Cnemidophorus lemniscatus (Squamata: Teiidae) on Cayo Cochino Pequeño, Honduras: Extent of Island Occupancy, Natural History, and Conservation Status

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Herpetological Conservation and Biology


Cayo Cochino Pequeño (CCP) is a western Caribbean island with a surface area of only 0.64 km2 in the Cayos Cochinos Archipelago, Department of Islas de la Bahía, Honduras. It is relatively ecologically complex, with high herpetofaunal diversity (one turtle, six snake, eight lizard, and one amphibian species), considering the size and location. Although not the largest island in the archipelago, it alone is inhabited by the widely distributed neotropical lizard Cnemidophorus lemniscatus (Rainbow Whiptail: Teiidae). Herein, we describe occupancy of C. lemniscatus on CCP, which uses a fraction of the ca. 7% of flat sandy terrain where the species would be expected. Over 90% of individuals of C. lemniscatus observed were on the southern part of the island in the East Beach windward zone. The remaining observations on C. lemniscatus were made at two newly discovered leeward beach sites, a leeward beach site from which it was reported in 1993, and the first inland forest site reported for this lizard. Most of the habitat used by C. lemniscatus on CCP is within 10 m of the high tide line, which exposes it to being over washed by periodic storm surges (e.g., Hurricane Mitch in 1998). Use of open beach and fringing beach strand vegetation by the species is primarily associated with reproductive and foraging activities. We used 25 of these lizards collected from CCP in 2005 and 2006 for preliminary analyses of diet and reproductive characteristics. Adult males averaged 67.7 ± 1.69 mm SVL and 7.6 ± 0.50 g mass; adult females averaged 63.6 ± 1.60 mm SVL and 6.0 ± 0.50 g mass. The SVL and clutch ranges of seven gravid females of C. lemniscatus from CCP were 57-67 mm and 1-2 eggs, respectively. Reproductive potential in this insular Caribbean population of C. lemniscatus is likely increased by an extended activity period, which allows for rapid maturation and multiple clutches per year, as reported for the species in other parts of its range. The diet of C. lemniscatus on CCP includes amphipods, arachnids, insects, and plant parts. The density of the species in parts of the island indicates that the population is successful under present conditions; however, the small areas of suitable habitat obviously make it susceptible to extirpation by both human and natural perturbations.


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