The Caribbean Realm
The Caribbean Zoogeographic Realm, as here defined, consists of the Lucayan Archipelago and the more than 7000 islands, islets, reefs, and cays of the Greater and Lesser Antilles. In the past it has been variously considered as part of either the Nearctic or Neotropical realms, and is in many ways a transition zone between the two. On the basis of its many endemic species, however, it is here treated separately. The islands within this realm, more properly known as the West Indies, are a geographically complex system stretching over 3000 km from the Florida peninsula to the northern coast of Venezuela. They consist of active volcanoes, low-lying coral atolls, raised limestone plateaus, and large fragments of continental crust containing tall mountains and insular rivers. Each of the three main archipelagos has a unique origin and geological composition. The Lucayan Archipelago, which includes the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands, is a chain of barrier reefs and low islands atop the Bahama Platform of the North American Plate. Its emergent islands likely formed from accumulated deposits of wind-blown sediments during Pleistocene glacial periods of lower sea levels. The Greater Antilles are geologically the oldest, and include both the largest islands (Cuba, Hispaniola, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico) and the tallest mountains in the Caribbean. Composed of strata of different ages as well as island arc deposits and oceanic crust, they originated near the Isthmian region of present-day Central America and drifted eastwards before finally arriving at their current location after colliding with the Bahama Platform around 56 million years ago. The islands have been continuously exposed since, although which areas were above sea level during this history remains unresolved. The Lesser Antilles, by contrast, are a volcanic island arc extending along the leading edge of the Caribbean Plate. Its major islands likely emerged less than 20 million years ago. Most of the West Indies were originally covered by tropical forests and scrub, and had one of Earth’s most impressive biodiversities. Many Amerindian cultures were historically indigenous to it as well, with evidence dating some of them back to the mid-sixth century bc. The first to arrive there are thought to have originated in northern South America from where they gradually swept north, wiping out many remarkable species in the process including giant owls and dwarf ground sloths. What remains is but a pale shadow.
Species and subspecies
The Caribbean monk seal (Neomonachus tropicalis) was formerly distributed throughout the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico eastwards to the Bahamas. In 1707 the latter islands were said to be ‘filled with seals’, and 100 animals could be caught in a single night. Extensively exploited for centuries, it was long considered extremely rare. The species has not been seen since 1952 despite extensive searches.
Edith’s nesophontes (Nesophontes edithae) was a large, shrew-like creature known from Puerto Rico and Vieques as well as Saint John and Saint Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. It is believed to have survived up until the time of the arrival of Europeans (i.e. the early sixteenth century).
The minor red bat (Lasiurus minor) is known from a handful of lowland forest localities on Hispaniola as well as in the Bahamas and Puerto Rico.
The black-capped petrel (Pterodroma hasitata) is a small seabird that historically bred on steep mountainsides throughout the West Indies. Extensive habitat destruction, introduced predators, and overharvesting by humans resulted in a massive decline, and by the early twentieth century the species was feared extinct. Today, only three confirmed breeding areas are known (in Haiti and the Dominican Republic on Hispaniola, and on the island of Dominica).
The Saint Croix macaw (Ara autochthones) is an extinct species known only from bones found on Puerto Rico and St. Croix in the Virgin Islands. However, because these parrots were frequently transported long distances by humans since prehistoric times it is impossible to know whether they were native or imported.
The rose-throated Amazon (Amazona leucocephala) is a type of parrot found in Cuba, the Bahamas, and the Cayman Islands. Individuals have also been observed in the wild in Puerto Rico, likely the result of escaped pets, and no reproduction has been recorded. Several subspecies will be discussed below.
The Cuban flycatcher (Tyrannus cubensis) is a type of passerine bird that was historically found in parts of the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands as well as on Cuba, but is nowadays confined to the latter island, where it is increasingly rare.
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.
