Fauna of Neotropical Region

South America, most of Mexico, West Indies, Caribbean islands.

Mostly tropical but the southern part extends into temperate zone. Rain forests on the western side. Grasslands in the middle in Argentina. Andes mountain on the western coast.

Mammals. There are 32 families of mammals of which 16 are unique.

Widely distributed animals are shrews, rabbits, squirrels, mice, dogs, bears, cats and deers.

Camels are represented by two species of Llama: L. vicuna and L. guanaco. Llama and Alpaca are domesticated breeds of these species. There are three species of tapirs of which one species also occurs in the Oriental Region.

Monkeys include: spider monkeys, squirrel monkeys, howlers, capuchin, marmosets which belong to families Cebidae and Hapalidae of suborder Platyrrhina.

Endemic mammals include, six-banded armadillo (Euphractus),  armadillo (Dasypus), two-toed sloth (Choloepus), 3-toed sloth (Bradypus), 3 species of anteaters,(Myrmecophaga), 11 endemic families of rodent Caviomorpha and five endemic families of bats that include disc-winged bats, furipterid bats and vampire bats (Desmodontidae), the last one is also a carrier of rabies.

Marsupials belong to the family Didelphidae (12 genera) that includes common opossum (Didelphis) and water opossum (Chironectes) and family Coenolestidae (3 genera) includes opossum rat (Ceonolestes). The common opossum has also spread to the Nearctic Region where it has adapted to varied climatic conditions.

There are no hedgehogs, moles, beavers, hyenas, bovids and horses in this region.

Aves. Almost 50% of the avian fauna is endemic and unique due to which South America is known as The Bird Continent. Out of 67 families of birds, 25 are endemic to the region. There are partridge-like tinamous, toucans that carry enormous beaks, trumpeters, hoatzin, cock of the rock (Rupicola), oil birds and several species of macaws, such as yellow macaw, Hahn’s macaw, red bellied macaw and red and blue macaw. Quail is the only member of Galliformes here. Bee hummingbird found in Cuba measures only 6 cm and is the smallest bird.

Ostriches are represented by Rhea americana.

Common birds include herons, ibis, storks, ducks, hawks, owls, plover, cuckoos. There is scarcity of song birds.

Reptiles. There are plenty of snakes, iguanid lizards, Crocodilus, Caiman (alligator) and turtles. Xantusiid lizards are endemic. There are tree boas, anacondas, pit vipers and coral snakes. Mud turtles (Pelomedusidae) are shared with Africa and snake-neck turtles, Chelodina (Chelidae) with Australia.

Amphibia. There are hylid tree frogs such as Brazilian tree frog Hyla,Hylodes, Cuban tree frog, Venezuelan tree frog that deters predators by foul odour and the poisonous Phyllomedusa found in Amazon. Leptodactylus deposits its eggs in frothy mass in holes on muddy banks of rivers and ponds and Hyla faber makes crater-like nests. The Tungara frog is noisy and makes foam nests. Tiny frogs belong to the genera Phyllobates,Dendrobates and Agalychnis.

The yellow frog is the largest and most toxic and its poison is used by Colombia tribes to poison their blowgun darts. The dart poison frog is also highly poisonous. The tongue and toothless Surinam toads show parental care. The small Chilean frog carries eggs in the gular pouch while the Brazilian tree frog, Hyla goeldii carries eggs on the back. Caecilians are represented by Typhlonectes.Oedipus is the only tailed amphibian (Urodela) found in South America.

Fishes. There are no carps (Cyprinidae) and other fish fauna is endemic. There is electric eel (Gymnotidae), cat fishes (Diplomystes, Nematogenys) and characin fish (Piranhas). Lung fishes are represented by Lepidosiren paradoxa found in Amazon River.

The fauna of Neotropical Region is rich in endemic families; almost 40 families are endemic out of 155 families of vertebrates. Other fauna is shared with Nearctic and other tropics.


Chilian. Western coast of South America, embracing summits of Andes, Peru and Bolivia. Fauna includes chinchilla, Llama, oil birds and Rhea.

Brazilian. Tropical forests up to Isthmus of Panama. Also open plains and pasture lands. Fauna includes New World Monkeys, vampire bats, tree porcupine, sloths, armadillo, opossum, tapirs, cavia, spiny mice.

Mexican. Mexico and northern lands of isthmus of Panama and rocky mountains. Fauna includes mud terrapins, tapirs and Plethodontids.

Antilean or West Indies. Caribbean Islands except Tobago and Trinidad. Contains mountainous and rocky areas covered with forests. Fauna is poor and native mammals are absent.