The Mediterranean Sea lies at the heart of the Mediterranean basin, a region which alternates between hot, dry summers and milder winters with higher precipitation. The landscape is primarily scrub and woodland although thousands of years of human cultivation and settlement have transformed the environment. This region is home to a wide range of both domestic and wild animal species.
The Mediterranean has been the home of agrarian societies for millennia. Many species of animals, such as sheep, cows and pigs are farmed here. Grazing these herds of animals has had a profound impact on the Mediterranean ecosystem, causing the destruction of huge areas of woodland. Goats thrive particularly well in the dry Mediterranean climate. Some domestic species are raised for special purposes, such as the large bulls bred for traditional Spanish bullfights.
The Mediterranean basin was once home to numerous wild species, ranging from lynx to wild boar. Agriculture and expanding human settlement have displaced many of these species, but some can still be seen. The Iberian Lynx, native to Spain and Portugal, is now critically endangered. The Mediterranean basin is also home to Europe's only primate species (other than humans), the Barbary macaque, found in North Africa and Gibraltar. Wild goats, rabbits and other small mammals are common.
The Mediterranean is host to a vast variety of both land and marine birds, ranging from large birds of prey such as the golden eagle to the small, brightly coloured ring-necked parakeet. The Mediterranean's coastal environments are rich in bird species such as the greater and lesser flamingo, as well as smaller birds like the oystercatcher. Some Mediterranean bird populations, particularly small songbirds such as the blackcap, are threatened by hunting and trapping.
The waters of the Mediterranean are home to numerous fish and other marine animal species, including dolphins, rays, sharks, seals, squid and many species of fish and shellfish. Dolphins and other sea animals appear in some of the earliest examples of Mediterranean artwork, testifying to the importance of humankind's relationship with the sea in this region. As in other environments, human activity, particularly overfishing, is threatening the habitat of some of the Mediterranean's sea creatures. Many species of sharks and ray are threatened by extinction in this region, including the giant devil ray.