The Ashmore and Cartier Islands offer a variety of native species as well as a variety of unique habitats for animal life. From grassy meadows to lagoons to coral reef, there are several ecosystems represented in this relatively small area.
This rich and diverse environment hosts a variety of endemic marine life. The Ashmore and Cartier Islands are the sole home of several mollusks including the Amoria spenceriana and the Cymbiola baili. In fact, there are 433 species of mollusk in the seas immediately surrounding the island as well as fourteen species of sea snake including the rare leaf-scaled sea snake and the dusky sea snake. These islands have the highest diversity of sea snakes on the globe. In addition, the marine portion of the islands is home to 650 separate species of fish, 11,000 sea turtles, and countless other marine life forms.
One of the more notable marine mammals present in the Ashmore and Cartier islands is the Dugong
, a mammal related to the manatee. The Dugong population near the Ashmore and Cartier islands is genetically different from those in other areas and thus may be a completely separate and endemic species, although this is still being studied.
The diversity of the Ashmore and Cartier Islands is not limited to the waters. The islands are home to a variety of sea birds, with more than 50,000 breeding pairs nesting there every year. The Ashmore and Cartier Islands and the surrounding reefs are home to many protected and endangered species, and thus are protected areas with restricted access and strict rules for land use.