Species Diversity

The archipelago has a large maritime territory of 160,000 km² where there is a diversity of species worthy of registration when taking into account the size of the islands, with emphasis on the presence of species such as the Humpback Whale; Sperm Whale, Orca, Risso's Dolphin, Striped Dolphin, Hammerhead Shark, Sol Mola Fish, Whale Shark, Manta Rays and even five of the seven species of sea turtles in the world

The surveys present in the Biodiversity of the Gulf of Guinea Oceanic Islands confirmed the occurrence of 553 species on the islands, including 515 Actinopteri distributed by 39 orders (141 families), 37 Elasmobranchii into six orders (17 families) andum HolocephaliThe 450 potentially occurring species consist of 385 Actinopteri (30 orders, 109 families) and 65 Elasmobranchii (10 orders, 28 families). Furthermore, 32 Actinopteri and five Elasmobranchii previously recorded for these islands are here considered erroneous and five Actinopteri records are questionable.

The same survey states that of the 553 confirmed species, the Elasmobranchii (elasmobranchs: sharks, rays, skates and wedgefish) represent 6.7% (37 species) of diversity, the Holocephali (chimeras) 0.2% (one species) and the Actinopteri (Actinopterygians: bony or rayed fish) 93.1% (515 species). In total, 46 orders and 159 families were recorded, the richest families being Gobiidae (25 species), Carangidae (23), Serranidae (22), Stomiidae (19) and Myctophidae (18).

The most common species found in marine ecosystems on the islands of São Tomé and Príncipe. 


Among the Elasmobranchii, the occurrence of 37 species of sharks and batoid fish (wedgefish and rays) on the islands is confirmed. Sharks, belonging to three orders (Carcharhiniformes, Lamniformes, Orectolobiformes), represent 45.9% (17 species), while rays, belonging to two orders (Myliobatiformes, Torpediniformes), represent 51.4% (19 species) of the diversity of the Elasmobranchii. Wedge fish, order Rhinopristiformes, are represented by a single species (2.7%). The most specious orders are Myliobatiformes, with 17 species (46%), followed by Carcharhiniformes with 12 species (32.4%). 17 families are listed, with Carcharhinidae, Dasyatidae and Mobulidae having the highest number of species, with 21.6% (8), 18.9% (7) and 10.8% (4), respectively.


The only Holocephali (Chimaeriformes, Rhinochimaeridae), the Sickle-cell Chimera, Neoharriotta pinnata (Schnakenbeck, 1931), represents 0.2% of the confirmed species in the region and is considered a Near Threatened species. Sickle-celled Chimaera are known in the eastern Atlantic Ocean, off the west coast of Africa, from Western Sahara to Namibia, including the islands of the Gulf of Guinea. The species is found on the edge of the shelf at depths ranging from 200 to 600 m.


The Actinopteri class is the most diverse, with 515 species confirmed for the islands. A total of 141 families were recorded, with Gobiidae the richest with 4.8% of the species (25), followed by Carangidae with 4.5% (23), Serranidae with 4.3% (22), Stomiidae with 3, 7% (19), Myctophidae with 3.5% (18), Sparidae with 2.9% (15) and Haemulidae, Muraenidae and Ophichthidae with 2.1% (11) each. All the remaining 132 families are represented by less than ten species and represent the remaining 70% of the species. To be as exhaustive as possible, the current list includes potential species of deep-sea fish and large migratory pelagics, based on various guides and reports. Due to the deep waters around the islands, several species (e.g., Opisthoproctus soleatus Vaillant, 1888; Scopelosaurus argenteus (Maul, 1954)) have been collected by scientific studies offshore or accidentally by industrial fishing vessels. In addition, the literature already refers several species of deep-sea fish to the islands.

Sea turtles

Of the seven species of sea turtles in the world, five occur on STP, including four that nest on the islands' beaches:

    1. Loggerhead Caretta caretta VU the only non-nesting species;
    2. Hawksbill Eretmochelys imbricata CR, which in São Tomé tends to use the southern beaches;
    3. Leatherback Dermochelys coriaceaVU, which in São Tomé also uses the southern beaches more frequently;
    4. Green Turtle Chelonia mydasEN, quite common on the beaches of Sao Tome and Principe.
    5. Olive Ridley Lepidochelys olivaceaVU, which uses the northern beaches of the island of São Tomé to breed.
    6. Learn more about sea turtles by clicking
São Tomé, 26 de Julho de 2023