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Keywords:

  • Maghreb, faunal history, human introduction

Abstract

The natural distribution of the 17 non-flying mammal species occurring wild in both the Maghreb (north-west Africa) and Iberia (south-west Europe) is considered. It is concluded that only four species – Red Fox Vulpes vulpes, Wild Boar Sus scrofa, Wild Cat Felis silvestris and Otter Lutra lutra – are native to both regions, while another three – Red Deer Cervus elaphus, Brown Bear Ursus arctos and Aurochs Bos primigenius – were native to North Africa until the mid-Holocene but have probably died out naturally. Algerian Hedgehog Atelerix algirus, Barbary Ape Macaca sylvanus, Genet Genetta genetta and Egyptian Mongoose Herpestes ichneumon are widely accepted as introductions to Europe from North Africa. The remaining six species, and Red Deer now found in Africa, were also probably introduced – Rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus, Weasel Mustela nivalis, Wood Mouse Apodemus sylvaticus and Lesser White-toothed Shrew Crocidura russula from Europe to Africa; Algerian Mouse Mus spretus from Africa to Europe; Savi’s Pygmy Shrew Suncus etruscus perhaps from the eastern Mediterranean to both Iberia and the Maghreb.

There are two Maghrebi species which, although not found in Europe, are more closely related to Palaearctic than to Afrotropical species: Garden Dormouse Eliomys melanurus, probably native to north-west Africa, although possible augmentation of the natural population cannot be ruled out, and Whitaker’s Shrew Crocidura whitakeri, a North African endemic.

Removal of so many species of European provenance from the list of mammals native to north-west Africa should not be considered to weaken its position as part of the Palaearctic zoogeographical region. Bats and other, non-mammalian, taxa illustrate the clear faunal relationship between the Maghreb and south-west Europe, whilst emphasizing its distinction from subsaharan Africa.