The Puerto Rican crested toad (Peltophryne lemur) is historically known only from a few localities on the northern and southern coasts of Puerto Rico and on two offshore islands. The north coast population was last reported in 1992 and has likely been extirpated, as were those on Virgin Gorda and Saint John (in the Virgin Islands). The species is therefore confined to the Guanica National Forest on the south coast, where it was last recorded in 2007 after a temporary breeding pool was deliberately drained in order to create a parking space for beach visitors. Fortunately, captive breeding efforts have been successful, and reintroductions begun.
The Lucayan Archipelago
The Lucayan Archipelago is an island group in the western North Atlantic comprising the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands.
The Bahamian swallow (Tachycineta cyaneoviridis) breeds only in the northern Bahamas (Andros, Grand Bahama, Abaco, and New Providence), from where it winters throughout the eastern Bahamas, Turks and Caicos Islands, and Florida Keys. It is threatened by logging of its pine forest breeding areas.
The Bahamas are a series of archipelagos consisting of more than 700 low, flat limestone islands, cays, and islets located east of the Florida Keys. Lying in both the subtropics and tropics, they have biological affinities with the Caribbean but have never been connected with the mainland. While some have been exploited extensively, many others remain relatively untouched.
Two subspecies of the Bahamian hutia (Geocapromys ingrahami), a type of large rodent, disappeared during the seventeenth century and are discussed elsewhere. The species as a whole was long thought to be extinct until 1966, when an abundant population of the nominate subspecies (G. i. ingrahami) was found on East Plana Cay, a small uninhabited island. It has since been introduced to two other small islands (Little Wax Cay and Warderivk Wells Cay).
The Bahamian lesser funnel-eared bat (Chilonatalus tumidifrons) is currently known from Abaco, Andros, and San Salvador, with fossil material also having been discovered on New Providence, Cat Island, and Great Exuma. It is vulnerable due to its dependence upon caves for roosting.
The Bahamian rose-throated Amazon (Amazona leucocephala bahamensis) is a type of parrot that was historically widespread in the Bahamas but has been extirpated from a number of islands. Now reduced to two known populations, one in the Abaco Islands and the other on Great Inagua, it appears, however, to be relatively common and is not considered to be immediately threatened.
Gould’s emerald (Chlorostilbon elegans) is a presumably extinct type of hummingbird that was described from a single specimen collected in 1860 of unknown provenence, although Jamaica or the northern Bahamas are the most likely sources.
The northern Bahamian boa (Chilabothrus exsul) is confined to Grand Bahama, Great Abaco, Little Abaco, Green Turtle Cay, Elbow Cay, and Tilloo Cay.
Two species of freshwater and marine cavefish of the genus Lucifuga are endemic to the Bahamas. The Bahamian cusk-eel (L. spelaeotes) has been collected or reported from 12 marine ‘blue holes’, inland karst caverns, and deep fracture chasms on eight islands throughout the archipelago. The Lucayan cuskeel (L. lucayana) is known from Grand Bahama and Abaco.
The Andros Islands
The Andros Islands are an archipelago located on the western edge of the Great Bahama Bank, consisting of three main islands (North Andros, Mangrove Cay, and South Andros) and hundreds of small islets and cays connected by mangrove estuaries and tidal swamps. They have been hard-hit by logging, construction activities, feral animals, and fires.
The Bahamian oriole (Icterus northropi) is historically only known to inhabit two major islands in the Andros group (Abaco and Andros). It was extirpated from the former in the 1990s, and now appears to be confined to North Andros, South Andros, and Mangrove Cay, although it is likely that it may occur on some of the smaller cays as well. The total population is thought to be between 140 and 260.
The northern Bahamian rock iguana (Cyclura cychlura) is found in various subpopulations in the Andros and Exuma islands. The Andros rock iguana (C. c. cychlura) is confined to Andros Island and associated satellite cays, where it is threatened by subsistence hunting and overcollection for the pet trade. The total wild population is thought to be around 3500.
