As an island nation the number of native plants and animals in Vanuatu
are severely limited. The land animals were almost completely absent and the plant
life was small; only the migrating birds and sea life had any significant presence
on historic Vanuatu. There were some native resources and as people, winds, birds,
and oceanic currents arrived, they brought with them new seeds, plants, and animals.
Since nearly all mammals are land animals there are no native mammals to
Vanuatu although a few bat species that could fly from island to island
arrived thousands of years ago. Other than this, no land mammals existed on Vanuatu
until the arrival of the earliest people, who came from the region of New Guinea
and brought with them pigs, dogs, and rats by the 1200s.
The other historic mammals present in Vanuatu came in the
sea as dolphins and whales are present in the water surrounding the islands. These
waters are also filled with thousands of fish, shellfish, and other forms of sea
life. In these waters you can find surgeonfish, clownfish, puffer fish, butterfly
fish, grouper, barracuda, tuna, mackerel, shrimp, krill, crab, seahorses, rays,
sharks, jellyfish, starfish, and sea urchins among many others.
Due to the overwhelming amount of water, it is not a surprise that most of the birds
in Vanuatu are water fowls. The bird life includes rails, finches, pigeons, doves,
white-eyes, fantails, thrushes, honeyeaters, and parrots among others.
Like the mammalian life in Vanuatu, the reptilian and amphibious
life is fairly limited. The most common of these animals are those adapted to the
water and swimming as sea turtles and the rarer saltwater crocodile can be found
in the nearby waters. The lands are limited to a few lizard species and frogs.
The insect and other small animal life is fairly diverse as many insects can fly
or float and have made their way to Vanuatu. These animals include butterflies,
bees, ants, flies, snails, and worms among others.
Like the animal life, the plant life is also very limited. It is doubtful any plants
originated in Vanuatu itself other than some local flowers
and grasses. However the winds and water currents have taken seeds to the islands
and in other cases even birds have transported seeds to the islands. Because of
this many of the most common plants in Vanuatu are native to the nearby islands
of New Guinea and those further west. The plants from these islands include coconuts,
taro, breadfruit, bananas, yams, lemons, and sugar.
There is also a substantial presence of other, not so edible trees and plants, including
orchids, ferns, mosses, mangrove trees, palm trees, and pandanus trees.