Have you ever seen a raccoon dog? What about the bone-eating lammergeier? These are just two of the many spectacular species that can be found in Switzerland, from the snow-capped Alps to the rustic valley towns. With the World Economic Forum hosted in Davos, Switzerland later this month, we thought we would seize the opportunity to highlight some of the unique species found in this beautiful country.
Running through a Swiss alpine flower meadow, you might encounter Europe’s largest grasshopper, the predatory bush cricket. Fascinatingly, the entire population of this unusual species is female. So, you might ask, how does it reproduce? Unfertilized eggs are laid in soil, which then develop into clones of the mother. Crazier still, it could take up to 5 years for the egg to hatch, and after all that time, the cricket lives for just a very brief 4-6 months.
Fabled baby bringers
The white stork has long been a subject of legend and lore throughout Europe and America. Thought to bring babies to the doorsteps of hopeful parents, the white stork’s vast migratory route might have sparked these stories, seeing that it flies across the entire expanse of the Sahara desert in northern Africa without stopping. The oldest stork on record was initially tagged in Switzerland and lived to 39 years of age.
Along with artfully designed watches and scrumptious chocolates, another iconic symbol of Switzerland has to be the Alps mountain range. The graceful and surefooted chamois is a confident mountain climber, with hooves that have slight elastic qualities, helping it to grip uneven rocky surfaces. Up in the mountains you might spot one running at speeds of over 30 miles per hour and, if you’re really lucky, witness one of their astounding leaps which can be up to 6 feet high and, incredibly, 20 feet long!
Ants in anarchy
The slave-making ant Harpagoxenus sublaevis has to be one of the most interesting insect species in the world. Slave-making ants literally enslave ants of other species, such as Leptothorax, to be their workers and carry out duties such as foraging and protecting the nest. After invading a nearby Leptothorax ant colony, the Harpagoxenus sublaevis queen secretes a substance that confuses the Leptothorax workers and causes them to fight each other to the death. While this is happening, she will kill the Leptothorax queen and take over. Soon after, the Leptothorax brood hatches, accepts the slave-making ant queen as their own and assumes all tasks for the nest.
Super spawning swimmers
Although its name might be confusing, the Italian nase is a species of fish also found in Switzerland. Despite its relatively small size of about 45 centimeters, the female of this species can deposit up to 100,000 eggs when spawning. Sadly however, pollution and the use of river water for agriculture is a serious threat to this fish, and it is now classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
Although Switzerland may be smaller than some of its neighbours, it boasts a wide variety of unique and fascinating species.
Want to find out more? Why not check out the 300+ Swiss species on ARKive today!
Liana Vitali, ARKive Science, Education and Outreach Officer, Wildscreen USA