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El Refugio de Potosí
A Center for Wildlife Conservation and Environmental Education
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The Mega-Biodiversity of Mexico

Mexico holds seventh place in the world as the most popular tourist destination. Thousands visit the beaches annually, but surprisingly few are aware that Mexico is fourth in the world in its number of different species of plants and animals. Mexico occupies only 1.5% of the planet's land mass, but has more than 10% of the 1.7 million known species.

Of the more than 170 countries of the world, just twelve countries harbor between 60-70% of the total biodiversity of the planet. Hence, Mexico is considered a "megadiverse" country. This means that Mexico is one of a selected group of nations that possess the greatest number and diversity of animals and plants.

Mexico takes first place in the number of species of reptiles (849), cacti (850) and pines (60). It is second in mammal species (535), fourth in amphibians (360), and tenth in birds (1,125). Mexico is home to 10% of the world's butterfly species.

The number of native vascular plants (specifically, plants with stems, leaves and roots) in Mexico represent 10-12% of plants worldwide (23,314). Mexico has the 4th richest flora variety in the world.

To sum it up, Mexico is remarkable.

The amazing biodiversity of Mexico stems from its location between North and South America. It was only recently, in geologic terms, that these two continents came in contact with each other. Before that, the two land masses had millions of years to evolve entirely different creatures. With the merging of the land masses, animals could travel between the two continents. Because many animals are adapted only to tropical locations, their migratory range ends in Mexico, thus adding to the number of species present.



The tragic news is that of the known species, Mexico has 242 species in danger of extinction, 435 considered threatened, 244 considered rare and 84 subject to special protection. Mexico has a deforestation rate of 1.2 million acres per year, one of worst in the world.