The UAE supports a diverse range of mammals, both terrestrial and marine. Bats, rodents, carnivores, ungulates and even a species of hare inhabit its inhospitable deserts and barren mountains, whilst its seas are home to the world’s second largest population of dugongs, as well as numerous whales and dolphins.
Well-suited to the UAE’s hot, dry environment, over 54 terrestrial species of reptile are known to occur here, including many desert-dwelling lizards, snakes and one worm lizard species. The waters off the UAE’s shores are also home to significant populations of marine turtles, which breed on the its sandy beaches, and a number of sea snakes.
The UAE is a haven for birdwatchers: in addition to the more than 100 species that regularly breed here, large numbers of migratory birds also visit the UAE en route between Europe, Asia and Africa. And it is particularly important for many regionally and internationally important breeding colonies of seabirds, bringing the total number of bird species to date to 442.
It is remarkable that in a country with very little freshwater and high temperatures amphibians with delicate moist skin can survive, but two amphibian species are found in the UAE: the Arabian toad and the Dhofar toad. Their secret is their rather unique adaptation: both can become dormant for up to three years or more, waiting for the freshwater that they need to breed.
The tropical seas off the coast of the UAE are home to a rich diversity of marine fish, with over 500 species recorded, ranging from 29 species of sharks to minute coral-reef dwellers. Although freshwater bodies are scarce in the UAE, three native and two introduced freshwater species also occur, mainly in wadis in the Hajar Mountains.
Invertebrates are the most successful animal group in the UAE, both in terms of species and population numbers. Terrestrial invertebrates include thousands of species of insects, spiders, scorpions and other arthropods, as well as seven native land snails. Marine invertebrates include sponges, crustaceans, molluscs and an abundance of coral.
Around 678 terrestrial plant species grow in the UAE: many are adapted to survive in extreme desert environments. In addition to flowering plants, the UAE is home to a few ferns, bryophytes and mosses, while the country’s marine plant life includes seaweeds, sea grasses and microalgae.
The following archived information is from Natural Emirates, which was published in 1996