Cayman supports several species of frogs.
No native frogs are poisonous or a danger to humans.
Cuban Treefrog (Osteopilus septentrionalis)
The Cuban treefrog (Osteopilus septentrionalis), also known as the ‘bullfrog’, is commonly found throughout the Northern Caribbean region including Cuba, most of the Bahama Islands and all three Cayman Islands.
On Grand Cayman in particular, the Cuban treefrog is widespread and often seen around fresh water bodies such as cisterns, water barrels and within close vicinity of buildings. After heavy rain showers the treefrogs often come out in large numbers where they can be heard calling in loud choruses. During late spring this behaviour is part of their mating ritual.
The Cuban treefrog is easily identified by a bright yellow colouration (resembling a highligher pen), on the inside of their back legs.
Greenhouse Frog (Eleutherodactylus planirostris planirostris)
Originally endemic to Cuba, this small frog has made its home on several islands of the West Indies as well as in southern Florida and Key West. In the Cayman Islands it is found on all three islands (although to a lesser extent on Little Cayman) where a broad range of habitats such as gardens, forests, caves and arboreal bromeliads are available.
The Greenhouse Frog (Eleutherodactylus planirostris planirostris) feeds primarily on small insects like beetles, ants and cockroaches. It breeds from May – September where eggs are laid in humid places under rocks and in crevices. Interestingly, there is no free aquatic tadpole stage in this species as the tadpole stage develops inside the egg. The miniature frog thus appear with a tiny tailbud and an “egg-tooth” to break open the capsule from the inside. Once hatched the Greenhouse froglet soon loose these early features.
Eastern Narrowmouth Toad (Gastrophryne carolinensis)
The Eastern Narrowmouth Toad (Gastrophryne carolinensis) is commonly found in the southeastern United States, however, it was introduced to Grand Cayman -most likely through shipments of exotic plants- and is now breeding on the island.
This secretive frog hides in burrows and crevices during the day and is primarily active at night. Its breeding pattern depends heavily on rainfall and occur from March – September. Each female can deposit as many as 850 eggs on freshwater surfaces and tadpoles are only around 25mm long. Adult Narrowmouth Toads feed primarily on ants and have been seen to live in association with fire ants.
The Cane Toad (Bufo marinus)
The Cane Toad is a highly invasive species. Cane Toads, Bufo marinus, have been introduced to the Cayman Islands in shipping containers on several occasions. To the best of our knowledge, all these individuals have been captured and dealt with. They are highly invasive and have colonised many islands in the Caribbean, causing great ecological damage here and in many countries around the world. Cane Toads are prolific breeders and voracious predators. They tend to swallow their prey whole. They will eat small rodents, reptiles, other amphibians, birds, plants, a wide range of invertebrates and even dog food and household refuse.
In addition to their predatory nature, Cane Toads are a threat to potential predators. The creatures are equipped with large poison sacs either side of their heads (a physical feature which identifies them apart from local frogs and toads). The poision is highly toxic, with the potential to harm larger predators (even crocodiles).
Cane Toads are generally not poisonous or dangerous to handle. However, avoid any contact with the poison, which is exuded from a gland behind their ears. The poison is only exuded by the toad when it is stressed, however, it is recommended that gloves be worn when handling.
- The poison also causes severe pain and possible permanent damage to your eyes. Any contact to your eyes must be irrigated out with water immediately and seek medical advise. We believe the poison is active for up to 36 hrs.
- Use strong thick plastic bags to collect toads that are hand caught in the field.
- Hands should always be washed after handling amphibians, as they have the potential to carry a variety of bacteria, including Salmonella.
Cythrid Fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis)
Cythrid is a particular type of fungus which is currently posing a major threat to most of the 6000 amphibian species on the planet. While most fungi live off dead and decaying matter, the cythrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis or “Bd” infects the skin of living amphibians. Once infected frogs often develop a disease called ”chytridiomycosis” which is the direct cause of several major population declines as well as species extinctions.
For more detailed information on “Bd”, how it is spread, its symptoms and diagnosis please visit the Amphibian Ark.
Grand Cayman Blue Iguana (Cyclura lewisi)
DOE staff member Jessica Harvey teamed up with Laura Casolino and Douglas Bell of the Blue Iguana Recovery Program (BIRP) to show the differences between Green Iguanas (Iguana iguana) and Blue Iguanas (Cyclura lewisi) with both species in the same place!
“Methuselah” a long time resident and founding male blue iguana at BIRP featured here sits calmly on the far left, while Laura and Douglas skillfully hold an adult female and male iguana respectfully for comparison – both caught by facility warden Alberto Estevanovich.
Know the Difference!
The key to telling hem apart is not to just go by colour as neither species stay ‘green’ or ‘blue’ all the time or as they age. Instead, look at the:
- CREST: Long, straggly crest = green; short, even crest = blue;
- CHEEK: cucumber-like cheek scale = green; no cheek scale = blue
- SPINES: tall, uneven, raggedy = green; short, even spines = blue
- TAIL: bold, black bands = green; no bands = blue
- EYES: yellow eyes = green; red eyes = blue
- FEET COLOUR: green/yellow/orange = green; black feet = blue
- DULAP: spines on edge of dulap = green; no spines on dulap = blue
Thanks again to Douglas, Laura, Alberto and Fred of BIRP who granted us special permission to be in the enclosure with Methuselah for an awesome educational opportunity! (And to guy Harvey for providing the picture.) Much more information about iguanas in the Cayman Islands can be found at the website of the National Trust’s Blue Iguana Recovery Program: http://www.blueiguana.ky.
Sister Islands Iguana (Cyclura caymanensis)
On the Sister Islands? No problem! The characteristics of the blue iguanas are the same as the sister islands rock iguanas (SIRIs) except a SIRIs body colour is brown with black markings, and blue iguanas are blue or blue grey. This is very important as all green iguanas sighted in the SISTER ISLANDS should be reported immediately! Please report any invasive iguanas on Cayman Brac to the Conservation Officer, Erbin Tibbetts, 926-0136.
The results of the Big Brac Iguana Count 2012 are now avaialble (as a PDF). Thanks to everyone who called in an iguana sighting to the hotline. For endangered species like this one every individual counts so keep reporting to the Brac iguana hotline, 917-7744.
Mat Cottam talked to Environemnt Break before the survey and information was released during the survey.
We also have a problem with invasive iguanas, as explained by Dr. Cottam on Environment Break. These are making their way to the sister islands and so we want people to report both indigenous and invasive iguanas on Cayman Brac to the iguana hotline, 917-7744.
Following the Cayman Brac survey one of our scaly friends needed some TLC, so after a trip to the vet Dr. Cottam put Nelson up in his shower. To keep him out of the rain. Injured rock iguana on road to recovery Unfortunately, they don’t all end that well, as we saw with ‘Little Girl’. But the DoE is working towards protecting those that are left.
Much more information about iguanas in the Cayman Islands can be found at the website of the National Trust’s Blue Iguana Recovery Program: http://www.blueiguana.ky.
The Cayman Islands are home to a variety of lizards. None of which are poisonous or a danger to humans.
Little Cayman Green Anole (Anolis maynardi)
Green Anole (Anolis maynardi)
The Little Cayman Green Anole (Anolis maynardi) is endemic to Little Cayman and as such was originally found nowhere else in the world. It has since its discovery been spotted on Cayman Brac (first in 1987), but initially only around the airport area -suggesting that the lizard had been carried in stowaway on the planes. The Green Anole is now widespread on Cayman Brac.
The Green Anole is easily identified by its elongated nose. It is still uncertain what function this characteristic has (although it is most likely an adaptation for feeding) and in males this shape is even more extreme than in females. Males are larger than females and use an extra flap of pale yellow-green skin on their throat to display to other individuals.
Their preferred habitat is above ground in trees of dry shrubland and forests.
Blue-throated Anole (Anolis conspersus conspersus)
The Western Grand Cayman Blue-throated Anole (Anolis conspersus conspersus) is commonly found throughout Grand Cayman and males can be easily recognised by their bright green to turquoise colour. While the anole is not a chameleon, it gets this common name due to its ability to change colour to dark brown or beige. Males are at their brightest blue during breeding season while females remain paler -often grey or light brown.
The blue-throated anoles are commonly seen above ground on trees and on the side of buildings. They are relatively shy with males preferring to flee upwards while females and juveniles seek to escape by hiding on ground level.
Grand Cayman curly-tailed lizard (Leiocephalus carinatus varius)
The Grand Cayman curly-tailed lizard (Leiocephalus carinatus varius), also known as the “lion lizard” is a common sight on Grand Cayman. Originally found mainly along isolated beach areas, this lizard can now be found on developed sites on rocks and concrete ground where it basks in the sun. It can be recognised by its characteristic curly tail -often arched over its back.
The curly-tailed lizard is ‘omnivorous’ which means it has a broad diet, feeding on vegetation (mainly flowers), insects and other lizards.
Geckos A variety of gecko species can be found on all three Cayman Islands.