The Exuma Islands
The Exuma islands consist of hundreds of cays, the largest of which is Great Exuma.
The Exuma rock iguana (Cyclura cychlura figginsi) is confined to small keys scattered throughout the central and southern Exuma Island chain. Another subspecies, the Allen Cays rock iguana (C. c. inornata), has only two known breeding populations, on Leaf Cay and U Cay (also known as Southwest Allen’s Cay) in the northern Exuma Islands.
White (Sandy) Cay
White (Sandy) Cay is located in the southern Exuma Islands.
The central Bahamian rock iguana (Cyclura rileyi) is confined various subpopulations within three Bahamian island groups. The White Cay rock iguana (C. r. cristata) is confined to White (Sandy) Cay.
Grand Bahama Island
Grand Bahama is the northernmost of the Bahama Islands, located 84 km off Palm Beach, Florida.
The Grand Bahama woodpecker (Melanerpes superciliaris nyeanus) is confined to coastal forests on Grand Bahama and San Salvador (Watling Island).
The Grand Bahama nuthatch (Sitta insularis) is endemic to the island, where it was feared extinct due to the effects of Hurricane Matthew in 2016. It was later discovered in small numbers, only to see its population devastated by Hurricane Dorian in 2019. The species has not been reported since.
San Salvador Island
San Salvador Island (formerly known as Watling’s Island) is located in the eastern Bahamas.
The San Salvador rock iguana (Cyclura rileyi rileyi) has largely disappeared from San Salvador itself, and the subspecies is today largely restricted to five tiny offshore cays (Gaulin, Goulding, Green, Low, and Manhead). It has presumably been extirpated on at least six additional cays.
The Abaco Islands
Located in the northern Bahamas, the Abaco Islands consist of the main islands of Great Abaco and Little Abaco along with smaller barrier cays.
The Great Abaco hutia (Geocapromys ingrahami abaconis) was mentioned by early European explorers, and is thought to have become extinct by 1600, likely due to land clearance.
The Acklins Bight
The Acklins Bight is a group of islands located along a large, shallow lagoon in the south-central Bahamas.
Natural populations of the Acklins Bight rock iguana (Cyclura rileyi nuchalis) are found only on Fish Cay and North Cay. Formerly they occurred on at least Long (Fortune) Cay and probably others, including the much larger Crooked and Acklins Islands. An additional introduced population with five founding individuals became established on a small cay in the early 1970s.
Crooked Island is located in the northern Acklins Bight.
The Crooked Island hutia (Geocapromys ingrahami irrectus) was exterminated by 1600.
The Bimini Islands
The Bimini Islands are located in the north-eastern Bahamas. They are comprised of North Bimini, South Bimini, and East Bimini.
The Bimini boa (Chilabothrus strigilatus fosteri) is confined to the Bimini Islands.
The Inaugua Islands
The Inagua Islands are located in the southern Bahamas. They are comprised of Great Inagua and Little Inagua.
The Great Inagua slender blindsnake (Cubatyphlops paradoxus) is known only from two specimens collected on Great Inagua in 1967.
New Providence Island
New Providence Island is the most populous island in the Bahamas, and home to the capital city of Nassau.
Brace’s emerald (Chlorostilbon bracei) is a now-extinct type of hummingbird known only from a single specimen collected on New Providence in 1877.
The Plana Cays
The Plana Cays are two small, uninhabited islands located in the southern Bahamas.
The East Plana curly-tailed lizard (Leiocephalus greenwayi) is confined to East Plana Cay in the southern Bahamas.
The Turks and Caicos Islands
The Turks and Caicos Islands are a pair of island groups lying south-east of the Bahamas, each sitting atop a limestone bank and separated by a deepwater passage. Together they comprise eight main islands along with hundreds of smaller ones. All are low and flat with extensive marshes and mangrove swamps. The islands have a fairly extensive system of national parks, nature reserves, and sanctuaries.
