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National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Content on this page was last updated in 2006. Some of the content may be out of date. For more information: http://www.fws.gov/caribbean/Refuges/Navassa/.

Terrestrial Biota

Plants

Approximately 120 terrestrial plant species are known to occur on Navassa (Swearingen, 1999), dominated by four species of tropical and subtropical trees: the mastic (Sideroxylon foetidissima), the short leaf fig (Ficus populnea var. brevifolia - may be a synonym of Ficus citrifolia), the pigeon plum (Coccoloba diversifolia), and the highly toxic poisonwood, Metopium brownei. Two endemic palm trees occur on the island, one found commonly, and the other, Pseudopheonix sargentti saonae var. navassana remains as the single living specimen. A number of exotic plants occur on Navassa, including the introduced popular ornamental Madagascar periwinkle, (Catharanthus roseus).
Approximately 200 acres of forest were burned by Haitians in 2000. The Haitians also planted a few acres of crops such as watermelon, corn, and squash.

The New York Botanical Society maintains a Virtual Herbarium Web Site which provides an annotated checklist of vascular plants of Navassa Island.

The last Pseudopheonix sargentti saonae on Navassa
The last Pseudopheonix sargentti saonae on Navassa (Photo: U.S. Geological Survey)
Metopium Brownei
The highly toxic poisonwood, Metopium brownei, found in the vicinity of the lighthouse (photo: New York Botanical Society)

Invertebrates

Early survey collections documented 650 species of invertebrates, including over 500 new insects, 30 percent of which may be endemic. Over 100 non-insect arthropods, mostly spiders, make up the rest. Arachnologists cataloged 40 new species of spider.

A naturalist collecting insects on Navassa island
A naturalist collecting insects on Navassa island (Photo: U.S. Geological Survey)
Entomologists use pitfall traps and other techniques to collect insects and other terrestrial invertebrates on Navassa
Entomologists use pitfall traps and other techniques to collect insects and other terrestrial invertebrates on Navassa (Photo: Jil M. Swearingen)

Vertebrates

Vertebrate surveys confirmed the existence and abundance of four endemic lizards: the Navassa Island galliwasp (Celestus badius), the Navassa anole (Anolis longiceps), Cochran’s croaking gecko (Aristelliger cochranae), and the Navassa dwarf gecko (Sphaerodactylus becki), all previously reported for the island. Four other known species of reptiles, including a large endemic iguana (Leiocephalus eremitus) that may now be extinct, and a small boa (Tropidophis bucculentus), could not be relocated (Powell, 2005).

Dr Robert Powell (Avila University) maintains a web site on the herpetology of Navassa. This web site contains photographs of reptiles found on Navassa, a list of reptile species reported, museum collections with herpelogical collections, and a bibliography of the island.

A naturalist collecting insects on Navassa island
An adult Cochran’s Croaking Gecko, Aristelliger cochranae (Photo: S. Blair Hedges)
Entomologists use pitfall traps and other techniques to collect insects and other terrestrial invertebrates on Navassa
The endemic dwarf gecko Sphaerodactylus becki (Photo: Robert Powell, Ph.D)

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