Highly localized plants and/or animals

My son and I were reading the Webelos requirements for a “Naturalist” badge and came across this optional one:

“10. Identify a plant, bird, or wild animal that is found only in your area of the country. Tell why it survives only in your area.”

I drew a blank on this, not just for New England, but for any part of the US. What sorts of plants or wildlife are only found in one area of a country? [and yes I recognize the ambiguity of the ‘your area of the country’ part…just work with what ya got]

How about the New England cottontail, hoppin’ down the bunny trail?

If you could give your location, that would help to aid you specifically. I think this is a great scout project, and you’d want to explore the term “ecological niches” to understand it more.

One example for me is a little plant, Heuchera parviflora, one of many heuchera species, but rarely found outside it’s ecological niche, hanging off off rocky cliffs at a higher altitude. It’s not a particularly showy plant, but when hiking and you find it up on South facing rocky ledges, where not much else could grow there, it’s a treat. You won’t see it anywhere else. It’s found a niche to exist in, that’s worked for centuries.

That’s an extreme example, but there are plenty of plants and animals, insects included, that are specific to a particular region. The teaching would be to understand how the underlying geology, climate, and relationship within the ecosystem a particular organism lives in thst allows it to flourish.

California Condor - coming back from near extinction, limited because of habitat needs, fussy mating needs, and ranchers not perfectly convinced that the birds are scavengers, but not livestock killers.

The Venus flytrap is native only to a 60-mile radius of Wilmington, NC.

An example in my area of a highly localized species is the (endangered) Mission Blue butterfly. It can only live where a particular variety of lupine is located, which restricts it to few pockets in the San Francisco Bay area near the coast. The variations in local topography create quite different microclimates, which explain why a species isn’t likely to spread far. It’s also endangered due to shrinking of the habitat from city development, which is likely to be a factor in finding a highly local species.

I don’t know if it’s a separate species or not, but the midge flies in Crater Lake live briefly just a above the surface, mate, and let the eggs fall — all the way to the bottom of the lake (nearly 2000 feet down). It takes two or three years for the larva to hatch and make their way back to the surface before they can fly for a few hours and die.

I understand Pino Pirenaico exists only in a small area of the Pyrenees. They grow on tiny amounts of soil over calcite-type rock; the bottom has the strangest shapes but once it finds the vertical it shoots straight up. The masts of Spanish Navy Training Ship Juan Sebastián Elcano are made from Pino Pirenaico.

No, Spain and France aren’t part of the US yet. But I like any excuse to trot out pics of the Elcano :slight_smile:

The Ivory-Billed Woodpeckerseems to be found only in Arkansas, and the Iriomote wild cat is found only on a small Japanese island (Iriomote, of course).

Madagascar has 150,000 endemic species,according to this site.

One interesting related concept is the sky island, about how ecosystems on mountains separated by valleys develop like island ecosystems, and thus develop unique species.

Here in Alberta, we have the Banff Springs Snail. According to the Wikipedia link, it is found only in certain hot springs in Banff National Park. It is an endangered species; and after having visited the park and seen the snails in their natural habitat, I can attest that they’re not terribly exciting.

Try searching for the term “indigenous in …<area of choice>”.

Among US birds, the Gunnison Sage Grouse has one of the most restricted distributions. Kirtland’s Warbler breeds mainly in a small area in Michigan. The Yellow-billed Magpie and California Gnatcatcher are found mainly in California.

For New England, most of your endemics are probably going to be plants.

I’ll bet there aren’t many seguaro cacti up there in new england either.

They’re probably looking for the local equivalent to the snail darter?
(small range, possibly endangered).

You can probably find what you’re looking for by checking the US fish and wildlife service website. Here’s the list for the SW region of endangered critters:

  • Rio Grande Silvery Minnow
  • Texas Snowbell
  • Devils River Minnow
  • Concho Water Snake (but may be de-listed soon. Yay!)
  • Nine different species of invertebrates that live in the karst under Bexar county.
  • Comal Springs riffle beetle
  • Comal Springs Dryopid beetle
    and on and on

There are likely to be a lot more endangered localized species in your area than you would expect.

Around here we have the Channel Island Kit Fox. It’s endemic to the Channel Islands (where there also used to be pygmy mammoths!). I actually saw one about 12 years ago when the population was down to below 100. They are tiny and cute little buggers and are fairly gregarious. They’ve got a captive breeding program going on now, so hopefully the species will hang in there.

Read about Florida scrub. There are about 40 plants, 4 vertebrates, and quite a few insects endemic only to specific areas of Florida.

We have a reverse situation in Calgary - the chinooks that come down the Rockies create a climate here that causes plants that thrive practically to the north pole to not be able to survive a Calgary winter. Cedars are the most common example of this - they’re crazy hardy trees, but they die in Calgary because of the desiccating chinook winds. Those of us involved in landscaping here call them “annual cedars” because they’re sold everywhere for very cheap prices, but they die if not protected over winter.

Caves and flooded caves/springs are often the ultimate this regard. The whatever whatever rarus rarus will often be found only in one and only one small cave/spring. And if not that, only a few caves in a rather small geographic range.

A few years ago I visited a commercial cave in the Shenandoha (sp) Valley. There was a water beetle found only there in one small stream/trickle in the cave. After just a couple of collection trips by scientist from the smithsonian, they managed to wipe out the whole lot of em. Now they only exist as corpses in a couple of jars in the bowels of the Smithsonian.

Don’t know where you are in New England, but here in RI we have just such a place. Near Lime Rock in Licoln, RI the local lime makes the soil highly basic, and there is a preserve there with lots of rare plants that only grow in that condition.

There’s one you’re too late for. The last known specimen of the New England Liberal Lion has died.

Unfortunately, there are still plenty of liberal lion cubs out there fighting for the title. They’ve expanded their home range into southern NH as well! :cool: