Fauna of Bimini

Along with the amazing marine life that is found around the islands of Bimini, there is another world of extraordinary and endangered wildlife moving softly above the water line. Bimini serves as home for an abundance of beautiful terrestrial animals, from birds and reptiles to amphibians and insects.

Far from naming all of these different animal & plant species found here in Bimini, we have included just a few key and notable examples and hope you will enjoy discovering more about them. 

The Bimini Boa (Epicrates striatus fosteri)
Photo Credit: CJ Crooks
 
On August 14, 1941 Thomas Barbour - the legendary Curator of Amphibians and Reptiles of Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology- described a new boa as "black as a raven's wing- with a glittering pearly iridescence of extraordinary beauty" from North Bimini, Bahamas. Although new to science, the boa was already well-known to the Bimini Islanders as one of the "fowl snakes" native to the Bahamas. The snake in question, the Bimini boa (Epicrates striatus fosteri) is currently considered to be a close relative, or subspecies, of the Hispaniolan boa of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, but the relationship is not readily apparent. The Bimini boa differs from the Hispaniolan boa in terms of its coloration and pattern. The Hispaniolan boa is marked with somber tones of chestnut and dusky brown, whilst the Bimini boa is resplendent with its ground color of shimmering black, decorated by a series of irregular grey blotches along the length of the back and a contrasting creamy white belly. 

One of the most amazing attributes of this snake is its large adult size (ca. 8+ feet) along with the density of the populations that once existed on North and South Bimini. Their numbers were affected in the late sixties and early seventies when hundreds of these snakes were removed from the Bimini Islands for the pet trade. No ecological studies have ever been published on the Bimini boa, but it is likely that it inhabits a variety of subtropical dry forest habitats on Bimini- including mangrove, where the adults feed opportunistically on rats and birds. Juveniles tend to feed on smaller prey, such as Anolis lizards and Eleutherodactylus frogs.

Mating takes place in early spring and the young are born in early fall. As in other subspecies of E. striatus, the Bimini boa has relatively large litters of ca. 20 baby snakes, each weighing ca. 15 g at birth. Similar to other species of boas, the young are born alive and are ready to hunt within days with no parental care. Litter size within the species is dependent on female body size. Younger, smaller females will have smaller litters, whilst larger individuals will have larger litters. Bimini boas reach sexual maturity in 3-5 years, depending on how successfully they are able to hunt and grow. While males will attempt to mate each year, females reproduce biennially, or every other year.

The future of this beautiful snake is uncertain. Once common on all the Bimini Islands, including East Bimini, North Bimini, South Bimini, and Easter Cay, populations have evidently been much reduced by human persecution, illegal collection, and development. Long ago, in the forties, Barbour lamented about "the extermination of what few land vertebrates there were once to be found on such islands as Cat Cay and Gun Cay."
 

Editors note: recently through the efforts of the Sharklab and others the Bimini population has been made aware of the importance of this exquisite boa. As a result of this the Bimini boa populations have blossomed, especially on south Bimini. Today Sharklab and others have placed PIT tags on several dozen Bimini Boas and have tracked several under the guidance of Grant Johnson, former Sharklab manager.

 
Text Courtesy of:
Peter J. Tolson, Ph.D
Director of Conservation & Research
The Toledo Zoo
P.O. Box 1401030
Toledo, OH 43614-0801
Phone: (419) 385-5721 x2112
FAX: (419) 385-6924
Mangroves of Bimini

Photo Credit: CJ Crooks

 

For as small as the islands of Bimini are, their ecological importance to the Bahamas, and beyond, is huge. Uniting the unique wildlife above and below the waters of North, South, & East Bimini is an assortment of trees that create the foundation of Bimini's ecological diversity. The seasonal migrations of birds that pass through Bimini, the rare endemic reptiles that scurry around the landscape, and the abundance of marine life that has made Bimini legendary all rely on the same foundation. That foundation is the mangroves of Bimini.

Mangrove trees have evolved to thrive in the harsh, inhospitable zone between land and sea. Stemming from their unique biology and geographical distribution, is the fact that mangroves constitute one of the most productive, and biologically diverse, ecosystems on the planet.

