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THE WILDLIFE OF LITTLE SAN SALVADOR

Rod Attrill was a guest scientist on a cruise to the island by the schooner R/V Westward of the Sea Education Institute, Woods Hole, Mass. - this is his brief account of the general biology of the island with particular reference to the reptiles.

This is actually a photo of nearby San Salvador

Presently uninhabited, this island has in the past been cultivated probably fairly extensively. My observations were limited to the eastern end of the island during the 'Strombus'  Expedition. 
Behind South West Beach, the narrow flat area between the sea and the Lagoon is covered with secondary growth, the dominant species being Pithicellobium and Acacia. Strangely, no Poisonwood (Metopium toxiferum) was observed on the western end of the island.

The Poisonwood has an irritant sap. which can cause a painful rash.

 

To the west of the Lagoon much evidence of agriculture was found, especially the cultivation of sisal. The hills in this area have much Lignum vitae (Guaiacum sanctum) and gum-elemi (Bursera simaruba ). Throughout this area White Crowned Pigeons were very common, as was evidence of their nests. The island is in fact protected under the Wild Birds protection Act. Despite this, shell cases were commonly seen.

The Roseate Spoonbill is breeding in the southern islands of the Bahamas
 - mainly on Lake Rosa on Inagua.

The Lagoon is flushed by the sea in all parts and supports extensive Thalassia (Sea Grass) beds. At the eastern end algal reefs (with Porites ) form interesting assemblages of species.

The Southern Stingray is common on the
 grassy flats of the lagoon

 

Mangrove development is not extensive although the Red Mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) where found was flourishing. Black mangrove, White Mangrove, and Buttonwood fringed the Lagoon, but were never as predominant as they would become at higher salinities.

Several species of wading birds were present, although, scattered and in small numbers. Nowhere was the algal mat sufficient to support flamingos. Egret nests were seen but not in large numbers. It is likely that only a few pairs of heron or egret nest on Little San Salvador island. The southern coast, east of the inlet to the Lagoon is generally high and rocky, and favoured for the nesting of marine birds, in particular the white-tailed tropic bird and other burrowing seabirds such as Petrels and Shearwaters. A pair of Osprey had built their nest on one high crag, and at the time of our visit had one well-fledged young (Fig. 9).

Right - the Lignum Vitae - National tree of the Bahamas.

 

The eastern end of the island was not visited, but appeared to be mixed broadleaf coppice with Cocothrinax and Pseudophoenix palms. Metopium toxiferum was far more in evidence in the coppice at this end of the island. Altogether Little San Salvador Island is one of the more unspoilt islands. Its topography is considerably more variable than most, from the comparative1y steep hills to the Lagoon, and rocky south-eastern shore, but above all, its appeal lies in the absence of man's work. 

REPTILES AND AMPHIBIANS OF LITTLE SAN SALVADOR ISLAND  

The herpetofauna of Little San Salvador Island and adjacent islands is mainly of Cuban origin, the exceptions being the two sub-species of Epicrates, which owe their origin to the island of Hispaniola, and the Greenhouse Frog, Eleutherodactylus planirostris, which occurs in the continental United States. During the Wisconsin Ice Age, the island of Little San Salvador was continuous with the islands of Eleuthera to the north, and Cat Island to the south. Since that time geographical isolation has resulted in the formation of sub-species of some species. Epicrates striatus strigilatus is the boa of Eleuthera and E. s. ailutus is the boa of Cat Island. Eleutherodactylus p. planirostris is the frog of Eleuthera and E. p. rogersi, the frog of Cat Island. In the case of Epicrates and Eleutherodactylus any sub-species formed may be separate from either Cat Island or Eleuthera forms and hence of particular interest. In their checklist of reptiles and amphibians of the West Indies, Schwartz et al (1977) listed only one species for Little San Salvador. Evidently the island had been little studied. In the supplement to their checklist published December 1978, a further six species were added. The Strombus expedition added one more species bringing the total to eight.

The Bahamas Rock Iguana is found on a number of
islands including some in the Bight of Acklins.

The Strombus expedition did not cover every part of the island, but certainly representative habitats were covered. The species seen or collected on the Strombus expedition are as follows. Sphaerodactylus spp. These small Geckos live under leaf litter, particularly under the dead fronds of Cocothrinax palms. Two species were taken both differing considerably in coloration. Identification of these will await expert consultation. Schwartz records S. nigropunctatus gibbus for Little San Salvador and S. n nigropunctatus for Eleuthera and Cat Island.

Leiocephalus carinatus hodsoni

This curly-tail lizard seems to be the most abundant species, being found in the sand dunes, on coastal rocks, and in both broadleaf coppice and Cocothrinax and Pseudophoenix dominated vegetation. 

Anolis distichus dapsilis The Bahama Bark Anole is common in the broadleaf coppice to the eastern end of the Lagoon.

A. sagrei ordinatus - The Cuban Anole occurs in the same area as the above species. 

A. smaragdinus smaragdinus  - A1though I did not observe this species, one of the students reported seeing a "green lizard" which could only have been this species. A. s smaragdinus is morphologically similar to A. carolinensis which some authors believe to be the same species.  

Ameiva auberi thoracia This large teeid lizard is fairly widely distributed throughout dunes and coppice, but occurs nowhere in the same profusion as Leiocephalus.

Alsophus vudii vudii

The brown racer, endemic to the Bahamas, is a rear-fanged viper, although harmless. Several of these were observed in the secondary coppice behind South West Beach.

Eleutherodactylus planirostris This frog was collected from around a waterhole (freshwater) in a disturbed and recently cultivated area. Previously unrecorded from Little San Salvador, this frog may have been introduced accidentally from Eleuthera or cat island, or more likely, it may have been merely unobserved formerly. The sub-species has yet to be determined.

  R. Attrill