Adaptation to a dynamic environment
In no other place in the mediterranean basin you find such a variety of habitats like here: rocky deserts of recents lava flows, steppes, green forests, meadows, rivers, and few wetlands and lakes. The climate shows a lot of variations caused by altitude (from 0 up to 3300 m.), exposure and humidity. The incessant and powerful activity of Mt.Etna gives rise very often to sharp changes in the landscape as in the ecological balance.
All these factors, enhanced also by the isolation, have influenced deeply the very peculiar fauna of the volcano that had to face all those variables in order to survive, showing a wide varieties of ecological adjustments. The species present around Etna came from other parts of the island or from the italian peninsula and sometimes they are descendants of species that got isolated here during glaciations.
Fauna and paleo-geography
Etna is geologically very young, in fact only about 600.000 years ago in that area there was nothing but sea. When the volcanic activity started, the pre-etnean bay began to be filled up progressively with volcanic products and in time the volcano grew enough to join the Peloritani and the Nebrodi mountains to the North. But mount Etna for a long time remained separated from the Hyblean plateau because it was encircled by the sea on the southern and western side. Therefore the fauna coming from the northern mountain range had soon the opportunity to colonize the volcano, while the contribution from the Hyblean plateau started only when, in the late Quaternary, the alluvial sediments of Simeto river progressively filled up the rest of the pre-etnean bay. During last glaciations the water trapped in glaciers made the sea level to go down. Sicily back then was connected with the rest of the italian peninsula allowing animal population to migrate southward and eventually to reach the volcano.
In the following list few components of the rich fauna of this volcano:
Among the mammalia stand out the presence of a very interesting and rare Wild Cat (Felis silvestris). There is also and a quite numerous population of Foxes (Vulpes vulpes), the the Hystrix (Hystrix cristata), the Hare (Lepus europaeus), the sicilian Shrew (Crocidura sicula), the Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus), the Marten (Martes martes), the Least Weasel (Mustela nivalis) and eight species of bats.
Among the birds we find the beautiful Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), the Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus), the Buzzard (Buteo buteo), the Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus), the Scops Owl (Otus scops), the Barn Owl (Tyto alba), the Eared Owl (Asio otus), the Magpie (pica pica), the Raven (Corvus corax), the Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glanadarius), the Carrion Crow (Corvus corone), the endemic Rock Partridge (Alectoris graeca whitakeri) and the endemic Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus siculus).
Among the butterflies there is the rare endemic Eastern Orange Tip (Anthocaris damonae), the Painted Lady (Vanessa Cardui),The large White (Pieris Brassicae), the Red Admiral (Vanessa Atalanta), Small Tortoise Shell (Aglais Urticae) and the Common Blue (Lysandra icarius).
Among snakes there is the Viper (Vipera aspis), the Whip Snake (Coluber viridiflavus), the Leopard snake (Elaphe situla) and the grass snake (Natrix natrix sicula).