The Mediterranean basin contains thousands of miles of coastlines and stretches across dozens of countries on three continents. The topography ranges from steep, snowy mountains to flat, dry desert, not including the hundreds of islands that dot the sea. Just as an array of cultures mix and match throughout the regions of the Mediterranean, so do varieties of animals and plants.
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Much of what is often thought of as the Mediterranean region consists of continental European countries, such as Italy and Greece, which are mostly surrounded by sea. Some of the most common animals in this area, sheep and wild boar, are those used as sources of food. Lesser known animals native to the area include Eleonora's falcon off the coast of Greece, and the chamois goat around the Balkans. One of the most common and useful plants native to this region is the olive plant, which grows particularly well along the hills of Greece and Italy. Numerous herbs, such as basil, rosemary and thyme, also flourish here.
Although North African countries on the Mediterranean, such as Tunisia, are in close proximity to Europe, they are home to an array of different species of animals and plants. Elephants, gazelles and camels are common in this region; yet other animals, like sheep, which are common throughout Mediterranean countries, exist here as well. As for plant life, North Africa differs the most, simply because of the heat and dryness of the region. Although olive plants are plentiful, desert plants, such as the prickly pear and other cacti, are also prevalent. Closer to the coast are Mediterranean shrubs like juniper, which have spindly leaves and produce small berries.
At the eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea is Anatolia, which consists of Turkey and the entrance to Asia and the Middle East. As in the Mediterranean region of continental Europe, wild goats are quite common here, specifically the bezoar goat, which makes its home in the mountainous areas. An endangered animal of the region is the Anatolian leopard, which once roamed freely about the Mediterranean hills, but is now limited in numbers. Plants found in this region include the Turkish sweetgum, a plant used for its sap, and the common, leafy green terebinth plant.
The Mediterranean Sea is sprinkled with more than 100 populated islands, from the Straits of Gibraltar to the coast of Lebanon. Off the coast of Croatia lies Korcula, which is home to a large population of jackals and mongooses. Bay laurel plants and lavender can also be found throughout the island. Closer to the Middle East, on the island of Cyrpus, the endangered Mediterranean monk seal can still be found, along with an array of native bats. Plants on Cyrpus include the pheasant's eye, the bugle and the herbs basil and thyme. Malta, near the coast of Africa, has a number of specifically Maltese species, from the Maltese wall lizard to the Maltese freshwater crab. Plants found on the island also include a unique breed of orchids, known as Ophrys bombyliflora.