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The Concept of Native Species Explained with Examples

Akshay Chavan
Many species of plants and animals were found in most places even before the arrival of us humans. AnimalSake tells you more about such native species, with the help of the definition and some examples.

Did You Know?

Rats have invaded 80% of the world's islands where they were not a native species.
If one observes the flora and fauna of our planet, it is clear that each species has its own specific requirements of climate, habitat, food, and the like. This is why each organism is found only in a specific range, which is a geographic area that contains conditions favorable for its survival.
The reason why it does not occur naturally in other regions is because it probably cannot survive in the conditions found elsewhere. As humans spread across the Earth, they carried many species of plants and animals along with them, either for food, commercial reasons, or simply by accident.
The closest example of this in recent times is the spread of Burmese pythons in the United States. Originally found in Southeast Asia, this snake began thriving in the tropical climate of Florida when it was released by pet owners. As can be seen, there is a difference between species like the Burmese python and those that are found naturally in a region.

What Does 'Indigenous Species' Mean?

Any species of plants or animals which occur in a region owing to natural reasons, not because of human activities, is said to be native or indigenous to that region. Actually, any species is native throughout the range where it is found naturally. While such a species may have evolved in the region and lived there since historic times, this is not always the case. It may have been transported from other regions by natural factors, like wind, water currents, or birds dispersing plant seeds.

Native, Endemic, Alien - What's the Difference?

A native species differs from an endemic species which is restricted to a single geographic region. For example, the gray wolf is not restricted to North America alone, hence, it is native but not endemic to this region. On the other hand, the kangaroo is endemic to Australia; its natural habitat does not extend beyond this region.
On the contrary, an exotic or alien species is one that is introduced by humans in a region where it is not found. A good example of such a species would be the dingo (wild dog), which is thought to have been introduced in Australia when the first humans arrived here 5,000 - 10,000 years ago.

Why are Native Species, Especially Plants, Important?

► Native species are well-adapted to the local habitat, and may not survive elsewhere.

► Native plants provide food and habitat for a number of other organisms.
► Such species are suitable for landscape restoration, since they can easily thrive under local conditions.

► Caring for native plants is economical and environment-friendly, as they require less fertilizer and pesticides.

► Such species are a part of the local heritage, having survived there since historic times.
► Native plants bind the soil and prevent erosion, thus protecting the land.

► They do not dry out as easily, preventing the spread of wildfires.

Threats Faced by Native Species

❒ The biggest threat facing native species of plants and animals around the world is the introduction of alien species. Often, there are no natural predators or herbivores which consume these alien species, which soon begin invading the habitat of native species.
❒ The increasing loss of forest cover because of human activities is pushing many native species out of their range. This problem often coexists with poaching and hunting, which threatens already dwindling animal populations.


Grizzly Bear

Also known as the brown bear, this massive omnivore can reach weights exceeding 1,000 lb. It is native to North America, where it originally extended from Alaska to parts of Mexico, before hunting restricted this species to parts in Northern US and Alaska. It is also found in parts of Northern Asia and Europe.

Gray Wolf

One of the most widespread predators in the world at one time, this pack hunter is capable of bringing down prey as large as bison and moose. Before it was hunted to near-extinction in North America, it was found throughout the continent.

Oak Tree

A traditional symbol of strength and endurance, most species of the oak tree occur in North America. Despite this, it is found throughout Europe and the Mediterranean. In fact, it is also native to islands like Ireland, where animals and birds carried its nuts across the land bridges that connected the region to the rest of Europe during the last Ice Age.

Saltwater Crocodile

The largest carnivore on land, as well as the largest reptile alive today, the saltwater crocodile is capable of bringing down almost any animal that enters its territory, and has even been recorded to prey on full-grown tigers. It has a wide range, being native to the waters of Northern Australia and most coasts of Southeast Asia.
As can be seen, any native plant or animal should be protected within its natural habitat, since it is well-adapted for such conditions. Moreover, owing to the chain of life, the survival of one species may provide a lifeline to many others.