The Turks and Caicos rock iguana (Cyclura carinata) is found on 50–60 of the islands in the Turks and Caicos banks, along with Booby Cay in the southern Bahamas. Most of the population is found on Big Ambergris Cay, Little Ambergris Cay, and East Bay Cay. The main threat is feral dogs and cats.
The Turks and Caicos curly-tailed lizard (Leiocephalus psammodromus) is confined to the less-disturbed islands of the archipelago, and indeed appears to have become extirpated from several of the larger islands.
The Turks Islands
The Turks Islands are a north–south chain of small islands, only two of which are inhabited.
The Turks skink (Spondylurus turksae) has a tiny range on the Turks Bank, where it has been recorded from Grand Turk, Cotton Cay, and Gibbs Cay. The most recent record from Grand Turk was in 1961 and the species is likely now extinct there. Similarly, it has not been reported from Gibbs Cay since 1972.
The Caicos Islands
The Caicos Islands are the larger and more populated of the two island groups.
The Caicos gecko (Aristelliger hechti) is confined to two large islands (North Caicos and East Caicos) and four cays (Big and Little AmbergrisCays, French Cay, and Six HillsCay) in the Caicos Bank. It appears to have been extirpated from Middle Caicos.
The Caicos skink (Spondylurus caicosae) is still widespread in the islands, although there are signs that it is declining in areas.
The Greater Antilles
The Greater Antilles is a grouping of the larger islands in the Caribbean Sea, specifically Cuba, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and the Cayman Islands.
The plain pigeon (Patagioenas inornata) is found on Cuba, Hispaniola, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico, where it is divided into three subspecies. The nominate form (P. i. inornata) was historically widespread on Cuba and Hispaniola, but has been much reduced by habitat destruction and hunting and now occurs only patchily.
The white-necked crow (Corvus leucognaphalus) was historically found throughout Hispaniola and Puerto Rica, but has been extirpated from the latter country due to hunting and habitat destruction. It is now confined to a few areas in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and the offshore islands of Gonâve, Saona, and Vache.
Cuba is located in the northern Caribbean Sea at the confluence of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. The largest island in the Caribbean, it consists mostly of flat and rolling plains apart from a few mountainous areas along the coasts. There is a large satellite island to the south-west, the Isle of Youth (Isla de la Juventud), and several minor archipelagos along the coasts. Cuba remains relatively rich in relict and endemic species, although unfortunately a number of others became extinct soon after the arrival of Europeans.
The Cuban short-tailed hutia (Geocapromys columbianus) is known only from recent fossil deposits that also contain rats, suggesting that it persisted into the modern era. It likely became extinct during the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries.
The bushy-tailed hutia (Mysateles melanurus) is confined to the lowland forests and plantations of eastern Cuba (Holguín, Granma, Santiago de Cuba, and Guantánamo provinces).
The Cuban solenodon (Solenodon cubanus) is a burrowing insectivorous mammal that, to judge by fossil remains, formerly ranged throughout the island. Introduced cats, dogs, and rats took decimated the species and by 1970 some researchers believed that it had become extinct, as no specimens had been found since 1890. However, three were captured in 1974 and 1975, and subsequent surveys showed that it still occurred in many higher-elevation localities in eastern Cuba. The last living specimens were found in Sierra del Cristal National Park in 1998 and in Alejandro de Humboldt National Park (Holguín province) in 2003, along with a dead individual in 2005.
Two species of cave rat (Boromys) formerly occurred on Cuba. The Oriente cave rat (B. offella) became extinct during the nineteenth century. Torre’s cave rat (B. torrei) may have survived up to the twentieth century.
The nesophontes were a group of shrew-like insectivores related to solenodons. The greater Cuban nesophontes (Nesophontes major), lesser Cuban nesophontes (N. submicrus), slender Cuban nesophontes (N. longirostris), Fisher’s nesophontes (N. superstes), and Allen’s nesophontes (N. micrus) are all known only from fossil deposits. They are believed to have become extinct following the arrival of European settlers, likely due to introduced rats.
