BROWN RACER: AN ENDEMIC BAHAMIAN SNAKE
Further down this page you’ll find entries for Abaco’s only ‘official’ snake species, the Abaco boa. There are other snakes in the Bahamas, however, including the introduced and invasive corn snake (for more on these click HERE). Another species found on the islands is the Brown Racer, a handsome snake. Friends of the Environment recently posted a good example of one, photographed by Mitchell Pruitt and captioned as follows:
“Brown racers are the most common of the five types of snake native to The Bahamas. The Bahamian brown racer is endemic, meaning they are found nowhere else in the world! There are 5 recognized sub-species in the country, however variation also occurs throughout their island ranges. Unlike other Bahamian snakes brown racers are diurnal (active during the day). They can grow up to 3 feet in length.”
A while ago, I met one of these wasps in the coppice at Delphi. I had no idea what is was. This year I saw another. by now, I knew to give it a wide berth. Scott Johnson kindly let me use the picture above, from his excellent WILD BAHAMAS Facebook page. It well worth taking a look round it. But mind how you go, and look where you are treading… The wasp above specialises in killing tarantulas for use as family larders. Briefly put, they challenge a tarantula to a fight, paralyse them with an immensely painful sting in their vulnerable undersides, and drag them to a hole they have prepared for the event. The female deposits her eggs inside the still-living but helpless spider, and then buries it… In due course the babies hatch into a still-living larder which they then proceed to… well, you work it out. I’m feeling queasy. If you want to know more or to see a video of an encounter, or are simply interested in the degrees of severe pain, then look no further than here PEPSIS WASPS.
Further down the page is an article about the Abaco Boa, an endemic snake of the Northern Bahamas. Here’s one found by Tara Lavellee by her house, that she posted on F/B. Cindy James Pinder says about it:
“Those are neonate Abaco Island Boas (Epicrates exsul). I think the genus was just changed to Chilabothrus. They’re Endemic to Abaco and Grand Bahama. Those are tiny! The neonates and juveniles have that reddish coloration for a while before turning a silvery grey. They’re a little snappy, as Epicrates seem to be, but calm down rather easily.”
And here’s an adult boa taken by Cha Boyce of Friends of the Environment, who writes: “The Abaco Boa is endemic to the Little Bahama Bank, meaning it is found nowhere else in the world. They belong to a group of boas called “rainbow boas” for the colourful shine their skin gives off in the sunlight. Human development encroaching on boa habitat means that we may be more likely to encounter them. Please be kind to our native snakes, they play an important role in our ecosystem”.
Scroll down for more about Abaco Boas
CURLY TAIL CLOSE-UPS
This curly tail seems to have lost a fight and part of its tail. A new one is well on the way. Below are two close-ups of its head, and its back half. Note how the scales on the tail are slightly raised – possibly to discourage attack. Also the toes themselves are scaly almost to the tip. These are things I’d never noticed until I blew the image up…
About a year ago, Sandy Walker encountered a praying mantis at the Delphi Club. For technical reasons his photo(s) of it didn’t work out. Undaunted (and because I’d never seen one outside an insectarium) I turned an essentially non-event into a short post SANDY’S PRAYING MANTIS, in the course of which I learnt a bit about these strange creatures. There isn’t a great deal of compelling information to pass on, to be honest. And I still don’t buy their supposed resemblance (for the sober observer) to Eleuthera.
