Endemic Plants and Animals: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:00 What Does Endemic Mean?
  • 1:10 Endemic Animals
  • 1:40 Endemic Plants
  • 2:05 Endemic Diseases
  • 2:50 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sarah Friedl

Sarah has two Master's, one in Zoology and one in GIS, a Bachelor's in Biology, and has taught college level Physical Science and Biology.

Endemic plants and animals are those that are unique to a specific geographic region. This makes them incredibly special and more vulnerable to extinction. Because they are only found in certain locations, they require special conservation efforts.

What Does Endemic Mean?

Imagine that you live on a small island. Your family has spent generations there and has lived nowhere else in the world. There are other people in the world, but your entire family can only be found on this island.

In this instance, your family is endemic, geographically isolated and constrained to one part of Earth. This makes your family both unique and puts you at a higher risk of extinction. You are unique because you are only found in one place. And you are at risk for the exact same reason!

While most think of endemic as having to do with isolated island locations, the term is actually quite relative. Not all endemic species are located on islands. Any group of organisms found in only one location, large or small, can be considered endemic. Additionally, anything can be endemic - plants, animals, and even diseases can be geographically restricted. However, endemic should not be confused with the term native. While it is true that most endemic species are indigenous to their area, native species can be widespread and are not always limited to one location.

Endemic Animals

Small islands are great places to find endemic species, such as the lemurs of Madagascar and the tortoises of the Galápagos. But big islands also provide the same isolation on a larger scale. Hawaii, Australia, and Antarctica are all large landmasses where we find a great deal of endemic species. Koalas, kangaroos, and emperor penguins are all endemic.

Endemic Plants

Sometimes species become endemic due to habitat destruction. While not geographically isolated on an island, the Redwood Forest on the West Coast of the United States is endemic in that it is now almost entirely limited to California. Redwoods used to cover much of the United States but have been destroyed through logging and are now limited to a small conservation area.

Endemic Diseases

Diseases can also be endemic. An endemic disease may be geographically isolated, or it may be isolated to a certain group. Malaria is an example of an endemic disease because it is mostly limited to small pockets of infection in Africa.

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