The lesser Cuban fig-eating bat (Phyllops vetus) is known only from fossils and apparently went extinct at an early state of historic time.
The Cuban yellow bat (Lasiurus insularis) is a highly specialized species vulnerable to changes in habitat and tropical storms.
The Cuban hook-billed kite (Chondrohierax wilsonii) was historically found throughout Cuba but has undergone a massive decline due to loss of habitat, human persecution and overharvesting of the tree snails upon which it feeds. The species now appears to be confined to a small area of eastern Cuba centred on Alejandro de Humboldt National Park (Holguín and Gauntánamo provinces). Only rarely recorded in recent decades, it is thought to be nearing extinction.
Two subspecies of Gundlach’s hawk (Accipiter gundlachi) were historically found throughout Cuba, but are today confined to a few areas. The nominate form (A. g. gundlachi) is found in the western and central part of the island, while the eastern Gundlach’s hawk (A. g. wileyi) is confined to the east. Both are very rare.
The Cuban red macaw (Ara tricolor) was endemic to Cuba and probably also the Isle of Youth. Heavily hunted, the last specimen was collected in 1864 and the last reports were in 1885.
The Cuban rose-throated Amazon (Amazona leucocephala leucocephala) is a type of parrot still found widely, although patchily, throughout Cuba and on the Isle of Youth. The species has undergone declines due illegal trapping for the international exotic pet trade and destruction of its nest sites. While recovering somewhat, it remains highly conservationdependent.
The Cuban parakeet (Psittacara euops) was at one time one of the most common endemic birds on Cuba, but is now rare and found only in a few remote areas.
The blue-headed quail-dove (Starnoenas cyanocephala) was historically found throughout Cuba but is now extremely rare and has been extirpated from a number of areas.
The grey-headed quail-dove (Geotrygon caniceps) can still be found throughout much of Cuba, but is nowadays largely confined to lowland forests of the Zapata Peninsula.
The Cuban ivory-billed woodpecker (Campephilus principalis bairdii) historically inhabited old-growth forests at all elevations throughout Cuba. By the early twentieth century most of the lowland forests had been cleared, and by 1956 only 12 or 13 individuals remained in south-eastern Cuba. In 1969, 13 pairs had been reported, although thereafter this magnificent bird became restricted to montane pine forests in the north-east of the island, which unfortunately continued to be under heavy logging pressure. There have been no confirmed records since 1987 despite many searches, and the subspecies is now most likely extinct. The best (if admittedly slim) hope lies in the Alejandro de Humboldt National Park.
Fernandina’s flicker (Colaptes fernandinae) was historically found throughout Cuba, although never abundant. It is now confined to a few scattered localities.
The Cuban bee hummingbird (Mellisuga helenae), the world’s smallest bird, was historically widespread and common across Cuba and on the Isle of Youth. It has since disappeared from the latter, and is now rare and localized.
The pepper least gecko (Sphaerodactylus pimienta) is confined to a small area in the foothills of the Sierra Maestra in eastern Cuba (Granma and Santiago de Cuba provinces).
The yellow-lipped grass anole (Anolis juangundlachi) is known only from a single locality in northern Cuba (Matanzas province), where it favours grassy areas near watercourses. The Escambray blue-eyed anole (A. ahli) is confined to the Escambray Mountains of south-central Cuba (Sancti Spíritus, Cienfuegos, and Villa Clara provinces).
The Cuban pine toad (Peltophryne cataulaciceps) is restricted to the lowlands of the Isle of Youth and extreme western Cuba. The long-nosed toad (P. longinasus) is confined to three small and disjunct areas of Cuba, perhaps representing more than one species. Gundlach’s toad (P. gundlachi) and the small-eared toad (P. empusa) are both found patchily throughout Cuba and the Isle of Youth.
