Hundreds Of New Species Discovered On Africa’s Isolated Sky Islands

Scientists are proposing this “inland archipelago” of 30 isolated mountains is a new “ecoregion” that is home to hundreds of plants and animals found nowhere else on Earth.

© by GrrlScientist for Forbes |

The rainforests of Mount Mamuli in Mozambique host new-to-science species from every animal and plant kingdom. (Credit: Julian Bayliss, Oxford Brookes University)

Located in the southeastern portion of Africa in the nations of Malawi and Mozambique, there lies a chain of mountains, or granitic inselbergs, that tower above the surrounding landscape. They were formed millions of years ago when the Earth’s crust pushed upward and torrential rainfall cut through and washed away the soil, leaving patches of forest perched atop granite mountain peaks, separated from lower elevations. These inselbergs comprise an “inland archipelago” or “sky islands”, if you prefer, that are crowned with high-altitude grasslands and evergreen forests watered by cool moist winds from the Indian Ocean.

This area is unique. A group of scientists are proposing that this area is a distinct ecoregion because it hosts previously undocumented communities of plants and animals that are found nowhere else on earth. The scientists christened this ecoregion the South East Africa Montane Archipelago (SEAMA). The mountains in this newly proposed ecoregion extend across northern Mozambique to Mount Mulanje in Malawi, which is southern Africa’s second highest mountain…



𝐆𝐫𝐫𝐥𝐒𝐜𝐢𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐬𝐭, scientist & journalist
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PhD evolutionary ecology/ornithology. Psittacophile. SciComm senior contributor at Forbes, former SciComm at Guardian. Also on Substack at 'Words About Birds'.