Jamaica is the third largest of the Greater Antilles and lies about 145 km south of Cuba and 190 km west of Hispaniola. Mountains dominate the island, surrounded by a narrow coastal plain. When the Spanish first arrived in 1494 it was still almost entirely forested, but before long most were cut down and replaced by cultivation. Various plants and animals were also introduced, many of them quite harmful. As a consequence, a number of native species and subspecies were exterminated.
The Jamaican monkey (Xenothrix mcgregori) is known only from subfossil remains. It is believed to have survived up until 1500 at least, and perhaps until some time after 1700.
The Jamaican hutia (Geocapromys brownii) is, with the exception of bats, the only survivor of Jamaica’s original land mammals. It is patchily distributed in remote karstic areas, hills, and mountains of the south-east.
The Jamaican rice rat (Oryzomys antillarum) was last reported in 1877. It was likely extinct since about the 1880s, a victim of introduced mongooses.
The Jamaican red bat (Lasiurus degelidus) is known only from a handful of localities scattered throughout Jamaica.
Two hypothetical species of macaw (Ara) are now extinct, if indeed they ever existed in the first place. The Jamaican red macaw (A. gossei) is known only from a single specimen taken in 1765, in the mountains of Hanover parish. The bird was stuffed and formally described but later disappeared. The Jamaican red-headed macaw (A. erythrocephala) was said to live in the mountains of Trelawny and Saint Anne parishes, in northern Jamaica. Said to have become extinct about 1810, it is considered dubious today.
The black-billed Amazon (Amazona agilis) and the yellow-billed Amazon (A. collaria) were both historically common throughout the interior of Jamaica but have suffered declines due to loss of habitat, hurricanes, hunting for food, and collection for the international pet trade.
The Jamaican wood rail (Amaurolimnas concolor concolor) was historically common throughout the island, but was last collected in 1881. It was likely extinct around 1890.
The Jamaican poorwill (Siphonorhis americana) has not been positively reported since 1860, but may still survive in remote areas throughout the island.
The ring-tailed pigeon (Patagioenas caribaea) remains widespread throughout the wetter areas of Jamaica, but has been greatly reduced due to hunting and loss of habitat. The Jamaican plain pigeon (P. inornata exigua) had already become scarce as early as 1840 due to hunting, and remains very localized.
The Jamaican blackbird (Nesopsar nigerrimus) is found disjunctly across Jamaica in the highland areas of Cockpit Country, the Central Hills and the Blue and John Crow mountains. It is everywhere uncommon and threatened by loss of habitat.
The Jamaican golden swallow (Tachycineta euchrysea euchrysea) was last recorded in 1989, and is thought to have been driven to extinction by mammalian nest-predators.
The Jamaican collared least gecko (Sphaerodactylus gilvitorques) is known only from a single specimen collected during the nineteenth century from an undefined locality in Jamaica.
The Jamaican black racer (Hypsirhynchus ater) is a large snake that was historically widespread across the island at all elevations, but proved easy prey to introduced mongooses. It has not been reported with certainty since the nineteenth century, although a possible sighting in 2010 from central Jamaica gives hope that a small population may still survive.
Harlan’s bromeliad tree frog (Osteopilus crucialis) is found widely but patchily throughout Jamaica, and is everywhere threatened by loss of habitat.
The Arntully rain frog (Eleutherodactylus orcutti) is historically known from eastern Jamaica (Portland, Saint Thomas, and Saint Andrew parishes). Described as abundant at some localities up until the mid-1980s, it thereafter suffered a drastic decline most likely due to a combination of habitat destruction and disease. Since then only a single individual has been recorded, and the species may be extinct. The bromeliad rain frog (E. jamaicensis) was historically found over a wide area of central and eastern Jamaica but has undergone a massive decline most likely due to chytridiomycosis. Last officially recorded in 1987, there have been only a few unverified reports since from a few scattered localities. Andrews’ rain frog (E. andrewsi) is known only from a few localities in eastern Jamaica (Portland, Saint Thomas, and Saint Andrew parishes). The yellow-bellied rain frog (E. pentasyringos) is confined to a few localities in eastern Jamaica (Portland, Saint Thomas, and Saint Andrew parishes).
Mountains dominate the interior of Jamaica and provide much of the island’s remaining wildlife habitats.
The Jamaican petrel (Pterodroma caribbaea) is (or was) a small, nocturnal seabird that was common up until the midnineteenth century. Last collected in 1879, it is most likely extinct, although a small population may still survive in the Blue and John Crow mountains of the east.
The Blue Mountains
The Blue Mountains are located in eastern Jamaica (Portland and Saint Thomas parishes), and include the island’s highest point (Blue Mountain Peak).
The Blue Mountain Peak rain frog (Eleutherodactylus alticola) and the red-eyed rain frog (E. nubicola) are both known only from the Blue Mountains.
Lowland Moist Forests
Small areas of lowland moist forest are still to be found throughout much of coastal Jamaica.
Molesworth’s galliwasp (Celestus molesworthi) is known from north-eastern coastal Jamaica (Portland parish), where it is seriously threatened by loss of habitat and predation by feral cats and mongooses. Barbour’s galliwasp (C. barbouri) is found patchily in north-central Jamaica.
The Jamaican sharpnosed least gecko (Sphaerodactylus oxyrhinus) from western Jamaica has not been seen since 1984. The Jamaican tailspot least gecko (S. dacnicolor) is known from a small area of eastern Jamaica (Portland and Saint Thomas parishes), which was last collected in 1987. Richardson’s least gecko (S. richardsoni) is found disjunctly along the northern coast of Jamaica (Hanover, Saint James, Trelawny, Saint Ann, and Saint Mary parishes).
