto Rico has a rich collection of animals without backbones, including insects, arachnids, worms, mollusks, sponges, corals, nettles, crustaceans and Bryozoa, also known as moss animals. The most common corals are the Boulder Star, Elkhorn and Finger varieties. Introduced invertebrates include honeybees, as well certain species of ants and snails. Many species of earthworms inhabit Puerto Rico's caves. Representative insect species include mosquitoes and butterflies, although the variety of insects on Puerto Rico is relatively small compared to that found in other Caribbean locales. The University of Puerto Rico maintains the commonwealth's largest insect depository.

References

  • Photo Credit saurabh24/iStock/Getty Images
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