Tatra National Park Fauna

The current distribution of fauna in Tatra National Park is the result of the long-term effects of natural factors and the human element. Cold periods (ice ages) had a major impact on the fauna of the Tatras, which are the descendants of species living in the northern taiga and tundra. These cold periods alternated with warmer periods with other species from relatively warmed areas arriving from eastern and south-eastern Europe. The fauna of the Tatras is therefore characterised by different geographical elements, including cosmopolitan, Palearctic, European (Siberian, alpine boreal, boreal, Sarmatian and Carpathian Sudetenland) and endemic species.

Representative cosmopolitan and Palearctic species are found at lower elevations. The European element is represented by numerous invertebrate and vertebrate species including edible frog (Rana esculenta), European green woodpecker (Picus viridis) and others. More populous elements include the Euro-Siberian, which is represented by a significant number of invertebrate and vertebrate species including common frog (Rana temporaria), common European viper (Vipera berus), black grouse (Lyrurus tetrix), hazel grouse (Tetrastes bonasia) and European crested tit (Parus cristatus). The boreal (northern) element is represented by azure hawker (Aeschna coerulea), Bohemian waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus) and rough-legged buzzard (Buteo lagopus). The alpine boreal element is characterised by species that range up to the upper edge of the forest including alpine shrew (Sorex aplinus), northern birch mouse (Sicista betuliana), European snow vole (Microtus nivalis), a relatively important quantity of different groups of invertebrates and the glacial relic fairy shrimp species Branchinecta paludosa. The alpine component is characteristic for the Tatras and is represented by species including the alpine marmot (Marmota marmota latirostris), Tatra chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra tatrica), water pipit (Anthus spinoletta), various species of gastropods (Gastropoda), spiders(Arachnida), springtails (Collembola) and inspects (Insecta). The Carpathian Sudetenland element is represented by species including the Carpathian blue slug (Bielzia coerulans) and giant springtail (Tetrodontophora bielanensis). The Sarmatian element in the Tatras is much less prevalent. Mammals belonging to this element include the striped field mouse (Apodemus agrarius).

Endemic elements (Tatra, Carpathian and Alpine Carpathian) account for a significant portion of the fauna in the Tatras. Examples include Tatra pine vole (Microtus tatricus), ground beetles (Nebria tatrica), Tatra ermine moth (Kessleria tatrica), Pseudogaurotina excellens and others.

The varied topography and rich palette of habitats provides ample opportunity for the existence of communities of invertebrates which include diverse forms of life inhabiting practically all types of habitats. The exact number of invertebrates remains unknown at the present time as surveys continue to confirm new species. Vertebrates in Tatra National Park are represented by 11 species of fish and 2 species of jawless fish. The park is also home to 6 species of amphibians, 5 species of reptiles, 102 species of nesting birds and 14 species of mammals.

Just as is in the case of flora, there is a vertical structure to fauna as well. The high absolute and relative elevation of the Tatras supported the creation of a broad ranging vertical structure of fauna, from the foothill and mountainous elevations to the sub-alpine, alpine and subnival level.

The submontane vegetation zone is the lowest zone in the national park at an elevation up to 800 to 850 m. Typical representatives include the common vole (Microtus arvalis), European hare (Lepus europaeus), common kestrel (Falco tinnunculus), grey partridge (Perdix perdix), corn crake (Crex crex), common frog (Rana temporaria), common toad (Bufo bufo), slow worm (Anguis fragilis) and others.

