List of endemic species of the British Isles
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The British Isles have few endemic species due to past frequent glaciations and because of the proximity to Continental Europe and former land bridges which enabled species to re-colonise the islands from the continent following glaciations. Most endemic species to the British Isles are considered to be subspecies of a larger species, with mutations or adaptations slightly changing the species in the islands or in certain localities.
British Conservationists often describe this as a “wiped clean effect”[who?]with repeated glaciations forcing many species out of the modern area of the islands to more southern latitudes in Europe and perhaps even driving some species extinct.
Some species which were present in Britain before past glaciations, often during periods with a warmer climate than now failed to return after the Last Glacial Maximum. Amongst these are Rhododendron ponticum and rabbits, now considered invasive and non-native.
A species is only deemed native if it reached the British Isles without human intervention (either intentional or unintentional). That means that to be native the species must have reached Britain before the land bridge joining Britain to the continent was submerged. Alternatively species can also be native when they have flown or swum to Britain as is the case with many bird species which arrived after the submersion of the land bridge, a recent example is the collared dove which arrived in the 1950s, this also applies for plants which spread seed in the wind.
A few endemic species are Arctic-Alpine species, survivors of Arctic species of plants and animals which either adapted to the warming climate or became isolated in suitable areas of mountains or lakes which still retained a suitable micro-climate. A common misconception is that the entirety of the British Isles was under glaciers and was uninhabitable both for humans, plants and animals. Whilst unsuitable for most species, a number of Arctic species survived in the areas not under glaciers in southern areas of England, Wales and south west Ireland and were either driven to extinction in the British Isles or to micro-climatic refuges as the climate warmed and the Arctic conditions retreated north.
Most endemic species or subspecies however date to more recent, post-glacial times, many having spread via land bridges or along the Atlantic seaboard of Europe.
Types of endemic species
- Ice Age survivors in suitable micro-climates
- Subspecies (offshoots) of a larger species, many may in turn develop into new species
- Glacial or pre-glacial survivors which have become extinct across much of their former range or have never occurred outside of Britain.
- Geastrum britannicum – An earthstar fungus, first seen in Norfolk by Jonathan Revett, and confirmed as a distinct species in 2015. It has so far (2015) been found in at least fifteen locations in England and Wales.
- Cornish path-moss (Ditrichum cornubicum) – endemic to Cornwall (a recent discovery in West Cork is probably an accidental introduction
- Dixon's thread moss – Scotland only.
- Scottish thread moss – Scotland only.
- Scottish beard moss – Scotland only.
As of 1999[update], 47 species of flowering plants (430 including microspecies) were considered to be endemic to the British Isles, 32 of them in the "critical genera" Euphrasia, Limonium and Sorbus.
- Alchemilla minima
- Athyrium flexile
- Calamagrostis scotica
- Cerastium nigrescens
- Cochlearia atlantica
- Cochlearia micacea
- Coincya wrightii
- Cotoneaster cambricus
- Epipactis youngiana
- Euphrasia anglica
- Euphrasia cambrica
- Euphrasia campbelliae
- Euphrasia heslop-harrisonii
- Euphrasia marshallii
- Euphrasia pseudokerneri
- Euphrasia rivularis
- Euphrasia rotundifolia
- Euphrasia vigursii
- Fumaria occidentalis
- Gentianella anglica
- Limonium britannicum
- Limonium dodartiforme
- Limonium loganicum
- Limonium paradoxum
- Limonium parvum
- Limonium procerum
- Limonium recurvum
- Limonium transwallianum
- Primula scotica
- Senecio cambrensis
- Sorbus anglica
- Sorbus arranensis
- Sorbus bristoliensis
- Sorbus devoniensis
- Sorbus eminens
- Sorbus hibernica
- Sorbus lancastriensis
- Sorbus leptophylla
- Sorbus leyana
- Sorbus minima
- Sorbus porrigentiformis
- Sorbus pseudofennica
- Sorbus subcuneata
- Sorbus vexans
- Sorbus wilmottiana
- Spartina anglica
- Ulmus plotii
- Nothophantes horridus Merrett & Stevens, 1995 – the horrid ground-weaver spider is found at four sites in Plymouth, Devon.
- Niphargus glennei (Spooner) – the south-western ground water shrimp is found in Cornwall and Devon.
Some species of insects only occur in Britain:
- Eudarcia richardsoni (Walsingham, 1900) – a micromoth only found on the Dorset coast.
- Piesma quadratum spergulariae a Heteroptera bug – Isles of Scilly.
- Bombus muscorum scyllonius (Richards) Scilly bee – a bumble bee, which in the 1960s was found on all the inhabited islands of the Isles of Scilly with the exception of Bryher, and currently is only known from St Agnes, Great Ganilly and Great Arthur.
- Psylliodes luridipennis, the Lundy cabbage flea beetle, is known only from the island of Lundy, where it feeds upon the Lundy cabbage.
- Papilio machaon britannicus
- Erebia epiphron mnemon
Britain has few endemic species of birds but quite a few subspecies. A few Arctic-Alpine species have subspecies in the British Isles, some have been in the islands since the last Ice Age, but many spread in the immediate Sub-Arctic conditions as the ice retreated. Further more these species were latter reinforced by newer arrivals as the climate assumed temperatures and conditions more similar to the present day.
- Red grouse – classified either as a distinct species or a subspecies of willow grouse – doesn’t change plumage in winter as willow grouse does – Upland and Moorland areas of Great Britain and Ireland.