We saw no mantises this summer on Abaco, and I forgot about them completely until a week ago… And there, nonchalantly strolling across an outdoor table where we were staying for a few days in Italy, was the very creature. It obligingly posed for some prayerful snaps, then I put it gently on a balcony railing where it clung upside down and apparently content overnight. It was still there at breakfast, gone by lunchtime, and we never saw it again. But the images live on…
LAND CRABS ON ABACO – HOW TO STALK AND WRESTLE THEM…
Only kidding. But the following sequence taken at Bahama Palm Shores, Abaco during a recent Eco-tour with Ricky Johnson certainly looks as if they are squaring up for a fight… LAND CRABS (also known as Terrestrial Crabs) are found throughout the world. The large claw looks like the one to avoid, but is in fact the crab’s defensive / aggressive warning to back off. It’s the smaller claw you have to watch out for…
CATCHING LAND CRABS
I checked this out, never having tried it. I found an article by Jack Hardy at oii/net that sets out some methods. See also Brigitte Carey’s comment on the ‘step-on-them-from-behind-wearing-sensible-shoes’ way:
“How do you catch them? Let me count the ways… Expert catchers put their left palm in front of the crab to attract its attention then scoop it up from the rear and have it in a croacker bag in an instant. Others use a stick or machete to pin the crab down then take a hold on the rear of the shell where the biters cannot reach. Sometimes the back two legs are gripped. You can use your foot to hold them in place so long as you have stout footwear. One Marsh Harbour man told me he uses two-foot long wash-house tongs to clasp the contentious crustaceans”
I have previously posted about these cute creatures that lie sunning themselves and occasionally blinking; or scuttle away when they see you. See below for photos and details about these lizards and their habits. Here are a few more recent images. The first two were taken at the Delphi Club, where they seem to enjoy the pool area in particular. The top one has one extraordinarily long finger – and it’s worth clicking 2x to enlarge it to see the structure of its skin
This pair of curly tails were at Crossing Rocks, where we were trying to locate Bahama Woodstar hummingbirds in the scrubland. We rather felt that we might be interrupting something… They look endearingly affectionate.
CURLY TAILS – ENCHANTING LIZARDS
This is an expanded and rejigged article (April 2012) gathering together bits and pieces of CT lore originally scattered around the page.
First, the quite dull scientific classification bit (wiki-debt): Kingdom – Animalia; Phylum – Chordata; Class – Sauropsida; Suborder – Iguania; Family – Leiocephalidae; Genus – Leiocephalus [Subspecies Carinatus?]
The ‘curly-tailed lizard’ family is widely found throughout the Caribbean but is apparently relatively unstudied (but why on earth not?). There are nearly 30 distinct varieties, many specific to individual islands. My completely uneducated guess is that the Abaco ones may be one of the several subspecies of ‘Cuban or Northern Curly-tailed Lizard’ carinatus, the ones found generally in the Bahamas. But who cares? By any standards they are totally cute! This photo was taken at the bottom of the steps down to the Delphi Club beach.
The CT is described as an active, robust lizard that is mostly terrestrial and will retreat into a burrow or cavity when frightened. It prefers sunny areas with loose rubble and rock. Bahamas curly tails were apparently released intentionally in Palm Beach, Florida, in the 1940s in an attempt to control sugar cane pests.
Jan 2012 update: Having had a number of hits over the last few months for ‘what do Curly Tails eat’ and other CT-related information, I checked out aqualandpetsplus.com of Des Moines, Iowa (the first Google hit, in fact). With kind permission (many thanks, Larry) here’s some more about these little lizards
THE CURLY TAIL DIET: “Considered insectivores, curly-tails scamper right after crickets. They’ll also learn to eat mealworms and superworms from your fingers. You can give them other insects like wax worms which they love but tend to over-eat. Roaches, houseflies, or any arthropods / bugs that accumulate around your porch light make a nice change of pace…OR…take a stroll down the baby food aisle. Think twice about the bananas. Bananas are not good for some lizards. Skip the bananas. Anyway, apple sauce works great. The best thing about baby food? You can add a Calcium/Vitamin D supplement to it. Much easier than dusting crickets (which start cleaning it off the second it gets on them). Curly-tails will also eat bits of leafy lettuce. Uneaten crickets in their cage will also eat the fruits and vegetables you offer your lizards” Larry Arnold
So I can’t answer someone’s specific query ‘do they eat tomatoes?’, save to say ‘why not try tomato sauce’ (and I don’t mean a well-known proprietary brand, one of 57 varieties). Maybe have a few crickets handy in case it is politely declined
For further info on curly tails from the Bahamas National Trust website CLICK LINK ===>>> http://www.bnt.bs/curlytaillizardinfo.php?catid=&subid= where there is also a downloadable PDF version
BIBLIOGRAPHY “101 Uses for a Curly Tail” Rolling Harbour Press (2011)
(1) The gate latch (2) The window latch
(NB No Curly Tails were harmed in the creation of these images)
PRAYING MANTIS FOUND AT THE DELPHI CLUB ABACO
“Just thought that you might like to add the fact that there are praying mantises here on Abaco. There was one on my staircase today. 4 inches long and bright green. I did take pics but they just didn’t work as I was in a rush…”
We’ve all been there with photos and rushes, have we not?
