Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedications

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pp. 1-3

Contents

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pp. 4-7

A brief introduction to Madagascar

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p. 8

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About this book

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p. 9

This is the first field guide that has attempted to cover the whole range of diversity of this ‘mini-continent’ in one book. It obviously cannot be comprehensive, but rather aims to cover the species and groups that are most likely to be encountered in the most frequently visited sites. Madagascar’s most popular natural sites are listed on page 10, ranked by the approximate number of visitors each receives every year.

As an example of the way that species selection for this book was weighted towards the most frequently visited sites, an especially common...

Map of Madagascar showing biogeographic zones and most visited natural sites

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pp. 10-11

Biogeographic zones of Madagascar

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pp. 12-25

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How to use this book

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pp. 26-29

Closely related and/or similar species are grouped together onto page-spreads. Each such spread has a heading. The headings in the mammal and butterfly sections include scientific family names, as family differences are fundamental to understanding these groups. Scientific family names are less useful for other groups, and are therefore not included.
SECTION INTRODUCTIONS
There is a two-page introductory spread for each of the four major vertebrate groups. These include information on the way...

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MAMMALS

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pp. 30-31

About 240 species of mammal have been described from Madagascar, but the basic inventory of its mammal species is ongoing: dozens of new species have been described in recent decades.

•One-third of Madagascar’s mammals are considered to be either Critically Endangered or Endangered on...

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CHEIROGALEIDAE

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pp. 32-37

These tiny nocturnal lemurs include the smallest living primate in the world: Madame Berthe’s Mouse Lemur Microcebus berthae. They closely resemble the galagos, or 'bushbabies', of Africa’. Modern taxonomy has seen the number of recognized species increase dramatically from two to 18, and more species may yet be described.

Although mouse lemurs are occasionally found sleeping during the day (resembling tiny fur balls), most sightings are during the night, usually in the form of a pair of eyes bounding about the forest at...

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LEPILEMURIDAE

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pp. 38-39

Sportive lemurs are classifi ed as an entirely separate family. They are rather chunky, with big eyes and ears, and have a vertical posture. These nocturnal lemurs are often seen during the day, roosting in tree cavities or dense tangles. At night, they move about with impressive leaps, while retaining their vertical posture. This is another group, like the mouse lemurs, where the number of recognized species (currently 26) has increased dramatically in recent years, and new species may yet be described. These species look very similar,...

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LEMURIDAE

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pp. 40-53

Bamboo lemurs are members of the ‘true lemur’ family, all of which are active during the day. As their name suggests, bamboo lemurs eat bamboo and are usually found in stands of it. Three of the six Malagasy species are covered here....

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INDRIIDAE

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pp. 54-63

Woolly lemurs are members of the family Indriidae, which also includes the sifakas (pages 56–61) and the Indri (page 62). All Indriidae are characterized by vertical clinging and leaping behaviour, resting upright against a support, and moving through the forest in impressive leaps of up to 10 m (33 feet). Woolly lemurs are quite different from the rest of the family, being much smaller, and nocturnal rather than diurnal. They are often pointed out at day roosts by local guides...

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DAUBENTONIIDAE

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pp. 64-65

This remarkable creature is one of the world’s most bizarre animals. Its strangest features are its perpetually growing incisor teeth and its thin, elongated middle fingers, which are used to extract larvae from dead wood. Although it was sometimes considered to be a rodent in the past, recent genetic studies have placed it firmly in the lemurs. It forms its own...

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EUPLERIDAE

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pp. 66-69

There are 11 species of Malagasy carnivorans, of which the four most likely to be seen by visitors are covered here. Sighting even one of these four species takes some luck, as these are scarce and retiring creatures....

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CHIROPTERA I

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pp. 70-73

There are at least 45 species of bat in Madagascar, of which nearly 80% are endemic. Most Malagasy bat lineages originated from Africa, but at least one Asian group is also represented. Many of these species are virtually impossible to distinguish based on typical night-time views in flight. The few species that are distinctive...