The Jamaican boa (Chilabothrus subflavus) remains widespread in suitable habitat, but is decreasing in number due to predation by introduced species and human persecution.
The Jamaican long-tailed racerlet (Hypsirhynchus polylepis) is a type of ground-dwelling snake largely confined to eastern coastal Jamaica (Portland and Saint Thomas parishes), with a disjunct population near the city of Kingston on the south coast.
Wilder’s bromiliad tree frog (Osteopilus wilderi) and Mariana’s bromiliad tree frog (O. marianae) are both found patchily in central Jamaica, where they are threatened by loss of habitat.
Junor’s rain frog (Eleutherodactylus junori) is known from four localities within the central uplands of Jamaica, but has only been observed with confidence at one of them for more than a century. Grabham’s rain frog (E. grabhami) is known from a few localities within a relatively wide area of western and central Jamaica. The ear-spotted rain frog (E. fuscus) and the masked rain frog (E. luteolus) are both known only from a few localities in north-western Jamaica. All are threatened by loss of habitat, introduced frog species, and, perhaps, chytrid fungus.
Cockpit Country is an extensive area in north-western Jamaica (Trelawny, Saint Elizabeth, Saint James, Manchester, and Clarendon parishes) notable for its steep-sided hollows, hills, and ridges. Its wet limestone forests provide an important refuge for a number of species.
The bromeliad galliwasp (Celestus fowleri) is a type of lizard known only from the area around Winsor Cave in Cockpit Country.
The Cockpit eyespot least gecko (Sphaerodactylus semasiops) is known only from Cockpit Country, where it has not been reported since 1985.
The leaf mimic rain frog (Eleutherodactylus sisyphodemus) is known only from a single imprecise locality in south-western Trelawny parish. Last seen in 1987, it may be extinct owing to a combination of habitat destruction and chytridiomycosis. Crombie’s rain frog (E. griphus) is confined to two governmentowned forest reserves in Saint James and Trewlawny parishes.
Lowland Dry Forests
Areas of tropical dry forest are to be found in southern Jamaica, the most extensive of which are to be found within the Portland Bight Protected Area, which includes the Hellshire Hills and the Portland Ridge. These limestone hills have been described as one of the last substantial areas of primary, undisturbed dry forest in all of the Caribbean.
The Jamaican iguana (Cyclura collei) was historically common in the drier areas of the southern coast, but declined drastically during the latter part of the nineteenth century most likely due to predation by introduced mongooses. Since at least 1910 it has been confined to the Hellshire Hills (Saint Catherine parish), where it was long feared extinct. However, single individuals were recorded there in 1969 and in 1990, both found by hunter’s dogs. A survey in the latter year revealed a surviving population of fewer than 100, which are now given a measure of protection.
The small-eyed galliwasp (Celestus microblepharis) is a type of lizard known only from a single specimen collected in 1952 from northern coastal Jamaica (Saint Mary parish). Extensive searches since have failed to rediscover the species, which is most likely extinct. The blue-tailed galliwasp (C. duquesneyi) is confined to the Portland Ridge and to the Hellshire Hills of southern Jamaica (Saint Catherine and Clarendon parishes).
Parker’s least gecko (Sphaerodactylus parkeri) occurs in five disjunct areas along the southern coast of Jamaica.
The glittering skink (Spondylurus fulgidus) was historically found along the entire southern coast of Jamaica, but has been extirpated almost everywhere due to habitat destruction and predation by mongooses, feral cats, and black rats. It is now believed to survive only in the Hellshire Hills and, perhaps, the Portland Ridge.
Isolated Caves, Springs, and Pools
The Jamaican flower bat (Phyllonycteris aphylla) was long thought to be extinct, but is now known to survive in eastcentral Jamaica (Saint Catherine parish), where it roosts in just two caves. A sizeable colony formerly roosted in St. Clair Cave but has been extirpated, and fossilized remains have been found in other caves as well. In 2015 the total population was estimated at less than 250.
The Jamaican giant gecko (Tarentola albertschwartzi) is known only from a type specimen collected during the nineteenth century from an unknown locality in Jamaica. If it still persists it may prove to be a cave-dwelling species.
The cavern rain frog (Eleutherodactylus cavernicola) is confined to a few wet limestone caves in southern coastal Jamaica (Saint Catherine and Clarendon parishes).
St. Clair Cave
St. Clair Cave is located in south-central Jamaica (Saint Catherine parish). It is unprotected and vulnerable to human disturbance.
The Jamaican greater funnel-eared bat (Natalus jamaicensis) is known only from St. Clair Cave, where it is seriously threatened by feral cats. The total population is estimated at around 50.
The Black River Morass
The Black River Morass is an extensive area of salt marsh and swamp forest located in south-western Jamaica (Westmoreland and Saint Elizabeth parishes).
The Jamaican giant galliwasp (Celestus occiduus) is (or was) a large lizard last reported in 1840. Likely driven to extinction by introduced predators, it may survive in small numbers within the Black River Morass.
Lakes and Rivers
The Jamaican slider (Trachemys terrapen) is a type of turtle found in freshwater areas of both Jamaica and The Bahamas. As it is not found on any of the surrounding islands in the region it is assumed to have been introduced from one of these countries to the other, although it is currently impossible to say which. It is threatened by feral cats and raccoons.