FunNature & AnimalEaster Island: 3 unique animals in nature

Easter Island: 3 unique animals in nature

Exactly 300 years ago
, on April 5, 1722, Easter Island was discovered by the Dutchman Jacob Roggeveen. Although as it happens with the “discovery of America” by Christopher Columbus, -or Leif Eriksson half a millennium before- the term “discovery” does not refer to a first human contact with a virgin territory, but to a Eurocentric vision of cultural discovery.

Easter Island was not a deserted place; It is estimated that the first settlers, the Rapanui, arrived on the island around the 12th century.

Islands are normally refuges of biodiversity . They are usually isolated places where species evolve independently from the rest of the world, generating a large number of endemisms . It is a phenomenon that we observe in most island ecosystems. But Easter Island is an exception .

A small island, recent and isolated

It is a relatively young island — the oldest of the three volcanoes that form it is estimated to be between 500,000 and 780,000 years old — and far removed from any other landmass . It has three very small islets in the extreme southwest, Motu Nui, Motu Iti and Motu Kao Kao. The closest island is tiny Salas y Gómez Island, 415 km to the northeast, which is part of the same underwater mountain range. The closest emerged places that can serve as a source of fauna and flora are the Chilean islands of Juan Fernández, 1,850 km to the east, and Pitcairn Island, 2,075 km to the west; and the closest continental point is in Chile, at 3512 km.

If we add to these enormous distances the small size of the island , less than 164 km², it is clear that the number of species that colonized the island was very few . Thus, we have very few cases of endemic fauna and flora.

Among the flora, there were up to 40 species of trees populating the island, although many were introduced by the Rapanui. However, massive deforestation and the introduction of eucalyptus has caused the extinction of most plant species.

Moko uri uri

This subspecies of lizard , with the scientific name Cryptoblepharus poecilopleurus paschalis , is one of the few endemic species of Easter Island that still exists . Its evolutionary origin connects with the closest subspecies, C. p. poecilopleurus , which can be found across much of the Pacific islands, from Samoa to Pitcairn, and as far north as the Hawaiian island of Kahoolawe. Most likely, in the past, this lizard colonized the island arriving on drift logs from relatively nearby spots , perhaps from the Pitcairn Islands.

The moko uri uri is a born nuthatch that seeks shelter in trees and in rock crevices. It shares its habitat with the mourning gecko ( Lepidodactylus lugubris ), with which it competes for the same resources. It is possible that this species is not native to the island, although it also receives its name in Rapanui — moko uru-uru kau —, and was perhaps accidentally introduced by the first human settlers .

Anglerfish anglerfish and ura anglerfish anglerfish

Despite the repetitive similarity of the word in Rapanui with the famous anglerfish, the anglerfish is not a fish, but a crustacean .

Both the anglerfish ( Parribacus perlatus ) and the ura anglerfish ( Scyllarides rogeenveeni ) are endemic to Salas y Gómez and Pascua Islands . Both members of the same zoological family as the Santiaguiños.

Like the Galician delicacy, these crustaceans are edible . The inhabitants of Easter Island capture them for trade and consumption, either by diving or using traps. Apart from this data, information on these species is scarce .

manu tare

This species of bird is not endemic to the island , it is present in most of the tropical and equatorial coasts. We call it Sooty Tern ( Onychoprion fuscatus ). It spends much of its life flying on the high seas, and was well known to Polynesian sailors, as they regularly encountered large flocks on their long voyages.

Easter Island is a nesting place for these migratory birds , and as a result, the Sooty Tern is of great cultural value to the Rapanui . Every year, when the birds arrived to nest, a competition was prepared on Easter Island. This was a ritual in which the participants had to swim to the islet of Motu Nui , look for the first egg laid by the terns, return to the island and climb the cliff to the town of Orongo. The first to achieve it was named the tangata manu , the sacred bird man , in honor of Make-Make, the creator god of Easter mythology.



Garman, S. 1908. The reptiles of Easter island (Vol. LII. No.1.-XII-; Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoölogy, pp. 3-15). Harvard College.

Hunt, TL et al. 2006. Late Colonization of Easter Island. Science , 311 (5767), 1603-1606. DOI: 10.1126/science.1121879

Retamal, M. et al. 2016. Record of stomatopods and decapods, including descriptions of the species of commercial interest from the submarine rises and surrounding waters of the Chilean oceanic islands (southeastern Pacific Ocean). Latin American Journal of Aquatic Research , 44 , 16-33. DOI: 10.3856/vol44-issue5-fulltext-2
Routledge, K. 1998. Mystery of Easter Island . Adventures Unlimited Press. Uetz, P. et al. 2010. Cryptoblepharus poecilopleurus . The Reptile Database.

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