Update on the natural history and conservation status of the Saint Lucia racer, Erythrolamprus ornatus Garman, 1887 (Squamata, Dipsadidae)

Robert James Williams, Toby Ross, Matthew Morton, Jennifer Daltry, Lenn Isidore

Abstract


The ground snake Erythrolamprus ornatus is a dipsadid endemic to Saint Lucia, West Indies; it is currently categorized as Endangered on the IUCN Red List. There have been no sightings of the snake on the main island of Saint Lucia since the 1800’s, and although the species is believed to have once been common on Saint Lucia prior to the introduction of the small Indian mongoose (Herpestes javanicus), by 1936 the species was presumed extinct. In 1973, a single E. ornatus was found on the mongoose free, 9.4 ha (12.3 ha surface area) islet of Maria Major, less than one kilometer off the southern tip of Saint Lucia. All subsequent accounts of the species have been from Maria Major alone. Here we report the findings of the first detailed study of the population size, diet, and ecology of the Saint Lucia racer, which took place on Maria Major over 30 days between October 2011 and March 2012. Daylight searches produced a total of 41 snake encounters resulting in capture of 11 individuals. Capture Mark Recapture (CMR) and encounter rate index based estimates of population size suggest there are fewer than 50 mature individuals on Maria Major. We therefore propose a revised classification of Critically Endangered. Erythrolamprus ornatus on Maria Major appear to be smaller and less colorful than individuals once described from the main island of Saint Lucia, possibly the effects of a genetic bottleneck in this isolated population. 


Keywords


Erythrolamprus; endemic snake; Saint Lucia, ground snake; conservation status

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