Geographic Patterns

Diversity

Mammal species are found spread across the globe, with the exception of the land mass of Antarctica. The global pattern of land and marine mammal diversity is shown in Figure 2. Regions with high diversity are clearly visible as darker patches on the global map. For land species, these regions are found in Central and tropical South America, sub-Saharan Africa and South and Southeast Asia. These are shown in greater detail in Figure 3 to Figure 5. Marine mammals occur throughout the world's oceans but peaks in diversity are found along all continental coastlines, as well as Japan, New Zealand, the Caribbean Sea, and the southern Indian Ocean and the ocean west of Central America.

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Figure 2. Global diversity of mammal species.

 

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Figure 3. Mammal diversity in Central and tropical South America.

 

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Figure 4. Mammal diversity in sub-Saharan Africa.

 

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Figure 5. Mammal diversity in South and Southeast Asia.

 

Looking at mammal diversity from a country perspective, the country with the highest number of mammal species is Indonesia, with 670 species. Close behind is Brazil with 648 species, and China (551) and Mexico (523) are the only other two countries with more than 500 native mammal species. Four of the top six countries, and seven of the top 20 countries are in Central or tropical South America. Although there is a large region of sub-Saharan Africa that is very rich in mammal diversity, only two African countries are in the top ten, and five in the top 20. However, many of the African countries in this mammal-rich region have a relatively small land area compared with other mammal rich countries on other continents (for example, Brazil, China and Mexico), so the diversity of Kenya with 376 mammals is impressive for such a small country. There are three Asian countries in the top ten and five in the top 20. Indonesia's place at the top of the list is likely to be unchallenged as there are undoubtedly many more species remaining to be described in this megadiverse country.

RANK COUNTRY TOTAL SPECIES
1 Indonesia 670
2 Brazil 648
3 China* 551
4 Mexico 523
5 Peru 467
6 Colombia 442
7 United States of America 440
8 Congo, D.R. 430
9 India 412
10 Kenya 376
11 Argentina 374
12 Ecuador 372
=13 Bolivia 363
=13 Venezuela 363
15 Tanzania 359
16 Australia 349
17 Malaysia 336
18 Cameroon 335
19 Uganda 319
20 Thailand 311
*The numbers given here for China include the provinces of Hong Kong and Macau, but do not include the province of Taiwan which is listed separately due to its geographic separation from the mainland.
Table 3. Countries with most mammal species.

 

The United States is highly ranked in seventh place, although this ranking may be due to the high level of survey effort in this country. It can be expected that in years to come as survey efforts increase, less well surveyed countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo will overtake the United States in the rankings.

To view a summary of the data for all countries click here.