Fauna and flora in Crete

Fauna and flora in Crete
Crete is isolated from mainland Europe, Asia, and Africa, and this is reflected in the diversity of the fauna and flora. As a result the fauna and flora of Crete have many clues to the evolution of species.
There are no animals that are dangerous to humans on the island of Crete compared to other parts of Greece. Indeed, the ancient Greeks attributed the lack of large mammals such as bears, wolves, jackals, and poisonous snakes, to the labour of Hercules (who took a live Cretan bull to the Peloponnese). Hercules wanted to honor the birthplace of Zeus by removing all "harmful" and "poisonous" animals from Crete. Later, Cretans believed that the island was cleared of dangerous creatures by the Apostle Paul, who lived on the island of Crete for two years, with his exorcisms and blessings. There is a Natural History Museum operating under the direction of the University of Crete and two aquariums - Aquaworld in Hersonissos and Cretaquarium displaying sea creatures common in Cretan waters.

Prehistoric fauna

Dwarf elephants, dwarf hippopotamus, and dwarf deer were native to Pleistocene Crete.

Mammals

Mammals of Crete include the vulnerable Kri-kri, Capra Aegagrus Creticus that can be seen in the national park of the Samaria Gorge and on Thodorou, Dia and Agioi Pantes, (islets off the north coast), the Cretan wildcat and the Cretan spiny mouse.[23][24][25][26] Other terrestrial mammals include subspecies of the Cretan marten, the Cretan weasel, the Cretan badger, the long-eared hedgehog, the edible dormouse, and the Cretan shrew, a unique endemic species of mammal in Greece, that is unfortunately threatened with extinction.

Bat species include: Blasius's horseshoe bat, the lesser horseshoe bat, the greater horseshoe bat, the lesser mouse-eared bat, Geoffroy's bat, the whiskered bat, Kuhl's pipistrelle, the common pipistrelle, Savi's pipistrelle, the serotine bat, the long-eared bat, Schreiber's bat, and the European free-tailed bat.

Birds

A large variety of birds includes eagles (can be seen in Lasithi), swallows (throughout Crete but throughout the year in the south of the island), pelicans (along the coast), and cranes (including Gavdos and Gavdopoula). The Cretan mountains and gorges are refuges for the endangered Lammergeier vulture. Bird species include: the golden eagle, Bonelli's eagle, the bearded vulture or Lammergeier, the griffon vulture, Eleanora's falcon, peregrine falcon, lanner falcon, European kestrel, tawny owl, little owl, hooded crow, alpine chough, red-billed chough, and the hoopoe.

Reptiles and amphibians


Reptiles and tortoises can be seen throughout the island. Snakes can be found hiding under rocks. Toads and frogs reveal themselves when it rains.

Reptiles include the aegean wall lizard, balkan green lizard, european chameleon, ocellated skink, snake-eyed skink, moorish gecko, turkish gecko, Kotschy's gecko, spur-thighed tortoise, and the stripe-necked terrapin.

There are four species of snake on the island and these are not dangerous to humans. The four species include the leopard snake (locally known as Ochendra), the Balkan whip snake (locally called Dendrogallia), the dice snake (called Nerofido in Greek), and the only venomous snake is the nocturnal cat snake which has evolved to deliver its venom in to geckos and small lizards and is not dangerous to humans.

Turtles include the green turtle and the loggerhead turtle which are both endangered species.[31] The loggerhead turtle nests and hatches on north-coast beaches around Rethymno and Chania, and south-coast beaches along the gulf of Mesara.[33]

Amphibians include the green toad, American toad, common tree frog, and the Cretan marsh frog.[28][31]

Arthropods

Crete has an unusual variety of insects. Xylophagous, known locally as Tzitzikia, make a distinctive repetitive tzi tzi noise that becomes louder and more frequent on hot summer days. Butterfly species include the swallowtail butterfly. Moth species include the hummingbird moth. There are several species of scorpion such as Euscorpius carpathicus whose venom is generally no more potent than a mosquito bite.

Crustaceans and molluscs

River crabs include the semi-terrestrial potamon potamios crab. Edible snails are widespread and can cluster in the hundreds waiting for rainfall to reinvigorate them.

Sealife

Apart from terrestrial mammals, the seas around Crete are rich in large marine mammals, a fact unknown to most Greeks, although reported since ancient times. Indeed, the Minoan frescoes depicting dolphins in Queen's Megaron at Knossos, indicate that Minoans knew many things about these creatures and respected them. Apart from the famous endangered Mediterranean monk seal, which lives in almost all the coasts of the country, Greece hosts whales, sperm whales, dolphins and porpoises. These are either permanent residents of the Mediterranean, or just occasional visitors. The area south of Crete, known as the Greek Abyss, hosts many of them. Squid and octopus can be found along the coast and Sea turtles and Hammerhead sharks swim in the sea around the coast. The Cretaquarium and the Aquaworld Aquarium, are two of only three aquariums in Greece, they are located in Heraklion and Hersonissos respectively, and examples of the local sealife can be seen there.

Some of the fish that can be seen in the waters around Crete include: scorpion fish, dusky grouper, east Atlantic peacock wrasse, five-spotted wrasse, weever fish, common stingray, brown ray, mediterranean black goby, pearly razorfish, star-gazer, painted comber, damselfish, and the flying gurnard.

Flora

Common wildflowers include: camomile, daisy, gladioli, hyacinth, iris, poppy, cyclamen and tulip, among others. There are more than 200 different species of wild orchid on the island and this includes 14 varieties of Ophrys Cretica. Crete has a rich variety of indigenous herbs including common sage, rosemary, thyme, and oregano. Rare herbs include the endemic Cretan dittany. and Ironwort, Sideritis syriaca L, known as Malotira (Μαλοτήρα). Varieties of cactus include the edible Prickly Pear. Common trees on the island include the chestnut, cypress, oak, olive tree, pine, plane, and tamarisk. Trees tend to be taller to the west of the island where water is more abundant.
Myrtos Beach, Discover the beauty of Myrtos Beach, Myrtos Beach in Greece, Attractions in Myrtos, Visiting Myrtos