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TENRECIDAE

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pp. 74-77

Tenrecs are among Madagascar’s most engaging creatures, but are unfortunately diffi cult to see. There are 32 described species, the majority of which are shrew tenrecs Microgale spp., which are rarely observed by non-specialists. The largest and most frequently encountered tenrecs are covered here....

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NESOMYIDAE

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pp. 78-79

There are 30 species of rodent known from Madagascar. Of these, 27 comprise a subfamily that is endemic to the island, while the other three are introduced species. Most Malagasy rodents are difficult to find; the introduced rodents are seen more often than any indigenous species. Covered here are the rodents that are most likely to be spotted by visiting naturalists....

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CETACEA

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pp. 80-81

Madagascar is not especially rich in marine mammals, but it is a renowned place to see Humpback Whale, and dolphins are sometimes sighted.

Humpback Whale Megaptera novaeangliae

DISTRIBUTION: Found in oceans almost worldwide. One population that spends...

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BIRDS

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pp. 82-83

Almost 300 species of bird have been recorded in Madagascar. Of those, about 260 occur regularly, 100 are endemic, and another 30 are Malagasy regional endemics. Four bird families are endemic to Madagascar, and a further two endemic to the Malagasy region.

• Birds have a much greater ability to cross water barriers than groups like reptiles and amphibians. The modern Malagasy avifauna is the result of many ‘colonization events’, from Africa, Asia and probably...

Ducks and grebes

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pp. 84-85

Gamebirds

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pp. 86-87

Herons

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pp. 88-91

White egrets

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pp. 92-93

Compact herons and Hamerkop

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pp. 94-97

Larger raptors

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pp. 98-99

Smaller raptors

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pp. 100-101

Shy birds of the forest floor

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pp. 102-103

Rails and jacana

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pp. 104-105

Plovers

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pp. 106-109

Smaller, plainer sandpipers

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pp. 110-111

Larger, more distinctive sandpipers

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pp. 112-113

Aquatic oddities

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pp. 114-115

Terns

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pp. 116-117

Birds of the sea

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pp. 118-119

Doves and pigeons

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pp. 120-121

Endemic pigeons

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pp. 122-123

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Parrots

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pp. 124-125

Vasa parrots have one of the strangest breeding systems among birds. Males are among a small group of birds that develop a phallus and mating takes place over protracted periods – as opposed to the 'blink-and-you-miss-it' copulation typical of most birds. Mating can be highly social, with large and demonstrative groups...

Cuckoos

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pp. 126-127

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Couas of the dry west & southwest

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pp. 128-129

Couas are members of the cuckoo family. They form a genus, or perhaps even a sub-family of birds that is found only in Madagascar. Their bold patterns of bare facial skin and exuberant tree-bouncing or ground-strutting behaviours make them favourites with many visitors....

Couas of the wet east & north

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pp. 130-131

Owls

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pp. 132-133

Nightjars

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pp. 134-135

Aerial feeders

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pp. 136-137

Kingfishers and bee-eater

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pp. 138-139

Hoopoe and roller

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pp. 140-141

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More common rainforest ground-rollers

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pp. 142-143

Ground-rollers form a family of birds found only on Madagascar. They are among the most beautiful and remarkable of the island’s birds. Most species that are elusive and local have not been covered in this book. However, an exception was made with ground-rollers, due to the attractive and unique nature of the group, and in...

Scarcer rainforest ground-rollers

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pp. 144-145

Long-tailed Ground-roller and Cuckoo-roller

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pp. 146-147

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Asities

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pp. 148-149

Asities are yet another family of birds found only in Madagascar, the closest relatives to which are the broadbills of Asia. Breeding males sport caruncles, bizarre patches of bright blue and/or green skin on their face. These caruncles grow at the start of the breeding season but fade away during the non-breeding season. Asities have a unique...

