Biosphere & Nature
Taiwan’s Coral Fish - Beauty is not a Curse

Taiwan has some of the world's richest marine resources, and a tremendous diversity of marine life that call it home. It's impossible to imagine, but the waters around Taiwan host about one tenth of the world’s marine species, which is 400 times the average number for other coastal countries. Coral reefs, which make up less than 0.3% of the world’s oceans, can be found not only at the northern and southern tips of Taiwan, but also around Taiwan’s offshore islands such as Green Island, Penghu, and Lanyu. Located at the edge of the world’s largest continental shelf, just north of the bio-diverse East Indies, Taiwan can claim such exceptional marine resources. The fact that Taiwan encompasses a wide range of different marine habitats, including sand shoals in the west and several-thousands-deep coasts in the east, also contribute to its remarkable bio-diversity.

Battles among Species-The Encroachment of Alien Species

Alien species refer to those not native to a given area. To be exact, its meaning is opposite to that of native species.

An alien species is often taken away from its natural habitat by humans, whether intentionally or unintentionally, and becomes alien to another habitat. An alien species can damage the ecosystem of the habitat it is introduced to if the habitat is environmentally similar to its original home but without its natural enemies, as well as when this species has strong breeding abilities. Basic characteristics of alien species include strong reproductive and dispersal abilities, as well as strong adaptive abilities and vitality. Usually they can outnumber or even replace the native species of their new habitat.
Strictly speaking, all species on earth were once alien species since almost all of them invaded new areas and whose distribution ranges changed due to climate shifts. Nevertheless, alien species here refers to those introduced from other areas within a short period of time. There are many ways of introduction, including smuggling, which is the illegal introduction of species via various modes of transport, or through imported goods. Some species are introduced legally for people’s preferences or daily needs, such as medicines, pets, flowers and plants, green manure, etc. Not all alien species incur negative impacts -- plums from California and cherries from the United States are positive examples. However, the results of introducing alien species can be disastrous if it is not under human control. The so-called beneficial or verminous species are in fact determined by human standards. People often import species for selfish intentions, or even out of ignorance, thus harming the natural ecosystem. When the consequences start to affect humans, it is usually too late to restore the now-disrupted ecological balance. Since prevention is far more effective than restoration, we should be more aware of related preventative measures and solutions by acquiring an insight on alien species.
A Life of Humbleness and Nobility: Poop-eating Dung Beetles

Catharsius molossus, or the “Big Black Dung Beetle,” is the largest dung beetle found in Taiwan. It has three horns on its head. The main characteristic of this kind of beetle is that they roll animal feces into balls then roll them back to their nest, where they consume them as food. By doing so, the beetles help to decompose animal dung. This helps to prevent disease spread by the swarms of dipteran insects that gather around the dung. Therefore, dung beetles have long been considered beneficial for husbandry and forestry industries. To the ancient Egyptians, dung beetles were regarded as sacred, a symbol of the sun, and were given the mysterious name “Scarab Beetle.

The Threat of the Alien Species Apple Snails

The apple snail (scientific name: Pomacea canaliculata), also known as the golden apple snail or channelled apple snail, is an omnivorous fresh water snail native to Argentina, South America. The species was initially introduced into Taiwan in 1979 as a substitute food source for the native river snail (田螺pila). Profiteers cultured apple snails in large quantities, but their texture was too soft for consumers’ taste, so the apple snails were released into field trenches and rivers and disposed of. Thanks to their highly adaptive nature, these apple snails can now be found in freshwater areas, ponds and rice fields all over Taiwan.

Formosan Clouded Leopard


The Formosan Clouded Leopard (Neofelis nebulosa brachyura) started appearing in written records as early as the 1860s, but it is unknown if the species can still be found on the island today. Named for its distinctive, cloud-like spots, the Formosan Clouded Leopard has a tawny coat and is slight shorter than other Southeast Asian Clouded Leopards. With a body length of 60-100, it has a tail of almost equal size (50-90 cm). This carnivorous animal mainly lives on macaques and cloven-hoofed animals, occasionally feeding on small game such as squirrels and pheasants. The Formosan Clouded Leopard was once found in the south and in the eastern mountain areas of Taiwan, typically inhabiting natural broad-leaved forests at an elevation of less than 2000 meters. However, it has not been seen in the wild since the 1980’s. The clouded leopard on display at the Taipei Zoo is a subspecies from the Indochinese Peninsula.

The Leopard Cat – Small Felines of the Mountains

Once common in Taiwan, Leopard Cats are very similar in appearance to domesticated housecats. They are nocturnal, active mainly in the early morning and at dusk. Living solitary lives, the Leopard Cat only becomes social during breeding season. They make their homes in forests and shrubberies, and unlike their water-shy domesticated cousins, the Leopard Cats like to be near water. Instead of biting into its prey like the African big cats, the Leopard Cats hold them down with its powerful forelimbs or strikes the prey dead with its paws, just like domestic cats. Leopard cats mainly feed on rodents and juvenile artiodactyls, as well as hares, birds, snakes, frogs, lizards, fish, and insects, among others.

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