Developing research and higher education on animal biodiversity and wildlife conservation in the Caribbean

A species of snake endemic to Martinique probably extinct

Tue 21 Mar, 2017

The Caribbean region is considered to be one of the main hotspots of biodiversity throughout the world, i.e. an area characterized by a large number of endemic plant and animal species. For instance, 93% of reptilian species present in this area cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

Among them, a non-venomous species of snake, Erythrolamprus cursor, is specifically endemic to Martinique. Although the species was commonly observed in the 18th century, since 1965 it has been sparsely observed in Martinique mainland. The two main reasons for its decline are the eradication of the species by the local people, who certainly confused it with another species of snake, the venomous lancehead Bothrops lanceolatus, and the introduction of the Indian mongoose Herpestes auropunctatus, at the end of the 19th century. Over the last years, Diamond Rock, a little islet located south-west of Martinique, was the only known location to host the species E. cursor.

In 2014, researchers decided to conduct the first extensive survey of the islet, to clarify the status of E. cursor. The study revealed that Diamond Rock gives unique conditions for this species to persist on the islet. Potential prey species have been captured during the study (Martinique’s anole Anolis roquet, seabird chicks, juvenile Antillean fruit-eating bat Brachyphylla cavernarum, and the invasive house mice Mus musculus). Although the islet does not host any potential predator, no signs of the presence of E. cursor could be detected during the survey. Therefore, it is probable that E. cursor is now extinct since Diamond Rock was the last place where this species had been observed.

Christopher Cambrone
Etudiant en Master 2
Université de Bourgogne, France

Article :
Caut, S., & Jowers, M. J. (2016). Is the Martinique ground snake Erythrolamprus cursor extinct?. Oryx, 50, 545-548.

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