Common open-country birds

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pp. 150-151

Widespread songbirds

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pp. 152-153

Robin-like birds

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pp. 154-155

Warblers that live close to the ground

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pp. 156-159

Forest canopy warblers

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pp. 160-161

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Bernierids

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pp. 162-163

This guide covers the most widespread and easily seen warbler-like birds of Madagascar. However there are others, including Green Jery Neomixis viridis, Madagascar Yellowbrow (or Yellow-browed Oxylabes) Crossleyia xanthophrys and Grey-crowned Tetraka (or Grey-crowned Greenbul) Bernieria cinereiceps . Although these are...

Sunbirds and white-eye

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pp. 164-165

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Common and widespread vangas

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pp. 166-167

Vangas comprise another bird family that is endemic to the Malagasy region. They are the Malagasy counterpart to the Darwin’s finches of Galápagos, both astounding examples of groups of birds that colonized new parts of the world, then evolved to fi ll a wide variety of previously vacant niches. There are warbler-like vangas...

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Typical vangas

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pp. 168-169

The three species shown here are perhaps the most ‘average’ of the vangas in terms of size and shape....

Strange vangas

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pp. 170-171

Large vangas

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pp. 172-173

Dark-headed vangas and cuckoo-shrike

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pp. 174-175

Mid-sized dark birds

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pp. 176-177

Weavers

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pp. 178-179

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REPTILES

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pp. 180-181

•Almost 400 species of reptile have been described from Madagascar, of which more than 90% are endemic. • There are four orders of reptiles in the world: crocodiles, tuatara, lizards and snakes, and turtles. All of these except New Zealand’s tuatara are found in Madagascar. Thirteen...

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Tortoises and terrapins

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pp. 182-183

Madagascar supports several species of terrestrial tortoise and aquatic terrapin, in three diff erent families. Many are rare, local, and in danger of following the island's two giant tortoises into extinction. Included here are the species most likely to be seen by visitors. The standard measurement for tortoises, terrapins, and turtles is...

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Sea turtles and crocodile

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pp. 184-185

Five of the world’s eight species of sea turtles are found along Madagascar’s coast. Only the two covered below are seen frequently....

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Tiny leaf chameleons of the north

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pp. 186-187

Some of world’s smallest reptiles belong to the endemic genus Brookesia; the smallest less than 3 cm long. There are at least 30 species of leaf chameleon, although new species are still being described. The Elongate Ancient Leaf Chameleon (page 188) has been moved into a new genus: Palleon. Although only nine species...

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Widespread medium to large leaf chameleons

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pp. 188-189

In 2013 the ancient leaf chameleons were removed from the genus Brookesia and placed in the new genus Palleon, an addition to Madagascar’s traditional list of three chameleon genera: Brookesia, Calumma and Furcifer....

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The largest chameleons on earth

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pp. 190-191

Most of Madagascar’s chameleons are in two genera of ‘typical chameleons’: Furcifer and Calumma. There is no simple way to separate them, although Calumma are generally found in rainforest in the north and east, while Furcifer are more widespread and better able to adapt to degraded habitat. They vary from being...

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Common chameleons of degraded areas

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pp. 192-193

Along with Oustalet’s Chameleon (page 194) and Warty Chameleon (page 206), these are the species most likely to be seen away from prime forest habitats....

Eastern rainforest chameleons: small

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pp. 194-195

Eastern rainforest chameleons: medium to large

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pp. 196-199

Chameleons of the north

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pp. 200-203

Chameleons of the west

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pp. 204-207

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Swifts I: west and southwest

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pp. 208-209

Madagascar’s (reptilian) swifts are something of a mystery, as they are closely related to iguanids, found only in the Americas, and on some Pacific islands. They probably originate from the ancient time when Madagascar was connected to South America via Antarctica. Unlike the iguanids, Madagascar’s swifts are found only...