Woodslave Gecko (Aristelliger praesignis praesignis)
The woodslave gecko is found on all three islands and is commonly active at night although it can be seen during the day resting in shaded areas on trees or in caves. It is mainly found above ground level in trees where it feeds on insects, but it can be found active inside houses late in the evening. It has been reported to ‘croak’ and produce a rattle-like sound but is entirely harmless.
Geckos do not have eyelids and use their tongue to clean their eyes!
There are four different types of snakes native to the Cayman Islands. No Cayman snakes pose any threat to people, cats or dogs!
Cayman Racer Snake (Alsophis) harmless
The Racer is Cayman’s largest and most common snake. Racers get their name from their slender form and fast-moving nature. They vary in colour from light to dark brown or grey, with a pale or pink underside and occasional pink scales flecked along the sides of their body. Adults can grow up to lengths of five feet or more and can appear quite formidable, however, individuals of this size are very rare. Individuals of 2-3 feet in length are much more common.
Large Racer snakes often cause concern amongst members of the public. In addition to their size, if cornered, Racers engage a defensive behaviour of raising their heads and flattening their necks. This behaviour is meant to intimidate potential attackers, but results in large Racers being mistaken for cobras. Racers are non-aggressive, and pose no threat to people, cats or dogs.
If you accidentally corner a Racer, back away and the snake will make its escape. If you accidentally tread on a Racer, the snake may wrap its body around your ankle as a defensive response. Stand still, and the snake will make its escape. If you are afraid of snakes and are walking in long grass, stamping your feet will encourage snakes to move away from your path. Snakes have limited hearing capacity, so shouting is ineffective, but they are very sensitive to vibrations.
If handled, Racers can produce a strong “garbage-smelling” chemical to deter predators.
Cayman Racers are endemic to the Cayman Islands and are found nowhere else in the world. Each of the three islands has its own endemic subspecies of Racer: Cubophis (Alsophis) cantherigerus caymanus in Grand Cayman, Cubophis (Alsophis) cantherigerus ruttyi in Little Cayman, and Cubophis (Alsophis) cantherigerus fuscicauda in Cayman Brac.
Because of the harmless nature and endemic status, the Cayman Racer is listed for protection under Part II of the draft National Conservation Law.
Cayman Racer constricts Green iguana
Racers feed on a variety of prey, including lizards and frogs. Large ones have been observed to take Green iguanas. Racers subdue their prey with a weak venom (which is not effective on humans), and occasionally constrict their prey.
Racers are naturally predated by crabs and birds. Many are killed on roads, and by people mistaking them for dangerous snakes.
Cayman Ground Boa (Tropidophis caymanensis) harmless
Like the Cayman Racer, the Cayman Ground Boa is completely harmless; however, it too is often mistaken for a dangerous snake. Cayman Ground Boas are variable in body colour, from pale (pictured above) through to light or very dark brown. Confusion is caused by the dark diamond patterning along their back, and the strange colouration of the tip of their tails, which is a pale cream / yellow colour, and superficially resembles a rattle. These characteristics often lead to Cayman Ground Boas being misidentified as baby rattlesnakes.
Cayman Ground Boas are very slow moving and docile, leading to their local names of Lazy Snake or Friendly Snake. Cayman Ground Boas are dwarf snakes, and specimens 1-2 feet in length are the norm. They prey on frogs and small lizards.
The yellow tail tip is signature to the Dwarf Ground Boa. This characteristic causes the main confusion between ground boas and rattle snakes. Ground Boas are harmless and are a different species from rattle snakes.
Cayman Ground Boa tail. The yellow tail tip is a distinctive feature of the Cayman Ground Boa. This characteristic causes confusion between ground boas and rattle snakes. Rattle snakes are not found in the Cayman Islands.
Cayman Ground Boas are endemic to the Cayman Islands and are found nowhere else in the world. Each of the three islands has its own endemic subspecies of Ground Boa:
- Tropidophis caymanensis caymanensis in Grand Cayman,
- Tropidophis caymanensis parkeri in Little Cayman,
- Tropidophis caymanensis schwartzi in Cayman Brac.
Because of the harmless nature and endemic status, Cayman Ground Boas are listed for protection under Part II of the draft National Conservation Law.
Cayman Water Snake (Tretanorhinus variabilis lewisi) harmless
The Grand Cayman Water Snake inhabits fresh and brackish water pools in Grand Cayman. They are also sometimes to be found in cow wells. They are completely harmless and are not to be confused with sea snakes (some of which are notoriously venomous.)
Superficially, Grand Cayman Water Snakes most closely resemble Racers; however, they are darker in colour – almost black. They are most commonly encountered out of the water after heavy rains, when they can be found moving between water bodies through the wet undergrowth. They are highly aquatic and feed on small fish, such as mosquito fish.