- Pied wagtail – British subspecies of the pied / white wagtail–throughout British Isles.
- Shetland wren – Shetland Islands, Scotland only.
- Fair Isle wren – Fair Isle, Scotland only.
- St Kilda wren – St Kilda Islands, Scotland only.
- Scottish crossbill – Highlands, Scotland only.
- British Isles subspecies of white-throated dipper
Britain has a few subspecies of mammals but no endemic species. Many again are Ice Age survivors that adapted to the new conditions; others arrived in warmer conditions whilst the land bridge still existed.
- Irish hare or the Irish subspecies of the mountain hare – Mountain hares are also found in other locations of the British Isles, but in Ireland have the distinction of not turning white in winter.
- Scottish red deer
- Scottish wildcat – Formerly also found in Northern England and Wales, this subspecies of the wildcat is now restricted to a few locations in Scotland largely due to hunting and hybridisation with domestic cats.
- St Kilda field mouse – St Kilda Islands, only.
- Orkney vole – Orkney, only.
- Skomer vole - Skomer Island only. A subspecies of bank vole.
- Canna Mouse - Canna, Scotland only. A subspecies of House Mouse.
The Cnidaria are a group of animals found exclusively in aquatic and mostly marine environments. They include sea anemones, sea pen and corals and their distinguishing feature is cnidocytes, specialized cells that they use mainly for capturing prey.
- Ivell's sea anemone (Edwardsia ivelli) described in 1975 and found in Widewater Lagoon in West Sussex.
In some areas of uplands in the British Isles the retreating glaciers left melt water in hollows which had been carved out by the movement of ice. In these, Arctic species of fish survived, due often to the sheer depth of the lakes and the colder temperatures. For the young endemic fish varieties of the British Isles, it is usually controversial whether they should be considered as distinct taxa (species or subspecies) or just as isolated populations of their ancestral species.
As global warming affects the British climate there is some concern for these species, some confined to a handful of lakes. Action has been taken to protect them, as is the case with vendace which has been moved to tarns in nearby mountains due to the cooler temperatures. It is hoped that these will act as refuges should the species die-out in the lower-level lakes where they occur naturally.
- Killarney shad (Alosa killarnensis) – Ireland only.
- Gwyniad (Coregonus pennantii) – Snowdonia only.
- Schelly (Coregonus stigmaticus) – Lake District only.
- Vendace (Coregonus vandesius) – Lake District and Dumfries and Galloway only.
- Pollan (Coregonus pollan) – Ireland only.
- Powan (Coregonus clupeoides) – Scotland only.
- Ferox trout (Salmo ferox) – Ireland, Scotland, Cumbria and Wales only, validity questionable (possibly a brown trout variant)
- Gillaroo (Salmo stomachicus) – Ireland only
- Sonaghan (Salmo nigripinnis) – Ireland only
- Haddy charr (Salvelinus killinensis) – Scotland only
- Salvelinus colii – Republic of Ireland only
- Salvelinus fimbriatus – Republic of Ireland only
- Salvelinus gracillimus – Shetland Islands and perhaps Scotland
- Melvin charr (Salvelinus grayi) – Ireland only
- Orkney charr (Salvelinus inframundus) – Orkney Islands (where extirpated) and Scotland only
- Salvelinus lonsdalii – Cumbria only
- Salvelinus mallochi – Scotland only
- Salvelinus maxillaris – Scotland only
- Salvelinus obtusus – Republic of Ireland only
- Salvelinus perisii – Wales only
- Salvelinus struanensis – Scotland only
- Golden charr (Salvelinus youngeri) – Scotland only
- Salvelinus willughbii – Cumbria only
- Presumed British subspecies of grey wolf
- Essex emerald moth (British subspecies)
- St Kilda house mouse
- Lycaena dispar dispar
The distribution of endemic species seems to have a North Western bias and with endemic species on the whole showing an oceanic / alpine distribution with most endemics being found in upland areas or islands.
Endemic livestock breeds
Human bred-animals are not usually classified as distinct subspecies but rather breeds which is a similar concept. However some animals such as Iron Age pigs are classified as a distinct species from their wild relatives.
- List of extinct animals of the British Isles – many species listed became extinct due to the retreat of Arctic conditions after the last Ice Age or due to man, many now surviving in the Arctic.
- Insular dwarfism
- Insular gigantism
- Fauna of Great Britain
- Fauna of Ireland
- Flora of Great Britain
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- T. G. C. Rich; G. Hutchinson; R. Randall; R. G. Ellis (1999). "List of Plants Endemic to the British Isles". BSBI News. 80: 23–27.
- M. O. Hill; J. O. Mountford; D. B. Roy; R. G. H. Bunce (1999). Ellenberg's indicator values for British plants. Huntingdon: Institute of Terrestrial Ecology. ISBN 1-870393-48-1. ECOFACT Volume 2 Technical Annex.
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- Beavis, Ian (2003). "Bees, Wasps and Ants of Scilly". Isles of Scilly Bird and Natural History Review 2002: 168–183.
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- Gainey, Paul T (2009). Hydroids, Sea Anemones and Jellyfish (Cindaria). In Red Data Book for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. Praze-an-Beeble: Croceago Press. pp. 449–456. ISBN 978-1-901685-01-5.
- Holstein T.; Tardent P. (1984). "An ultrahigh-speed analysis of exocytosis: nematocyst discharge". Science. 223 (4638): 830–833. doi:10.1126/science.6695186. PMID 6695186.