Unfortunatey, unlike in other areas of the world, the mangroves in the Bahamas are not protected by law. This does not take away from their immense value to the islands they are found on, and the country as a whole. The mangroves of the Bahamas provide essential nursery habitat for well over 100 species of fish and marine invertebrates. Such species include commercially important species as snappers (Lutjanus spp.), spiny lobster (Panulirus argus), queen conch (Strombus gigas), and the nassau grouper (Epinephelus striatus). Other rare and important species that utilize the mangrove lagoons of the Bahamas include the endangered smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata), the federally protected Bimini boa (Epicrates striatus), and the national bird of the Bahamas, the West Indian flamingo (Phoenicpterus ruber).

The mangroves of the Bahamas are home to such an abundance of wildlife, that it is difficult to exaggerate their ecological value. Unbeknownst to many, perhaps the species that benefits from them most is humans. Live mangroves represent a resource that not only has ecological value, but also huge economic and social value.

Mangroves serve as a buffer between land and sea, providing vital protection to the coastal shorelines and communities that they outline. The mangroves not only enhance the stabilization of the shoreline during normal tidal events, but also during extreme conditions, such as hurricanes and tsunami's. The protection they provide during events such as these is to date unmatched by any man-made product. With global warming increasing the frequency and intensity of tropical storms, many countries around the world are trying to devise ways to protect themselves, not with concrete barricades and storm walls, but with mangroves.

The economic value of Bahamian mangroves comes not only from their ability to prevent destruction, but also in their ability to enhance tourism. Eco-tourism is one of the fastest growing aspects of the Bahamian tourism industry, and few features of the Bahamian landscape offer as much diversity and opportunity as the mangroves. Additionally, studies have proven that healthy mangrove ecosystems have a direct link to healthy and productive coral reefs and off-shore fisheries.

Despite the overwhelming & obvious evidence of the importance & value of mangroves, they are still being exploited and destroyed around the world. The islands of Bimini harbor the only mangrove habitat on the entire western Great Bahama Bank, a fact so significant that Bimini was designated as the highest priority site for a Marine Protected Area by the Bahamas government back in 2000. Yet today, Bimini's mangrove habitat shrinks smaller and smaller as a result of foreign development.

As the mangroves of Bimini disappear, so too will the natural beauty that has made these islands such an amazingly unique place. Without a foundation to grow from, the ecology of the islands will collapse. Hopefully soon, both visitors and locals will embrace Bimini's natural beauty and all it has to offer, ecologically, economically, and culturally.

Bimini Island Ground Boa (Tropidophis canus curtus)
The Bimini Ground boa, or Dwarf boa, has been documented on Bimini, New Providence, and the Cay Sal Bank. This elusive boa has only been reported a few times on Bimini, the last time being in the 1950's. Amazingly, in May of 2006 the BBFS caught and tagged two individuals of this species. It was a first for the BBFS, not only to tag one, but just to see it. It's diet includes a variety of frogs & lizards, and it employs an unusual defense of auto-hemorrhaging from its eyes and mouth when threatened.
 
Bahamian Brown Racer (Alsophis vudii picticeps)
The Brown Racers are the most common snakes in the Bahamas, and Bimini's beautiful sub-species is often sighted on both South Bimini and North Bimini. Racers are quite active, diurnal snakes, and can often be found hunting for food in the wooded areas of South Bimini. The BBFS staff has witnessed Brown Racers feeding on Anolis lizards, and even on a Pink Blind Snake (Typhlops biminensis) near a termite mound. The Bahamian Brown Racer is a rear-fanged colubrid snake and is mildly venomous. The Racers' venom is used to immobilize small prey, such as Anolis lizards, and poses little or no threat to humans.
 
Bahamian Pink Blind Snake (Typhlops biminensis)
The Pink Blind Snakes are more common on Bimini than the Brown Blind Snake, and are often mistaken for earth-worms. They can commonly be found hiding under rocks and logs near ant nests, and around termite mounds, where they can easily feed on the tiny insects inside. Blind snakes are the most primitive group of snakes.
 
Bahamian Brown Blind Snake (Typhlops lumbricalis)
The Brown Blind Snake is found on most of the larger islands of the Bahamas, including the Abacos, Andros, the Berry Islands, Eleuthra, Cat Island, Long Island, and throughout the Exuma chain. On Bimini they are most commonly seen in rotting logs, and under rocks.
 