The entire mountainous (montane) vegetation zone in the Tatras falls in the natural spruce range in the Carpathians. Typical forest species from among invertebrates for the mountainous vegetation zone include various snails, such as the Carpathian blue slug, endemic to the Carpathians. Fauna is more diverse in the limestone and dolomite areas, for example the endemic Chondrina tatrica, as well as other snails such as Macrogastra borealis and Bulgarica cana. Insects are a very populous class as well. Rare and protected species of insects include Pseudogaurotina excellens, which is found in a number of locations in the Tatras. Butterfly fauna (Lepidoptera) is particularly rich. Endemic species have special standing and are often small and inconspicuously coloured, such as Kessleria tatrica and Aethes rutilla tatrica The mountain apollo (Parnassius apollo), a glacial relic, is also found in this zone. Among the vertebrates, the dominant fish species are brown trout (Salmo trutta morpha fario) and alpine bullhead (Cottus poecilopus). A genetically pure population of maraene (Coregonus maraena) is found in Štrbské Pleso tarn. Amphibian and reptile species include common frog (Rana temporaria), common toad (Bufo bufo), alpine newt (Triturus alpestris), yellow-bellied toad (Bombina variegata), viviparous lizard (Lacerta vivipara), common European viper (Vipera berus). Birds have a dominant position in the mountainous zone. The most predominant are common chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) and coal tit (Parus ater). Typical species for mountain taiga in the conditions of the Tatras include Eurasian treecreeper (Certhia familiaris), spotted nutcracker (Nucifraga caryocatactes), Eurasian bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula), willow tit Parus montanus), western capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus), boreal owl (Aegolius funereus), Eurasian pygmy owl (Glaucidium passerinum), Eurasian three-toed woodpecker (Picoides tridactylus), European crested tit (Parus cristatus) and red crossbill (Loxia curvirostra). Species from Carpathian mixed forests are hazel grouse (Tetrastes bonasia), northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis), Eurasian woodcock (Scolopax rusticola), common wood pigeon (Columba palumbus), long-eared owl (Asio otus), black woodpecker (Dryocopus martius), Eurasian jay (Garrulus glandarius), mistle thrush (Turdus viscivorus) and song thrush (Turdus philomelos). Tertiary precious relics are represented boreal owl (Aegolius funereus), Eurasian three-toed woodpecker (Picoides tridactylus), Eurasian pygmy owl (Glaucidium passerinum), spotted nutcracker (Nucifraga caryocatactes) and mistle thrush (Turdus torquatus). Among the important and endangered species of birds of prey and owls are golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), lesser spotted eagle (Aquila pomarina), common kestrel (Falco tinnunculus), common buzzard (Buteo buteo), Eurasian eagle-owl (Bubo bubo). Mammal species include common shrew (Sorex araneus), alpine shrew (Sorex alpinus), lesser white-toothed shrew (Crocidura suaveolens), northern birch mouse (Sicista betulina), bank vole (Clethrionomys glareolus), European pine marten (Martes martes), stoat (Mustela erminea), least weasel (Mustela nivalis), European badger (Meles meles) and bats such as brown long-eared bat (Plecotus auritus), whiskered bat (Myotis mystacinus), northern bat (Eptesicus nilsoni) and pond bat (Myotis dasycneme). Of the large carnivores, there is currently a relatively strong population of brown bears (Ursus arctos), lynx (Lynx lynx) and wolf (Canis lupus). Tatra waterways are the home and hunting grounds of river otter (Lutra lutra).

The alpine (mountain pine) zone essentially comprises a zone of dwarf pine forests and is a transition zone between the mountain (montane) and alpine vegetation zones. Fauna in this zone is a mosaic of forest and alpine-specific species.

The alpine vegetation zone above 2,300 MASL transitions in the subnival vegetation zone. It is characterized by specific non-forest forms of animals, mostly endemic and relics of boreal and alpine expansion. Invertebrates in the sub alpine and alpine zones are represented by species that are adapted to the harsh alpine climate and other conditions. Terrestrial invertebrate fauna primarily comprises insects. Alpine meadows have their own unique beetle fauna. Endemic are the Trach weevil (Trachysoma beigerae), which was described on the Polish side of the Tatras and the small, blind Duvaliopsis pilosellus. The sub-alpine and alpine zones are home to a vibrantly, metallic coloured beetles, Carabus auronitens, and Carabus fabricii. Butterflies include species from the Erebia genus, Erebia pandrose and Erebia manta, and a glacial relic, the mountain apollo (Parnassius apollo). Only a few species of amphibians extend into the alpine zone. Such species include the common frog (Rana temporaria), which is found at elevations up to 1,850 to 2,000 m and the alpine newt (Triturus alpestris). Only two species of reptile make it up to the alpine zone, both of which are rare: viviparous lizard (Lacerta vivipara) and common European viper (Vipera berus). Birds found in the alpine meadows and the rocky habitats include alpine accentor (Prunella collaris) and water pipit (Anthus spinoletta), as well as black redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros), northern wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) and black grouse (Lyrurus tetrix). Frequent visitors to these elevations are the golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), common kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) and common raven (Corvus corax). The presence of the very rare wallcreeper (Tichodroma muraria) has been observed in a few locations.

Mammals in the sub-alpine and alpine zones include relic species including Tatra pine vole (Microtus tatricus), snow vole (Microtus nivalis mirhaneini), alpine marmot (Marmota marmota latirostris) and Tatra chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra tatrica), which are existentially bonded to these habitats alone. Brown bear (Ursus arctos), wolf (Canis lupus), lynx (Lynx lynx) and red fox (Vulpes vulpes) are sporadic visitors to the habitats of the alpine zone. Insectivores are represented by common species of European mole (Talpa europaea), common shrew (Sorex araneus), Eurasian pygmy shrew (Sorex minutus) and alpine shrew (Sorex alpinus). There is a permanent presence of small ground mammals as well, including European pine vole (Pitymys subterraneus), common vole (Microtus arvalis), yellow-necked mouse (Apodemus flavicollis) and others.

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