Michael Schmid’s rain frog (Eleutherodactylus michaelschmidi) is confined to a small area of karstic valleys and foothills in eastern Cuba (Santiago de Cuba province). The intermediate rain frog (E. intermedius), Ricord’s rain frog (E. ricordii), the red-rumped rain frog (E. acmonis), Ronald’s rain frog (E. ronaldi), Gundlach’s rain frog (E. gundlachi), the Ionthus rain frog (E. ionthus), Leber’s rain frog (E. leberi), and the Guantanamera rain frog (E. guantanamera) are all confined to parts of eastern Cuba. The flatheaded rain frog (E. casparii) is confined to south-central Cuba (Cienfuegos province). Grey’s rain frog (E. greyi) is found patchily in central Cuba. Emilia’s rain frog (E. emiliae) is confined to the Escambray Mountains of south-central Cuba. The Cristal rain frog (E. principalis) and the Meseta del Guaso rain frog (E. mariposa) are both confined to the Cristal Mountains of eastern Cuba. The yellow-striped rain frog (E. limbatus) is found widely but patchily throughout Cuba. The Yarey rain frog (E. toa) is confined to the Macizo de Sagua-Baracoa in eastern Cuba. The variable rain frog (E. varians) is found widely but patchily throughout Cuba and on the Isle of Youth. The Pinos rain frog (E. pinarensis) is found widely but very patchily in central and western Cuba and on the Isle of Youth. All are threatened by habitat destruction and degradation.
The Sierra Maestra
The Sierra Maestra is located in eastern Cuba (Granma and Santiago de Cuba provinces). The mountains rise abruptly from the coast and run westwards and include Pico Turquino, the highest point on Cuba.
Several species of rain frog (Eleutherodactylus) are endemic to the Sierra Maestra, where they are threatened by habitat destruction. They include Barbour’s rain frog (E. cubanus), Jaume’s rain frog (E. jaumei), the Turquino rain frog (E. turquinensis), Estrada’s rain frog (E. glamyrus), the white-footed rain frog (E. albipes), and the Granma rain frog (E. melacara).
Lowland Moist Forests
Areas of lowland moist forest (i.e. below 400 m elevation) are to be found in both eastern and western Cuba and on the Isle of Youth (here discussed separately).
A large number of species of rain frog (Eleutherodactylus) are endemic to lowland moist forests, where they are threatened by habitat destruction and degradation. The Loma del Espejo rain frog (E. adelus) is known only from a single locality in western Cuba (Pinar del Río province). The El Yunque de Baracoa rain frog (E. orientalis) is confined to a single locality in eastern Cuba (Guantánamo province). The La Cantera rain frog (E. pezopetrus) is known only from a single locality in eastern Cuba (Santiago de Cuba province). The Tetas de Julia rain frog (E. tetajulia) is known only from Alejandro de Humboldt National Park in eastern Cuba. Etheridge’s rain frog (E. etheridgei) is confined to the area of the Guantánamo Naval Station in eastern Cuba (Santiago de Cuba and Guantánamo provinces). Barton Smith’s rain frog (E. bartonsmithi) is confined to two localities in eastern Cuba (Guantánamo and Holguín province). Symington’s rain frog (E. symingtoni) was historically widespread, but is nowadays confined to a few localities in western Cuba. Goin’s rain frog (E. goini) is confined to western Cuba (Pinar del Río province). The river rain frog (E. rivularis) is known only from three lowland forest localities within the Sierra Maestra of eastern Cuba. Bressler’s rain frog (E. bresslerae) is confined to two localities in eastern Cuba (Guantánamo province). Tony’s rain frog (E. tonyi) is known only from three localities in south-eastern Cuba. Klinikowski’s rain frog (E. klinikowskii) is confined to a small area of western Cuba (Pinar del Río province). Zeus’ rain frog (E. zeus) is confined to a small area of western Cuba (Pinar del Río and Artemisa provinces). Zug’s rain frog (E. zugi) is found patchily in western and central Cuba. Thomas’ rain frog (E. thomasi) is found patchily over a wide area of central Cuba. The Arroyo Bueno rain frog (E. simulans) is known only from a single locality in eastern Cuba (Holguín province). The Guanahacabibes rain frog (E. guanahacabibes) is confined to the far western tip of Cuba (Pinar del Rio province). The Iberia rain frog (E. iberia), the world’s smallest frog species, is confined to a few localities in eastern Cuba (Holguín province).
