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Rainforests of the World 

September 28, 2010

Needle in a Haystack: Searching for Reptiles in Costa Rica

During our 10 day collecting trip to Costa Rica, our goal was to collect specific reptiles and amphibians in order to display them in our Rainforest exhibit and to form captive breeding programs for select species.

When planning our collecting locations, we generally targeted certain habitats where we knew various amphibian species would occur. Since amphibians are generally bound to water to complete their life cycle, they can be targeted based on the aquatic habitat that they reproduce in.

Stream

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Pond

Photo copyright of: Chris Andrews

Bromeliads

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Reptiles on the other hand, can be a bit trickier to come across. This is especially true in a dense Rainforest.

Our strategy for finding reptiles was to first look for species that are known to occur around human habitation. Arboreal geckos tend to thrive in disturbed areas in and around human dwellings. Sheds and other human structures provide excellent habitat for geckos to find mates, lay eggs, and most importantly eat! The lights at night attract thousands of insects for this group of lizards to feed on.

Farm Shed

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Yellow-headed gecko

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Turnip Tailed Gecko

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Next, we spent a lot of time in the Rainforest targeting our amphibians based on habitats. Ponds are perfect places for certain frogs to find mates and lay eggs. This is a good place to find the reptiles that feed on frogs in addition to water loving turtles.

Fer-de-lance

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

White-lipped mud turtle

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Stream or riparian zones are another area where amphibians such as glass frogs choose to reproduce. We were able to find several reptile species along these fast moving streams at night.

Brown basilisk

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Slug eater

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Snail eater

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

The other reptiles we encountered on our trip were found simply by being in the right place at the right time. This usually means spending a lot of time “in the field” to increase chances of such encounters.

Black Iguana

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Croc

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Green basilisk

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Hognose viper

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Racer

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Overall we were able to find 25 species of reptiles on our trip, and collected 7 species to bring back with us. Keep an eye on the blog for when these new species will be on display on the Costa Rica level of our Rainforest Exhibit!


Filed under: Herpetiles — rainforest @ 5:13 pm

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