The Grand Cayman Water Snake Tretanorhinus variabilis lewisi is endemic to Grand Cayman, and is found nowhere else in the world.
Because of its harmless nature and endemic status, the Grand Cayman Water Snake is listed for protection under Part II of the draft National Conservation Law.
Cayman Blind Snake (Typhlops caymanensisin, Typhlops epactia) harmless
Cayman Blind Snakes are most easily mistaken for large worms, but they are technically snakes, and like all native snakes, they are quite harmless.
Cayman Blind Snakes are small in size (reaching approximately one foot in length). Their mouth and eyes are much reduced – such that they appear almost featureless at first glance. They are variable in colour, with the back brown and the underside a lighter yellowish-white.
Blind Snakes burrow in the ground are so are rarely encountered by people, and very little is known of their natural history.
Cayman Blind Snakes are endemic to the Cayman Islands and are found nowhere else in the world. Both Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac have their own unique species of Blind Snake: Typhlops caymanensisin Grand Cayman, and Typhlops epactia in Cayman Brac.
Because of the harmless nature and endemic status, Cayman Blind Snakes are listed for protection under Part II of the draft National Conservation Law.
In addition to Cayman’s native snakes, two species have been introduced to the Cayman Islands. These are invasive species, and have now established feral populations in the islands. Both species are harmless to people and pets, but are undesirable from an ecological perspective as they compete with native wildlife for food and natural resources.
Corn snake (Elaphe guttata) harmless but invasive
Corn Snakes, Elaphe guttata, are highly variable in colour. Probably introduced through the pet-trade, a feral population of Corn Snakes is established in and around George Town on Grand Cayman. The variety most likely to be encountered has a bright body patterning of red, orange an grey (similar to that shown in the picture). Corn Snakes can grow up to five feet in length; however much smaller individuals are usually encountered. Corn Snakes are harmless to people and pets, but they are invasive.
Brahminy Blind Snake (Ramphotyphlops braminus) harmless but invasive
The Brahminy Blind Snake (Flower Pot Snake), Ramphotyphlops braminus, is easily mistaken for a worm. It is tiny. Most individuals are just 2-4 inches in length. Features such as mouth and eyes are much reduced, and barely distinguishable – indeed they most closely resemble a living pencil lead. The head end is more rounded. The rear end features a slightly hooked projection – likely to assist in pushing the snake forward through the soil.
Brahminy Blind Snakes were introduced to Cayman, likely through the landscaping industry. As their common name (Flower Pot Snake) suggests, they are often to be found sheltering beneath plant pots.
Brahminy Blind Snakes are harmless to people and pets, but they are invasive.
Hickatees (Trachemys decussata angusta)
The hickatee, Trachemys decussata angusta, is a medium-sized freshwater turtle, also called a “slider”. They can be found in fresh and brackish water pools around the islands. Hickatees are most commonly seen poking their heads out from beneath the waterline, in order to draw breath. They are also commonly seen basking on rocks, mangrove roots and partially submerged tree stumps, to heat their bodies in the sunshine.
Hickatees are freshwater turtles, and cannot survive for more than a week in sea water. They are omnivorous; feeding mostly on aquatic vegetation and insects.
There is some uncertainty as to the historical origins of Hickatees. It is known that they have been in the islands for a very long time, but no remains have yet been found in the fossil record in Cayman. As a result, it is currently unclear as to whether their origins are truly native, or if perhaps, they were introduced here by early sailors to the islands.
Hickatees are not currently protected in the Cayman Islands, however, they are listed for protection under Part II of the draft National Conservation Law.
More recently introduced to the islands is the Red-eared slider Trachemys scripta. This species is closely related to the Hickatee and was introduced to the Cayman Islands by way of the pet trade. Red-eared sliders make attractive pets as young turtles, however, as they grow to adult sizes they become less manageable, and it would appear that deliberate releases into the wild and escapes have contributed to the establishment of a large feral population. Red-eared sliders now breed in the wild in Cayman.
Invasive Red-eared slider, (Trachemys scripta elegans)
Because the two species are closely related, Red-eared sliders are also capable of interbreeding with Hickatees. This produces hybrids.
Red-eared sliders are not currently protected in the Cayman Islands, and they are not listed for protection under the draft National Conservation Law.
Red-eared sliders can be distinguished from Hickatees by their generally bolder and brighter body patterning, and by the distinctive red-orange stripe behind the eye. Hybrids make exhibit a mixture of features.
Both species have the potential to deliver a strong bite, and like most reptiles, they can carry salmonella and transmit this to humans. Care should taken when handling any turtles, and hands should always be washed afterwards.