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Fauna in Pantelleria

Pantelleria is particularly interesting from a biogeographic point of view, especially as a link between southern Europe and northern Africa (Maghreb). While there are many data on plant populations and its knowledge can therefore be considered sufficient, faunal populations are only partially known, with some insights only on some terrestrial animals, such as vertebrates and especially insects.

As for the latter, the island's territory is decidedly heterogeneous, a characteristic that allows the presence of multiple ecological niches. Environmental heterogeneity means the presence of multiple refuge areas for any animal or plant, in which any predators or competitors cannot reach. All this reflects on the total number of species of Arthropods (large grouping of animals such as insects, crustaceans, spiders, centipedes, etc.). In particular, for Pantelleria 1096 different species of arthropods have been counted, many of them of African origin and some of which have Pantelleria as the only home in the world. In particular, 14 endemisms have been found for the island of Pantelleria:

  • among the isopod crustaceans (purceddrúzzi di San Ghjuséppe) Spelaeoniscus vandeli is remarked, which probably evolved from a similar African species;
  • among the crickets, Gryllotalpa cossyrensis, limited to the shores of Venere Lake;
  • among the bugs, Apterola kunckeli focarilei;
  • among the beetles (beetles, cetonias, ladybugs, woodworms, etc.) Danacaea caneparii, Heliopathes avarus donatelae, Pachychila crassicollis cossyrensis, Acmaeodera bipunctata romanoi, Scymnus caprai, Stenostoma cossyrense, Alaocyba separanda, Otiorhyncus cossyrensis, Pseudomeira cossyrica;
  • among the ants, Leptanilla poggii, an ant with an intense dark yellow exoskeleton observed for the first time in 1991 at the base of holm oaks in Piana di Ghirlanda.

As for the reptiles, there is the Coluber hippocrepis snake, a species of the western Mediterranean (Ibero-Sardinian-Maghreb) which, migrated from Tunisia in ancient times, settled in Sardinia and subsequently in Pantelleria. Several species of lizards of African origin have been found, including Lacerta podarcis sicula. As for the birdlife, it affects the variety of birds present on the island: 260 species, many of which nest permanently and others were observed during the migratory season, in spring and autumn. Pantelleria is on the main migratory routes and is a place to stop and rest on the journey between Europe and Africa. Among the birds of prey we remember the steppe eagle and the peregrine falcon. Near the waters of Specchio di Venere Lake it is not rare to see gray and red herons, pink flamingos, cranes, black-winged stilts and storks. There are also some nesting species, including two rare ones that, in Europe, nest only on the island: the Iberian zitting cisticola and the Algerian blue tit.

It would be really reductive to close the sector concerning the winged fauna of Pantelleria in so few words, since imagining the island as a pillar of a bridge between Africa and Europe, on it sail many species of birds crossing the Mediterranean in two senses, also rare species, such as the enigmatic Eleonora's falcon (Falco eleonorae), whose black silhouette frequents the island's skies. Other species of the Falconiformes family are present: the black kite, the peregrine falcon, the common buzzards, the harriers. A show to be admired is in the spring when their large flocks arrive from Africa, sailing on the sea, carried by the updrafts. It is not difficult to see in the skies of the island the white outline of an Egyptian vulture or eagles such as the Bonelli's eagle and the harrier. The most characteristic hawk of the island is "u Sicarro", the kestrel, a sedentary species that has colonized all the cliffs of the island. Other rare birds that frequent the island are the European bee-eater (Merops apiaster) locally called scilakilà, the European roller, the Eurasian hoopoe (katabúbbo), the Eurasian golden oriole called ghiannúni, all birds appreciated for the colour of their plumage. Among the island's regular visitors there are also thrushes, blackbirds, woodcocks, quails, grey and red herons, black-crowned night herons, squacco herons, black-winged stilts, pied avocets and cranes. Montagna Grande is the only European station where the colourful Algerian great tit and the rare zitting cisticola nest.

Among the mammals, the Plecotus bat is mentioned, present above all in the natural caves of Gelfisér. The wild rabbit is very widespread, a scourge for the cultivation of vines. We also remember the small rodent Crocidura ichnusae, a small mouse present only in Tunisia, Sardinia and Pantelleria.

Zitting cisticola
Zitting cisticola
(photo by Piero Ferrandes)
Storks
Storks
(photo by Piero Ferrandes)
Purple heron
Purple heron
(photo by Piero Ferrandes)
Western yellow wagtail
Western yellow wagtail
(photo by Piero Ferrandes)
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