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Spain - Fauna

The Iberian Peninsula belongs to the Mediterranean subregion of the Palaearctic region of the animal kingdom, a division which includes also the north of Africa. The forms that betray African affinities are naturally to be found chiefly in the south. Among the mammals that fall under this head are the common genet (Genetta vulgaris), which extends, however, pretty far north, and is found also in the south of France, the fallow-deer, the porcupine (very rare), and a species of ichneumon (Herpestes widdringtonii), which is confined to the Peninsula, and is the only European species of this characteristically African genus. The magot or Barbary ape (Inuus ecaudatus), the only species of monkey still found wild in Europe, is also a native of Spain, but the only flock still surviving, on the rock of Gibraltar, has often been on the point of extinction, and has to be renewed from time to time by importations from the north of Africa. Of the mammals in which Spain shows more affinity to the fauna of central and northern Europe, some of the most characteristic are the Spanish lynx (Lynx pardinus), a species confined to the Peninsula, the Spanish hare (Lepus madritensis), and the species mentioned in the article PYRENEES. The birds of Spain are very numerous, partly no doubt in consequence of the fact that the Peninsula lies in the route of those birds of passage which cross from Africa to Europe or Europe to Africa by way of the Straits of Gibraltar. Many species belonging to central Europe pass the winter in Spain, especially on the south-eastern coasts and in the valley of the Guadalquivir. Innumerable, for example, are the snipes which in that season are killed in the latter district and brought to the market of Seville. Among the birds of prey may be mentioned, besides the cinereous and bearded vultures, the Spanish vulture (Gyps occidentalis), the African or Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus), which is found among all the mountains of the Peninsula, the Spanish imperial eagle (Aquila adalberti), the short-toed eagle (Circaetus gallicus), the southern eagle-owl (Bubo atheniensis), besides various kites and falcons. Among gallinaceous birds, besides the red-legged partridge, which is met with everywhere on the steppes, there are found also the Pterocles alchita and P. arenarius; and from among the birds of other orders the southern shrike (Lanius meridionalis), the Spanish sparrow (Passer cyaneus), and the blue magpie (Cyanopica cooki) may be singled out as worthy of mention. The last is highly remarkable on account of its distribution, it being confined to Spain while the species most closely allied to it (Cyanopica cyanea) belongs to the east of Asia. The flamingo is found native in the Balearic Islands and on the southern coasts, and occasionally a stray specimen is to be seen on the tableland of New Castile. Other birds peculiar to the south are two species of quails, the Andalusian hernipode (Turnix sylvatica), confined to the plains of Andalusia, the southern shearwater (Puffinus cinereus), and other waterbirds. Amphibians and reptiles are particularly numerous in the southern provinces, and among these the most remarkable are the large southern or eyed lizard (Lacerta ocellala), which sometimes attains 3 feet in length and is very abundant, the Platydactylus saccicularis, the grey amphisbama (Blanus cinereus), the European pondtortoise (Emys europaea), and another species, Emys siegrizii. Insect life is remarkably abundant and varied. More than 350 species of butterflies, many of them endemic, have been counted in the province of Madrid alone. Besides the ordinary European scorpion, which is generally distributed in southern Europe, there is another species, the sting of which is said to be still more severe, found chiefly in the basin of the Ebro. Trout abound in the mountain streams and lakes, barbel and many other species of Cyprinidae in the rivers of the plains. For the sea fauna, see under Fisheries below.

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Spain - Table of Contents

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