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What countries have the most different species?

01/04/2008 13:58:54
Rana Compotrix, newly discovered in Laos. © Nikolai Orlov
Biodiversity is the buzz word, so we thought we would look into which countries had the most of it. And which had the least. Fortunately, others have done all the hard work, so by consulting the good people of the World Resources Institute, we can tell you which country has the most species of birds, or mammals, or reptiles, or amphibians, or all four added together.

The UK doesn't quite make it into the top 10, or the top 50 for that matter, coming in at 89th, whilst the US gets in at 13th. The countries with the least biodiversity are either small European states (Monaco, San Marino, Andorra), or small Pacific Islands (Niue, Cook Islands, Kiribati, Tonga, American Samoa.), so if you want to try to see every species from one country, head to one of these. And as the recent discovery of six new species of frog in Laos shows, some countries will move up the table as more research is carried out. In fact the recent expedition to the Foja Mountains of Indonesia discovered TWENTY new species of frog and a new bird for good measure, in just 2 weeks!
Cuvierina Columnella  © R Hopcroft CoML.

In reality, whilst most bird and mammal species are know to science, it is estimated that the numbers used to calculate these tables probably only represent 2% of the actual total species! And we haven't included plants, algae, small organisms of even fish. The deep sea has yet to be properly explored, but recently a three week expedition studying plankton at depths of up to (down to?) 5 Kms discovered dozens of new organisms.

Top 10 most biodiverse countries.

  • 1 Brazil (no surprise there)
  • 2 Colombia
  • 3 Indonesia
  • 4 Peru
  • 5 Mexico
  • 6 Ecuador
  • 7 China
  • 8 India
  • 9 Venezuela
  • 10 Australia



Top 10 countries with most bird species.

  • 1 Colombia
  • 2 Peru
  • 3 Brazil
  • 4 Indonesia
  • 5 Ecuador
  • 6 Bolivia
  • 7 Venezuela
  • 8 China
  • 9 India
  • 10 Congo, Democratic Republic


Top 10 countries with most mammals.

  • 1 Indonesia
  • 2 Brazil
  • 3 Mexico
  • 4 China
  • 5 United States
  • 6 Colombia
  • 7 Peru
  • 8 Congo, Democratic Republic
  • 9 India
  • 10 Kenya


It is very noticeable that those countries with tropical forests dominate the listings, particularly South American countries. And it is there that there is probably the most work to do on classifying the probable millions of unrecognised species.

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