Swifts II: rock-dwelling swifts of the southwest

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pp. 210-211

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Plated lizards I: species without strong stripes on back

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pp. 212-213

Plated lizards comprise a family that is found across Africa and Madagascar. Of the 19 Malagasy species, the eight that are most frequently seen by visitors are covered. These large lizards are diurnal and conspicuous. Except for the rarely seen green species (see box below), all are ground-dwelling, and can often...

Plated lizards II: species with strong stripes on back

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pp. 214-215

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Skinks I

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pp. 216-219

Skinks are a family of lizards that occurs almost throughout the world. Although over 70 species are found in Madagascar, most live in leaf-litter or burrows, and are seldom seen. Many have reduced limbs and elongated bodies, and are snake-like. The Trachylepis skinks (which were formerly placed in the genus Mabuya) are familiar...

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Widespread day geckos

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pp. 220-221

This delightful group of geckos is brightly coloured and diurnal. They are restricted to the Indian Ocean region, with the majority endemic to Madagascar. Most species inhabit trees and man-made structures: the walls of your hotel may be the best place to seek out the local species of day gecko. Other favoured haunts include...

Day geckos of the north

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pp. 222-223

Day geckos of the west, south and centre

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pp. 224-225

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Dwarf geckos

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pp. 226-227

This large group of small geckos is found mainly in Africa and Madagascar. Dwarf geckos are diurnal and, although cryptic, can often be spotted on rocks, on tree trunks and elsewhere in the forest, and sometimes on man-made structures. They are capable of changing colour, although they generally maintain sombre shades...

Small nocturnal geckos

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pp. 228-229

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Large nocturnal geckos

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pp. 230-233

There are at least 15 species of ground gecko in Madagascar, but many are rare and local. The three most commonly seen species are covered here....

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Leaf-tailed geckos I: leaf-like and dry bark-like species

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pp. 234-235

Leaf-tailed geckos are found in trees, and active at night. Local guides often know the locations of sleeping individuals. Otherwise, you will have to find one at night when they are moving around. Some species give loud, hissing distress calls when disturbed. There are at least 14 species, of which the seven most commonly...

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Leaf-tailed geckos II: mossy bark-like species

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pp. 236-237

On an island of marvels, leaf-tailed geckos rank among Madagascar’s most amazing creatures. They are some of the best-camouflaged creatures on Earth. Not only does their anatomy resemble their environment, but they also have the capacity to change their colour to perfect their disguise. When the mossy-looking species flatten...

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Malagasy boas

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pp. 238-239

These large snakes are one of Madagascar’s biogeographical mysteries. Their exact affinities have long been debated, but recent studies suggest that their closest relative is the very different Calabar Boa Calabaria reinhardtii (formerly called ‘python’) of Africa. They form a family that is endemic to Madagascar (Sanziniidae), although...

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Distinctive snakes

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pp. 240-241

Madagascar’s snakes, other than the boas, are in the widespread Lamprophiidae family. All but one species (Mimophis mahfalensis) belong to a regionally endemic subfamily (Pseudoxyrhophiinae).

Madagascar has no dangerously venomous snakes, but the hognose, leaf-nosed and cat-eyed snakes, and members of the genus Ithycyphus (not illustrated), do seem...

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Common and widespread snakes

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pp. 242-243

Along with the hognose snakes (page 240) and Madagascar tree boas (page 238), these are the most common and widespread snakes in Madagascar....

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Rainforest snakes

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pp. 244-245

These are some of the most common snakes that are found exclusively or primarily in rainforest. All are diurnal except the Gluttonous Bighead Snake. Note that Madagascar cat-eyed snakes and Four-striped Snake (page 242) also occur inside rainforest....

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FROGS

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pp. 246-247

•More than 300 species of frog have been described from Madagascar, but DNA barcoding has revealed more than 500 species on the island, so at least 200 remain to be formally described!

• Almost 10% of the world’s frogs are endemic to Madagascar, an extraordinary...