So here is one such below
(Image credit: animals.nationalgeographic.com)
I am now (March 2012) adding a photo of an Abaco mantis taken by fearless blogger The Battered Rucksack. And if you click on that name, it should take you to his Bahamas section. (Thanks for permission to use, Battered)
There isn’t much specific info about these creatures in the Bahamas, let alone on Abaco, other than the fact that Eleuthera is said to resemble one. I think I’d need to have a few Kaliks first. See what you think…
The indolent bloggers’ Bible (Wiki) says with authotrity that Mantodea (or Mantises) is an order of insects with approximately 2,200 species in 15 families worldwide in temperate and tropical habitats… Technically the term only refers to one family, meaning the other 14 families are not true mantids. Tough on them. The colloquial name ‘praying mantis’ is sometimes misspelled as ‘preying mantis’, since mantises are predatory. They are related to cockroaches & termites; and are not to be confused with stick/leaf insects, cicadas, grasshoppers or crickets. As if!
POTCAKE VIDEO: CRAB-HUNTING ON THE BEACH
A LOVELY SPIDER. WELL, TARANTULA ACTUALLY…
Thanks, Sandy, for sending a photo of this enchanting creature so that its cuddly qualities can be appreciated by a wider audience. I should say that it was seen several miles from the Delphi boundaries. But that would simply be a lie. They are there, known locally as ground spiders. Keep an eye out. Live dangerously. But there’s no need to cancel your booking… For reassurance about them CLICK===>>> TARANTULAS. By no means all tarantulas bite, and there has never been a tarantula fatality. Yet.
POTCAKES – THE FACTS
- Potcakes are a mixed-breed dog of the Bahamas & TCI, named after the layer of dried rice and peas in the bottom of cooking pots, traditionally fed to stray dogs
- Appearance and colouring varies considerably from island to island. Mostly commonly they are (mainly) brown, have smooth coats, cocked ears, and long faces. Adults typically weigh from 45 to 50 pounds (20 to 23 kg)
- Potcakes have a wandering tendency. There are many strays on every island – often considered a nuisance. Volunteer organizations re-home strays, and offer free spaying and neutering
- Potcakes are often used for hunting hogs. Some are trained to locate fish through scent on the water and the cries of feeding sea birds
- Potcakes may originate from 3 canine types: (1) dogs brought by the Arawak to the Bahamas; (2) terriers protecting supplies from rodents on ships to the Bahamas; (3) Dogs that arrived with Loyalists during the Revolutionary War
- In the 1970s the potcake dog was officially recognized in The Bahamas as the “Royal Bahamian Potcake”. In February 2011, they were accepted by the Bahamas Kennel Club in the category ‘Group 9 Non-Registered’
- A potcake dog named Amigo has been the mascot of the Humane Society of Grand Bahama. He ‘served as an Ambassador of Hope for homeless animals’ until his death in 2007, and appeared on TV
- Potcakes have featured in a set of special-issue Bahamas stamps
Factoids above distilled from a variety of sources (mostly overlapping) – danke – in particular good old wiki. I’ve done the leg-work for you, but there is other material out there. In particular, put ‘Potcake’ into YouTube, & there are plenty of videos of Potcakes. Below are 4 web-links that might interest or amuse
SOME POTCAKE-CENTRIC LINKS
POTCAKE PLACE functions to rescue, foster and assist adoption of potcakes of the Turks and Caicos Islands
POTCAKE FOUNDATION TCI-based site, with numberless souvenirs available – get your loved one a potcake apron or nightshirt…
