Department of Science & Technology, Lakshadweep

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THE GENERAL FAUNA OF THE ISLANDS

The fauna of any oceanic island is generally very much restricted due to the difficulty in reaching the islands crossing an extensive barrier of sea. However, the marine life of the coral seas is very elaborate and colourful. It is almost impossible to condense the wide variety of forms observed in the lagoons and adjacent seas of Lakshadweep archipelago. Therefore, the description is limited to the most common terrestrial animals and some commonly observed marine forms. Among vertebrates the cattle and poultry birds are common in the inhabited islands. The only representative of the family Carnivora is the common domesticated cat. Perhaps, the only wild mammal observed belongs to the genus Mus.  At least two species are identified and they are common house mice, Mus. rattus and Mus refescens. 

Among birds the Indian crow is not uniformly found in the islands. While they are commonly seen in Amini & Minicoy they are absent in Kavaratti. Some of the oceanic birds which are commonly seen are thrrrathasi (Sterna fuscata),  Katalkakka  (Sterna bergiivelox), Karifetu (Anous stolidus piletus), (tharathasi) (Sterna anethetus). Some of the migratory birds are Chullu  (Pluvialis dominical) Koluvayam  (Nuemenius phaeopus), Arenaria interpries. The common pond heron annal (Ardeola grayii) and the reef heron valia Nhara (Egretta sp). are also seen in the islands. 

About 24 Km. north west of Kavaratti is pitti island consisting of a reef and a sand bank at the southern end. The island does not have any vegetation. Several thousands of birds belonging to two types are observed in this island. They are Thararhasi (Sterna fuscata) and Karifetu (Anous Stolidus piletus). This island has been declared a bird sanctuary by the Lakshadweep Administration and therefore they live without the fear of human interference. Observing the flocks of these birds hovering in the air the fishermen are able to locate tuna shoals, because these birds and tuna shoals are after small fishes.

Among reptiles the most common are the wall lizards, Palli (Gecko sp.) garden  lizards, onthu (Calotes versicolar and Calotes liocephalus) and skinds, Arana (Mabuya carinata).  Lycodon travancoricus ("Beddomes" wolf snake chera) has been reported at Androth. Otherwise snakes are very uncommon in these islands although coral snakes are occasionally seen in the reef area during low tide. Green turtle mirugom (Chelonia mydas), Hawkbi[l, Ama (Eretmochelys imbricata) and leathery turtle, lisarmulla (Dermochelys coracea) are plentiful in Lakshadweep waters. Turtle hunting had been a sport in the islands until recently for its oil for embalming the country crafts.

Laidlaw (1903) reported the presence of the common frog Thavala (Rana tigrina) at Minicoy island. 

Insects of common  occurrence are the  roaches viz. Koorva (Periplanata americana and Periplanata orientalis). The Rhinoceros beetle, chellu (Oryctus rhinoceros) is a pest on the coconut palm and does a lot of damage. Mosquitoes are seen in most of the islands and the mosquito oriented diseases like filariasis are also not  uncommon.  The table below provides the list of commonly found mosquitoes and their occurrence in various islands.

Species

Kiltan

Chetlat

Amini

Kadmat

Agatti

Kavaratti

Androt

Kalpeni

Minicoy

C. Fatigans

+

+

-

+

+

-

+

+

-

C. Vishnui

-

-

+

+

+

+

-

-

-

C. Sitiens

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

+

C. Tritaeni orhyncus

-

-

-

-

-

+

-

+

-

Armegeres obturbans

-

-

-

-

-

+

-

+

-

Lurzia

-

-

+

-

-

-

-

-

-

A. Varuna

-

-

+

-

-

+

-

-

-

A. subpictus

+

+

+

+

-

+

+

+

-

                Prsent           +         Absent         -

     While describing  the  fauna of  Lakshadweep the importance of molluscan forms cannot be overlooked since they are magnificent in their appearance and important from the economic point of the islands. The list of forms is very elaborate and therefore only very important forms are mentioned. The Cypraeds have great  commercial  value. The money cowrie (Cypraa monita) is abundant in the shallow of waters of the lagoons and on the reef, Cypraea tigris and Cypraea caputserpentis are usually picked up from the reef area at low tide mainly by the women folk during their spare time and is largely sold in the mainland for decorational purposes. Other colourful varieties belonging to Cypraeds are Cypraea talpa and Cypraea maculifera. Cone shells are quite common and some of the species observed are Conus betulinus, Conus ebraeus conus coronatus, Conus abscurus, Conus frigidus, Conus piperatus, conus pinnaceus. Among bivalves the clam Tridacna fossa is seen among the crevices of the coral boulders exhibiting its brilliantly coloured mantle camouflaging itself from the surroundings. A most common form, occurring in the lagoon and the reef is Pteracera chiragra. Octopus sp. is frequently seen occurring in the crevices of rock boulders and forms an extensive fishery. This is considered a delicacy by the islanders.

Corals are of great importance to these islands since the very formation of these islands is the result of their activity. Both hermatypic and ahermatypic corals occur in the sea around these islands.  The commonest corals are Acropora sp., Porires sp., Diploastrea sp., Goniastrea sp. and Lobophyllia sp. The genus Porites is found in plenty in both lagoon and on reef Bats. Acropora flourishes in the lagoon. Acropora formosa, A. palmata and A. pharaonis are the commonest members of the group.

Marine fishes are so abundant that it is almost impossible to give their full  particulars. A list of the very common fishes with their English names and Vernacular equivalents are given in    Marine fauna of Lakshadweep

 

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