Ridged frog and reed frogs

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pp. 248-249

Distinctive terrestrial microhylids

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pp. 250-251

Arboreal microhylids

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pp. 252-253

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Mantellas I: species with orange

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pp. 254-255

All the frogs covered on this and subsequent pages are in the Mantellidae family, endemic to Madagascar and Mayotte. The most famous of these are the mantellas: colourful, toxic frogs that resemble the unrelated poison dart frogs of the Neotropics, a striking example of convergent evolution. Even local guides who know...

Mantellas II: green-and-black species

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pp. 256-257

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Small to medium bright-eyed frogs

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pp. 258-261

SMALL TO MEDIUM BRIGHT-EYED FROGS I One of the largest genera within the Mantellidae family is Boophis, the ‘bright-eyed frogs’: classic tree frogs with enlarged tips to their toes, large eyes, and nocturnal habits....

Medium to large bright-eyed frogs

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pp. 262-265

Various arboreal mantellids

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pp. 266-267

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Various terrestrial mantellids

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pp. 268-269

Finding frogs In Madagascar, you ‘bump into’ frogs much less often than mammals, birds, and reptiles. Although some species are active during the day, most are nocturnal. Even the species that are day-active may be missed by observers who are more attuned to the movement of birds or mammals in the canopy than to jumping frogs at their feet. Frog sightings...

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Bridge frogs

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pp. 270-273

In general, bridge frogs are earth-coloured, with bumps and/or ridges on their backs. They are mainly terrestrial, although some species call at night from low perches above the ground. Most species are active and vocal during the day, so these frogs are frequently encountered during daytime forest...

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Madagascar frogs: plain species

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pp. 274-277

Mantidactylus is another of Madagascar’s largest frog genera. Like Gephyromantis, they are mainly ground-dwelling, and many species are vocal during the day. To a casual observer the two genera look very similar, although Mantidactylus tend to breed in streams and are usually more closely associated...

Madagascar frogs: more distinctive species

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pp. 278-281

INVERTEBRATES

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Invertebrates: distinctive species

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pp. 282-285

The vast majority of living things are invertebrates, with arthropods alone representing over 75% of Earth’s biodiversity. Madagascar supports well over 100,000 species of invertebrate, most of which are endemic. This represents an extraordinarily high proportion of the world’s 1·3 million or so described animal species, and serve...

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Butterflies: swallowtails

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pp. 286-291

There are about 300 butterflies described from Madagascar, about three quarters of which are endemic. This section includes the most widespread and obvious species and groups. It will allow you to identify most of the butterflies that you see on a typical nature tour, at least to genus....

Butterflies: pierids

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pp. 292-295

Butterflies: metalmarks and lycanids

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pp. 296-297

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Butterflies: orange nymphalids

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pp. 298-303

The Nymphalidae or ‘brush-footed butterfly’ family contains some of the most colourful and conspicuous Malagasy butterflies....

Butterflies: various nymphalids (emperors, commodore and pansy)

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pp. 304-305

Butterflies: pansies

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pp. 306-307

Butterflies: black-and-white nymphalids

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pp. 308-311

Butterflies: satyrs

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pp. 312-313

Butterflies: skippers, and moths

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pp. 314-316

PLANTS

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Iconic plants

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pp. 316-319

Madagascar supports over 11,000 species of plant, most of which are endemic. It boasts eight endemic and near-endemic families and over 300 endemic genera. Six of the world’s nine species of baobab are found only on the island. It supports about 850 species of orchid, and more than twice the diversity of palms...

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Baobabs

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pp. 320-323

Six of the world’s nine baobabs are endemic to Madagascar. They are found in dry parts of the southwest, west and north, and lose their leaves during the dry season....

Glossary of terms

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pp. 324-326

Further reading and useful resources

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p. 327

Acknowledgements and photo credits

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pp. 328-331

Index

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pp. 332-344