Adventure Learning Foundation

World of Wonders Project 
Mexico Expedition

Fauna & Flora

  Mexico Journal Index    Photo Index    Geography and Climate   History
  Economy    Ethnic Groups and Culture    Environment
  Fauna and Flora    Adventures    Lesson Plans
  Resources    Expedition Maps
  Email the Explorers


Fauna and Flora
  Flora  Fauna   Links


Mexicoís plant life is very diverse, but generally speaking,  because there is less rain in the north and more in the south, Mexicoís trees and plants can pretty much be divided up along itís topographical and geographical lines:  desert plants in the north, forests and grasslands in the mountains and altiplano of the center and jungle-type plants and trees in the south.

Two deserts cover most of northern Mexico , the Chihuahuan desert, the largest of the North American deserts and the Sonoran desert.  Plants such as the prickly pear cactus, whitethorn acacia, lechugilla, mesquite and creosote cover the Chihuahuan desert.   The Sonoran desert has cactus such as the saguaro, cardon and organ pipe and plants such as the paloverde, ironwood and ocotillo.   In all there are 6,000 species of desert plants, 90% of them endemic (found only here) to the deserts of Mexico and the USA .

Central Mexico supports a variety of different trees on its three mountain ranges.  In the higher forests there are more than 50 species of pine plus mahogany, zapote, ceiba, oak and cypress.  Coniferous and broad-leafed trees are found mainly in the states of Chihuahua , Durango , Jalisco, Michoacan , Oaxaca , Chiapas and Guerrero.  In the mid-range forests you can find juniper, pinon pine and evergreen oaks.  On the lowest slopes the forests are found figs, lianas, orchids and bromeliads.  In the central plateaus between the mountain ranges (the altiplano) semi-desert grasslands can be found that in addition to the grasses, support yucca, barrel cactus and sotol.

Tropical rainforests are located in the states of Chiapas , Quintana Roo , Yucatan , Campeche , Tabasco and Oaxaca .  These include low jungles of evergreen broadleaf vegetation and tall deciduous forests combined with palms, mangroves and marshes.  The Yucatan also supports tropical savannah with thick grasses interspersed with evergreen trees and shrubs.

In addition, wetland habitats exist wherever the terrain meets rivers, seacoasts, lakes or springs.  These are complex areas with diverse flora and have become an important focus of Mexico ís environmental movement.

Mangroves are particularly important. Mangroves are trees adapted to grow in and beyond the edge of salt water.  Their roots form impenetrable barriers that hold silt and provide habitat for fish, birds and crocodiles.


Mexico is a country of biological diversity.  In total number of species, it ranks fifth in the world.  It ranks first in the total number of reptile species (640) and is home to more than 1,000 bird species, 450 mammals (142 found nowhere else on earth and the second-greatest diversity of any nation) and 330 amphibians.  Insect species number in the hundreds of thousands.

This diversity can be explained by understanding that Mexico lies within the intersection of North and South America .  When the continents were separate, millions of years ago, they developed their own species.  When the land bridge formed, the result was great habitat variation and diverse ecological regions.


The majority of Mexico ís mammals are found in the more temperate zones and include two species of deer, bighorn sheep, coyotes, foxes, bears, mountain lions, jaguars and bobcats, 4 species of rabbits and 350 types of rodents.

The tropics are home to animals such as bats, spider and howler monkeys, the silky anteater, coatimundis and the Bairdís tapir, a nocturnal plant-eating animal that spends a lot of its time in water.

Almost 30 types of cetaceans live in the seas, ranging from the blue whale, the largest mammal on earth to the 110lb (50kg) vaquita, the smallest porpoise.  Manatees frequent the warm coastal waters and can be found in lagoons and estuaries.


Birds in Mexico are a very diverse lot as they are a mix of North American species such as geese and cranes and South American species such as quetzals and toucans.  Out of 9,000 species in the world, 769 of them breed in Mexico and an additional 257 migrate.  The highest number of species can be found in southeastern Mexico and more than 70% of these are found in the tropics.  In marshy areas you can see birds such as kingfishers, herons and egrets.  In the tropical forest you can see 19 species of parrots, parakeets and macaws and 3 species of toucans and in the northern mountains and savannahs you can see hummingbirds and flycatchers and birds of prey such as the crested caracara, hawks and eagles.

Reptiles and amphibians

More than 1000 reptiles live in Mexico including lizards, iguanas, Gila monsters, alligators, crocodiles and caimans.  There are over 100 species of snakes (20 of which are venomous.)

Seven of the eight species of sea turtle can be found in Mexico and all are threatened or endangered.  They are the Kempís ridley, the leatherback, the green, the black, the hawksbill, the loggerhead and the olive ridley.


There are 384 types of freshwater fish in Mexico and at least 1,350 oceanic species.


There are between 2,200 and 2,500 varieties of butterflies and over 2,000 species of bees all playing an important role of pollinating plants.


General - Animals



Monarch Watch

Nat'l Geographic



Project Tortuga


Banderas Bay


Adventure Learning Foundation     Mexico
Send us an Email