Sunday, September 29, 2013

Trinidad Sphaerodactylus, I am looking for a banded one!

The dwarf day geckos of the genus Sphaerodactylus are primarily lizards of the Caribbean. The Reptile Database lists 101 currently recognized. Relatively few species are known from mainland Central and South America. Harris (1982 Occas. Pap Mus Zool. Univ Michigam  no. 704) reported five South American  spercies (S. heliconiae, S. lineolatus, S. molei, S. scapularis, and S. notatus). Species described since 1982 have been either Central American or West Indian (mostly Cuba and Hispanolia) and the only species present on Trinidad and Tobago has been thought to be S. molei, a gecko also in coastal Venezuela and Guyana. However, two musuem specimens with the locality data of "Trinidad" have been found that are clearly not S. molei.  I am writing this with the idea that readers will find this lizard. It is distinctive in that the body is transversely banded; and molei has longitudinal stripes. It is possible the locality data is wrong, it is possible the lizards were accidentally introduced from another island, but the specimens are not in great shape and getting scale count data and  other scale characteristics from them is at best problematic. So, should you find a tiny banded lizard, a Sphaerodactylus on Trinidad, send me an email or please take it to the Zoology Museum at UWI so we can identify it. Photos of a juvenile S. molei and one of the banded species are shown below.

The Second Trinidad Bioblitz

The second annual Trinidad Bioblitz has come and gone.  This year it was held in the very biodiverese Arima Valley, with the base camp at the Asa Wright Nature Center. The preliminary tally of species was - Vertebrates 139, Invertebrates 247, Fungus 30, Diatoms 7, Plants 317 for a grand total of 740 species!

Teams include: Mammals, Freshwater (Fish, Aquatic Insects, Crustaceans), Amphibia and Reptilia, Birds, Molluscs, Spiders and other Arachnids, Butterflies and Moths, Social Insects, Myriapods millipedes/ centipedes) and Worms, Flowering Plants, Ferns, Lichens, Orchids and Fungi.

The Arima Valley has been the crown jewel for Trinidad's biodiversity for centuries, the site has been the geographical location for much of the scientific research that has occurred on Trinidad including classic studies of bats, guppies, and the herpetofauna as well as many other higher taxa. However, active quarrying operations threaten the habitat, and the activity of bush meat hunters threaten larger animal populations. But, perhaps the most significant sign that the valley is under development - the installation of sidewalks along the road.

But, the Bioblitz results suggest the flora and fauna are doing well at least for the moment. Teams of experts and volunteers  searched the valley for 24 hours attempting to identify as many species as possible. But, it can be more than just a list, because the opportunity of natural history observations is under every log and in every fruiting tree.

 Informational displays by various groups including the Trinidad and Tobago Field Naturalist Club, UWI Zoology Museum, Asa Wright Nature Center and Wildlife Division were present to  inform the public. So what about the herpetofauana. Here are some photos of what was found.

An Arima Valley Bothrops cf asper. was sitting in the vegetation close to a
 chorus of Hypsiboans crepitans.
Top: a juvenile Chironius carinatus, bottom Chironius (Macrops)
septentrionalis. Both juveniles and very difficult to distinguish
from each other, but look at the relative size of the eyes

A Hypisboans crepitans hiding in the vegetation during the day.

Epictia tenella was found climbing a tree trunk, it was about a meter
off the ground and was probably headed for a rotten liana filled with

A juvenile Oxyrhopus petolarius

Anolis planiceps sleeping on a leaf.

A male Gonatodoes vittatus perhaps the most common seen
reptile during the Bioblitz
The leaf-nesting frog, Phyllomedusa trinitatus