AMIGO THE POTCAKE 5***** cartoon ‘book’ named for the most famous potcake of all. Engagingly barking
ARTICLE IN ABACO LIFE: COMMEMORATIVE STAMPS & FAMOUS DOGS CLICK LINK===>>> Abaco Life Potcake Article
Chilabothrus Exsul (formely Epicrates Exsul)
Kingdom: Animalia * Phylum: Chordata * Subphylum: Vertebrata * Class: Reptilia * Order: Squamata * Suborder: Serpentes * Family: Boidae * Subfamily: Boinae * Genus: Epicrates * Species: Epicrates Exsul
COMMON NAMES Abaco Island boa, Northern Bahamas boa
CHILABOTHRUS EXSUL is a non-venomous species of boa, the only one of its species and genus. These snakes are grey with a reddish sheen. They grow to a maximum of 80 cm / 2ft 6″ in length [now see end of Post] and feed on small mammals, birds and lizards. They are found throughout the Abacos, including Elbow Cay; and on Grand Bahama; but not elsewhere in the Bahamas (wiki-aided inc. image)
And if you can’t get to Abaco, there’s one in Oklahoma City Zoo
LATEST NEWS DEC 2011 a surprising visitor to the Friends of the Environment offices on 7 Dec 2011, posted on their Facebook page
STOP PRESS: a convincing refutation of the general consensus that the maximum length of these snakes is around 2′ 6″, with thanks to Brigitte Bowyer Carey. This specimen was photographed on Tilloo Cay in 2008, held at arms length by Don Allen
HUTIAS are cavy-like rodents unique to the Caribbean Islands, and the only land mammals native to the Bahamas. They range in size from 20 to 60 cm (8 to 24 in), and can weigh up to 7 kg (15 lb). Twenty species of hutia have been identified, of which half may now be extinct. Their tails vary from vestigial to prehensile. They have stout bodies and large heads.
Most species are nocturnal and mainly herbivorous, though some eat small animals. Instead of burrowing underground, they nest in trees or rock crevices. Of extant species, only a few are common; most have become vulnerable or endangered. In Cuba they are hunted for food, and are often cooked in a large pot with wild nuts and honey. One of the recipes is hutia stew: sauté with green peppers, onions, tomato sauce and lots of garlic.(Source: Wiki)
THE BAHAMIAN HUTIA
Bahamian Hutia (Geocapromys ingrahami) Photo WWF/ G. Clough
The Bahamian species of Hutia is endemic to the Bahamas. It is listed as a vulnerable species. Its natural habitats are moist forests, dry shrubland and rocky areas. Hutias are a nocturnal species, remaining underground during the day. Two subspecies became extinct in modern times. The Crooked Island Hutia (G. i. irrectus) and the Great Abaco Hutia (G. i. abaconis) were mentioned by early European voyagers, and are believed to have become extinct by 1600. This is thought to be due to land clearance rather than direct hunting. However, they are found elsewhere in the Bahamas – the Exumas, for example.
IT’S OFFICIAL: the extinct species listing
|Great Abaco Hutia Geocapromys ingrahami abaconis||West Indies, Bahamas, Great Abaco||Extinct in 1600|
For more details, check out Rod Attrill’s excellent website, for which this is the relevant link: http://www.motygido.co.uk/bahamas_hutia.htm
STOP PRESS: THIS SMALL POST HAS RECEIVED A SURPRISINGLY LARGE NUMBER OF HITS – CAN ANYONE EXPLAIN WHY?
NEW: HUTIA VIDEO (added Dec 2011)
A DRAGONFLY IN THE GUEST DRIVE
This is a enigma formerly wrapped in a chrysalis. The best I can come up with after a brief google is a Great Pondhawk Erythemis vesiculosa or a Regal Darner Coryphaeschna ingens. Suggestions welcome
Photo Credit M & M Pettigrew
CURLY TAILS – ENCHANTING LIZARDS
APRIL 2012 A revised version of this post can be found at the top of this page or as a post at CURLY TAILS