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Ecoregion Description

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Species Richness

# of Endemic Species


203: Mosquitia

Major Habitat Type:

tropical and subtropical coastal rivers


William Bussing contributed material to this text.


Honduras; Nicaragua


The region includes all of the Atlantic versant rivers of Honduras between the Chamelecón-Ulúa drainages in the west, including the large Río Coco on the Honduras-Nicaragua border, and Kukalaya-Wawa drainages around Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua.

Drainages flowing into:

Caribbean Sea

Main rivers or other water bodies:

Some of the main rivers in the ecoregion include the Ulúa, Aguán, Sico, Paulaya, Plátano, and Patuca in Honduras; Río Coco along the Honduras-Nicaragua border; and ríos Wawa and Kukulaya in Nicaragua. Other large water bodies include Lago de Yojoa, the largest lake in Honduras.


The topography of the ecoregion is generally mountainous, except for the narrow coastal plain and valleys of the Ulúa and Aguán rivers, the Mosquito Coast in eastern Honduras, and the coastal plain in northeastern Nicaragua. Some of the ranges in the ecoregion include the Cordillera Nombre de Dios, Sierra La Esperànza, and Cordillera Isabelia. Elevations range from sea level to over 2700 m in the interior highlands. Here, the substrate primarily comprises Paleozoic metamorphic and sedimentary rocks and sediments, granitic formations, and ultramaphic rocks (Villar Anleu 1994).


The climate of the ecoregion is wet tropical along the coast and temperate in the highlands (Köppen 1936). Total annual precipitation averages 1900 mm. In the lowlands rainfall occurs mostly year round, but becomes more seasonal in the highlands, with the wet season from May to October and the dry season from November to April. Mean annual temperature is 24 ºC, with minimum and maximum temperatures ranging between 17 and 21 ºC, respectively (Hijmans et al. 2004).

Freshwater habitats:

The ecoregion contains a handful of Ramsar sites, including Parque Nacional Jeanette Kawas, Refugio de Vida Silvestre Punta Izopo, and Barras de Cuero y Salado, which is a complex of estuarine and riverine wetlands  comprised of flooded forest and a network of rivers and channels. Laguna de Bacalar, located further east, is a coastal-brackish saline lagoon (Wetlands International 2002).

Terrestrial Habitats:

This ecoregion contains a range of habitat types from moist forests, pine forests, and mangroves along the coast to pine-oak forests, montane forests, and dry forests in the interior highlands. The lowlands are dominated by moist broad-leaf species. In contrast, the Miskito pine forests, which extend from the Mosquito Coast to northeastern Nicaragua, are dominated by Caribbean pine (Pinus carribaea). This area of pine forest represents the largest remaining lowland tropical pine-savanna in the Neotropics. Dominant species within the pine-oak forests include Pinus spp., Quercus spp., Ostrya sp. and Alnus spp. Interspersed within the moist and pine-oak forests are pockets of dry and montane forests (World Wildlife Fund 2001).

Fish Fauna:

The ecoregion’s total known species diversity is over fifty species. The entire region is a transition zone between the rich endemic ichthyofauna of the Usumacinta [173, 174] and Yucatan-Motagua [175, 202] drainages in the north and the diverse San Juan [205] fauna to the south. Species either represent wide-ranging forms or fish at their northern limit or southern limit of the adjoining ecoregions.

On the basis of a computer analysis of the species of the 20 major Central American drainages, the boundary between the Mosquitia and San Juan [205] ecoregions is a very significant discontinuity (VSD) where the Yucatan-Motagua [175, 202] fauna statistically replaces the San Juan [205] fauna. .

Description of endemic fishes:

Compared to surrounding ecoregions, endemism within the ecoregion is low. The two species include the smoothbelly goby, Sicydium gymnogaster, and the cichlid, Theraps wesseli. At least one undescribed poeciliid, Poecilia sp., from the upper Ulúa and Aguán drainages may also be endemic.

Other noteworthy aquatic biotic elements:

The ecoregion contains a large number of Red List amphibian species, including a number of critically endangered salamanders such as Bolitoglossa diaphora, B. longissima, B. oresbia, and Nototriton lignicola. Critically endangered frogs with restricted ranges in the ecoregion include Eleutherodactylus olanchano, Hyalinobatrachium crybetes, Duellmanohyla salvavida, Isthmohyla insolita, Plectrohyla chrysopleura, Craugastor cruzi, C. epochthidius, C. fecundus, C. saltuarius, and C. stadelmani (GAA 2006).

Justification for delineation:

Fish provinces from Bussing (1976) were revised and subdivided based on application of a similarity index to sub-basin fish presence/absence data.


Wetlands, International (2002) "Ramsar Sites Database: A directory of wetlands of international importance" <>(2003)

World Wildlife, Fund (2001). "Terrestrial Ecoregions of the World" 2005 (2005;

The Nature Conservancy World Wildlife Fund
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