Madagascar Subregion

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Madagascar Subregion


a land subregion of the zoogeographic Ethiopian region; it includes the island of Madagascar and the islands of the southwestern part of the Indian Ocean (such as the Comoros, Mascarenes, Amirantes, and Seychelles). Characteristic features of the fauna of the Madagascar subregion are most clearly expressed on the island of Madagascar itself. Its fauna is so unique that certain zoologists identify it as a separate region. The fauna of Madagascar developed independently in the early Neocene. It is closely linked with the fauna of Africa, but there are certain species that indicate its ancient links with South Asia, and even with America, which may be explained by the relict nature of these species (old forms that were once distributed over a very wide area) or by the movement of continents.

There are many endemics. Of the mammals, the family Tenrecidae, three families of lemurs, a subfamily of cricetine rodents, and others are endemic. Of the birds, the family Mesitornithidae, two subfamilies of Coraciidae (rollers), the family Vangidae, and the Aepyornithidae (elephant birds), a giant bird that became extinct in the 17th century, are endemic. Reptiles are represented by many geckos and skinks and diverse chameleons. Among other reptiles are representatives of two genera of the American family Iguanidae and such turtles as the freshwater Pelomedusidae and land turtles (Testudo). A considerable number of groups characteristic of the Ethiopian region as a whole are absent, including all ungulates, which are so numerous and diverse in Africa (only one species of pig of the genus Potamochoerus in-habits the subregion; in the Pleistocene there was a pygmy hippopotamus), and all predators with the exception of civets. More than 20 families of birds, characteristic of Africa, are absent, including secretary birds, ostriches, plantain eaters, widow birds, hornbills, and cranes. Reptiles that are lacking include the family Trionychidae (soft-shelled freshwater turtles), the subfamily Emydidae (aquatic turtles), and the families Lacertidae and Amphisbaenidae. There are no monitors, pythons, elapids, viperids, or other poisonous snakes. Most amphibians encountered here are endemic. There are no caecilians.


Geptner, V. G. Obshchaia zoogeografiia. Moscow-Leningrad, 1936.
Puzanov, I. I. Zoogeografiia. Moscow, 1938.
Bobrinskii, N. A., L. A. Zenkevich, and Ia. A. Birshtein. Geografiia zhivotnykh. Moscow, 1946.
Darlington, P. Zoogeografiia. Moscow, 1966. (Translated from English.)


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.