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The Andaman and Nicobar Islands

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands (A&N) is an archipelago of 306 islands and 206 rocks spread out in the Bay of Bengal. In the entire archipelago only 38 islands are inhibited, 11 in the Andaman group and the rest is the Nicobar. The total geographical area is 8,249 sq. km (Anon. 1986) and the islands stretch 700 km from north to south. The islands are summits of a submerged mountain range connecting the Arakan Yoma (Manipur – Burma) ranges, through the Coco and Preparis islands of Burma, to Banda Aceh in Sumatra and the Lesser Sundas.

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(Featherstars on Gorgonians, Image: Digant Desai)

The islands are an internationally acknowledged hot spot for biodiversity, with over 3,552 species of flowering plants (223 species endemic), 5,100 species of animals (100 freshwater, 2,847 terrestrial, 503 endemic) and 4,508 marine species (of which 220 are endemic), 52 species of mammals (33 species endemic), 244 species of birds (96 endemic) and 111 species of amphibians and reptiles (66 endemic) (Das, 1994, 1997, 1999; Andrews 2001). The islands have also reported 400 species of corals, with about 80% of the maximum coral diversity found anywhere in the world. This makes them one of the richest coral reefs in the  Indian Ocean and an area of global significance (Turner et al. 2001, Vousden 2001). This remarkable diversity is due to extraordinary variety of habitat types, ranging from sandy beaches to coral reefs, mangroves, mountains with dense forest and grasslands.

Schooling Bannerfish Heniochus diphereutesManta Ray Manta birostris

 Schooling Bannerfish Heniochus diphereutes            Manta Ray Manta birostris (mage: Digant Desai)

Star Puffer Arothron stellatusPriolepis sp

Star Puffer Arothron stellatus                               Priolepis sp

Aplysia parvulaCerberilla annulata

    Sea slug Aplysia parvula                                     Sea slug Cerberilla annulata

Platydoris scabraGymnodoris striata

Sea slug Platydoris scabra                                       Sea slug Gymnodoris striata

Gualtieris Moon Snail (Natica gualtieriana)Haliotis ovina

 Gualtieri's Moon Snail Natica gualtieriana Ear Shell Haliotis ovina

Hebra horridaNucleolaria nucleus

 Hebra horrida                                                    Nucleolaria nucleus

Lima limaDSCN00151

Bivalve Lima lima                                                 Cerithium sp

Thuridilla lineolataFlatworm Pseudoceros tristriatus

Sea slug Thuridilla lineolata                                      Flatworm Pseudoceros tristriatus

Hermit crab Darnadus megistosStareye Hermit Crab Dardanus venosus

Hermit crab Darnadus megistos                              Stareye Hermit Crab Dardanus venosus

Falcon Mantis or Squilla Gonodactylus falcatusHeart urchin Brissopsis sp

 Falcon Mantis or Squilla Gonodactylus falcatus         Heart urchin Brissopsis sp

Hawksbill Sea Turtle Eretmochelys imbricate

 Hawksbill Sea Turtle Eretmochelys imbricate (Image: Digant Desai)

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