Bimini Ameiva (Ameiva auberi richmondi)
The sub-species of Bimini Ameiva is a very common sight during the day time. This family of lizards is heat loving inhabiting both wooded and developed areas of the island. The ameivas are very fast moving lizards, and are likely to quickly flee when approached.
 
Cuban Twig Anole (Anolis angusticeps)
The Cuban Twig Anole is found throughout the Bahamas, but is not as commonly seen as some of the other Anolis lizards due to it's camouflage color. The Twig Anole hides easily amongst the branches and stumps of the Bahamian woods, where it feeds upon such small prey as aphids.
 
Hispaniolan Gracile Anole (Anolis distichus biminensis)
Bimini's sub-species of Hispaniolan Gracile Anole is a beautiful and common site around the island. This Anole is a fast moving, restless lizard that can be found near forested areas as well as near houses and other developed areas. This is another Anolis lizard that is common around the BBFS property.
 
Cuban Brown Anole (Anolis sagrei)
The Cuban Brown Anoles are another Anolis found throughout the Bahamas. Unlike most of the other Anoles on Bimini, which spend most of their time in trees, the Cuban Brown Anoles are more commonly seen on the ground or displaying their dewlaps on the BBFS porch and garden.
 
Bahamian Green Anole (Anolis smaragdinus lerneri)
The Green Anoles are very commonly seen around South Bimini during the day time. Most of their day is spent perched on tree branches and leaves, including many of the palm trees scattered around the BBFS yard. Green Anoles have excellent camouflage and are quick to hide from people when approached.
 
Black-Dotted Dwarf Gecko (Sphaerodactylus nigropunctatus flavicauda)
This sub-species, also called the 3-Banded Dwarf Gecko, is found only on the western Great Bahama Bank, and the Cay Sal Bank. Like other S. nigropunctatus, they are common not only in wooded natural areas, but in developed areas as well.
 
Ocellated Dwarf Gecko (Sphaerodactylus argus)
The Ocellated Gecko is found throughout the West Indies, as well as Southern Florida. Similar to the other two Sphaerodactylus species found on Bimini, these lizards are most often seen in dry forested areas under rocks and leaf litter.
 
Reef Gecko (Sphaerodactylus notatus amaurus)
The Reef Geckos are commonly found in dark, shaded areas or under logs and rocks. Sphaero eggs are also a common sight hidden amongst homes and within roof-tops. None of the three species of Dwarf Gecko found on Bimini grow longer than about 6 – 7cm, and they are often mistaken for juveniles of some of the larger lizards on the island.
 
Tropical House Gecko (Hemidactylus mabouia)
The House Gecko, which grows considerably larger than the Sphaerodactylus genus of geckos, is an introduced species to the Bahamas. This gecko is native to tropical Africa, and is most commonly seen around house lights at night, waiting for curious bugs and insects to prey on.
 
Saw Scaled Curly-Tail Lizard (Leiocephalus carinatus coryi)
Curly-Tail Lizards are a very common sight around Bimini, especially on North Bimini. They are an omnivorous feeder, eating such things as flowers, seeds, spiders, roaches, and large quantities of ants.

Greenhouse Frog (Eleutherodactylus planirostris planirostris)
Only two amphibians have been documented on Bimini, both of which are species of frogs. Greenhouse frogs are found throughout the West Indies, including most of the islands of the Bahamas. They are usually found in damp areas, such as under leaf piles or near gardens. The Greenhouse frogs' diet consists mainly of insects, especially ants. Full grown, these frogs are quite small and are a favorite prey item of some of the reptiles on Bimini, including young Bimini boas.

Cuban Tree Frog (Osteopilus septentrionalis)

Cuban Tree frogs are much more commonly seen around Bimini than the Greenhouse frogs, in large part because they grow considerably larger than the Greenhouse frog. During the summer months the distinctive vocalization of these frogs can be heard from seemingly everywhere, both in wooded areas and around homes. The larger size of the Cuban Tree frog is attributed to the wider variety in its diet, which includes beetles, roaches, bugs and even small crustaceans and other frogs.

Close content
Open content