Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Antiguan Racer

Alsophis antiguae
The Antiguan Racer is believed to be the rarest snake in the entire world. It is so rare, in fact, that in 1995 there were only 50 left! The Racers grow to lengths of around 1m, prefer to live in shady areas, and are completely harmless to humans.

Unfortunately, humans were farm from harmless toward the Racer population, which dwindled due to human involvement and introduced predators. When colonists arrived on the island of Antigua, they inadvertently brought Black Rats along with them. The Rats multiplied quickly, feeding on crops and Racer eggs, among other things. The farmers, wanting to get rid of the rats, introduced Asian Mongooses. Unfortunately, the Mongooses also fed on Snakes, and not just their eggs. It wasn't long before the Antiguan Racer was completely extinct on the island of Antigua itself. They continued to survive in small numbers on the Mongoose free Great Bird Island.

Though they were free from Mongooses on Great Bird Island, the snakes still had to worry about Rats, natural disasters (like hurricanes and droughts), and a loss of genetic diversity due to inbreeding. In 1995, when the population hit 50 individuals, a successful effort was made to eradicate all Rats from Great Bird.

The population doubled with the loss of the Rats, but it was discovered that the island was too small to sustain a larger snake population. Efforts are ongoing to remove Rats and Mongooses from other offshore islands, so that the snakes can be reintroduced there as well.

IUCN Status : Critically Endangered
Location : Antigua
Size : Length up to 1m
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Sauropsida -- Order : Squamata
Family : Colubridae -- Genus : Alsophis -- Species : antiguae

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