Arkive officially announces the launch of its Atlantic Islands feature series: North Atlantic Islands and South Atlantic Islands! Through generous foundation support, our team has researched the islands of the North and South Atlantic Ocean, pulling together some of the world’s best imagery and informational factfiles to shine a spotlight on the incredible island ecosystems in this part of the world.
Through a two-part blog series beginning today with the North Atlantic islands page we highlight some of the most stunning species and habitats from Iceland down to the Bahamas and more.
Ready to be whisked away to island life? Let’s go!
The North Atlantic islands are a diverse group with some of them formed through the movement of tectonic plates and others through accumulation of volcanic material. One of the most unique features of any island is its ability to support endemic species. However, these endemic species often face the dual threat of overfishing and tourism, which leads to urbanization and an alteration of the landscape.
The Bahamian islands are extremely low-lying with an average elevation of only 10 metres. The mottled Nassau grouper resides in shallow waters near reefs and other rocky substrates. This austere species possesses the unique ability to change its colour pattern to resemble its surrounding environment or as a means of communication.
Bermuda is made up of 7 main islands and over 140 smaller islands, arranged in a crescent-like formation. The diminutive yet robust Bermuda skink inhabits rocky, coastal area and is the only terrestrial vertebrate endemic to Bermuda. Hatchlings are born with sky blue tails that become brown/black with age.
British Virgin Islands
The position of the British Virgin Islands makes them extremely vulnerable to hurricanes and other weather events. The Virgin Islands coqui is a stunning little frog that strongly prefers living near terrestrial bromeliads. Males serenade females with two tone calls and will only commence their courtship call when the female approaches.
The Canary Islands is made up of seven islands that include Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera, Hierro. The lilliputian Canarian shrew resides lava fields with little or no vegetation. This seemingly mild-mannered species uses a neurotoxic venom to immobilize its prey such as the Atlantic lizard.
The natural habitats in Cape Verde range from being desert-like and flat to luscious high-elevation forests. The endangered loggerhead turtle prefers coastal water, but may be found in the open ocean as well. These turtles have extremely powerful jaws that can crack the shells of even the queen conch and giant clam.
Of the 26 reptiles and amphibian species, 75 percent are endemic and 30 of the 48 freshwater mollusc species are found nowhere else in the world. The enigmatic buffy flower bat has a diet, which consists largely of pollen, but may include nectar and fruit. This sleepyhead is believed to leave its daytime roost later than other bat species.
Wetlands are found on around 4 percent of Cuba’s surface providing a habitat for numerous resident marine organisms and many migratory birds. The micro-sized bee hummingbird holds the honor of being the smallest living bird in the world! It can beat its wings 80 times per second and consumes up to 8 times its body mass in water each day.
Around 11 percent of Iceland is covered by glaciers and 6 percent by rivers and lakes. The pristine Arctic fox is a sturdy critter that can withstand subzero temperatures. It has a short nose to reduce heat loss and increased blood flow to the feet pads to prevent freezing.
Jamaica is the third largest island in the Caribbean and is located to the south of Cuba. The Jamaican hutia can be found in mountainous areas of karst formation where extensive networks of tunnels and crevices offer it protection. Hutias give birth to well-developed young that can eat solid foods and move around just 30 hours after its birth.
The word madeira is Portuguese for ‘wood’, referring to the extensive laurel forest that once covered the island. The Madeira pipistrelle is an early riser and among one of the first bats to emerge from its roost in the evening. It uses echolocation to detect its prey and emits calls at a frequency of around 45-47 kHz.
Turks and Caicos Islands
There are 35 protected areas in the Turks and Caicos Islands that include national parks, nature reserves, sanctuaries and areas of historic interest. The miniature Caicos Islands dwarf boa lives up to its name and averages around 38 cm in length! When threatened it coils itself into a tight ball, hides its head, smears a foul-smelling fluid on its coils and exposes its bright yellow tail.
Now that you know a bit more about the islands, species, and ecosystems of the North Atlantic, ever wonder which island would best match your personality and interest? We wondered that too so we came up with a nifty little quiz that compares your personal interests and personality to unique characteristics of the islands in the Atlantic Ocean.
Would you thrive living alongside the puffins of Iceland? Or maybe you prefer to scour the warm, sandy shores of Jamaica?
And stay tuned for the second half of this series where we introduce you to the marvelous flora and fauna of the South Atlantic Islands.
William Lazaro, Arkive Social Media Intern, Wildscreen USA