Lowland Dry Forests and Xeric Shrublands
Areas of lowland dry forest (i.e. below 400 m elevation) are to be found in central and eastern Cuba and on the Isle of Youth (here discussed separately).
The little goblin bat (Mormopterus minutus) is confined to the dry forests of east-central Cuba.
The Cabo Cruz banded anole (Anolis guafe) is a type of lizard restricted to the Meseta de Cabo Cruz in southern Cuba (Granma province).
The Cuban khaki dwarf boa (Tropidophis hendersoni) is known only from a single specimen collected in 1945 from eastern Cuba (Holguín province). Subsequent searches have failed to locate the species.
The Cuban spotted toad (Peltophryne taladai) is confined to central and eastern Cuba, where it is threatened by loss of habitat.
Lakes, Rivers, and Marshes
Cuba has relatively few rivers and lakes, although there are extensive areas of wetland in the coastal areas.
The Cuban sandhill crane (Grus canadensis nesiotes) was once widespread in Cuba and on the Isle of Youth, but is today extremely rare on both islands and decreasing.
The Cuban crocodile (Crocodylus rhombifer) was historically found throughout Cuba and its satellite islands, but has disappeared almost everywhere due to illegal hunting and hybridization with American crocodiles (C. acutus). It is nowadays largely confined to the Zapata Swamp in south-western Cuba and to Lanier Swamp on the Isle of Youth.
The Cuban gar (Atractosteus tristoechus) is a large predatory fish endemic to the rivers and lakes of western Cuba and the Isle of Youth.
Four species of subterranean cusk-eel (Lucifuga) are endemic to Cuba. The blind cusk-eel (L. simile) is known only from two closely located cave systems in coastal north-western Cuba (Matanzas province). Poey’s cusk-eel (L. subterranea) is known from a few localities in north-western Cuba (Artemisa and Mayabeque provinces). The Artemisa cusk-eel (L. teresinarum) is a little-known form from north-western Cuba (Artemisa province). The toothed cusk-eel (L. dentata) is found relatively widely but patchily in western Cuba. All are threatened by groundwater extraction and pollution.
Coasts and Satellite Islands
The coastal areas of Cuba exhibit a range of habitats including karst, mangrove, and forested areas. There are numerous large satellites islands and thousands of smaller ones.
Cabrera’s hutia (Mesocapromys angelcabrerai) is confined to swamps, marshland, and a few small islands off the southern coast of Cuba.
The Cuban black hawk (Buteogallus gundlachii) is confined to coastal swamps and mangroves.
Three subspecies of Cuban sparrow (Torreornis inexpectata) are found disjunctly in coastal areas and satellite islands of Cuba. Varona’s sparrow (T. i. varonai) is confined to the island of Cayo Coco off the northern coast of Cuba. Sigman’s sparrow (T. i. sigmani) is confined to a small area of dry scrub along the south-eastern coast of Cuba (Guantánamo province).
The Cuban rock iguana (Cyclura nubila) is, as a species, found on Cuba and in the Cayman Islands. The nominate subspecies (C. n. nubila) is widespread in the rocky southern coastal areas of Cuba and its satellite islands, including the Isle of Youth, but is considered vulnerable.
The Guantánamo least gecko (Sphaerodactylus armasi) is confined to the extreme south-eastern coast of Cuba (Guantánamo province). The broad-banded least gecko (S. torrei) is found only in coastal south-eastern Cuba, where it is divided into two subspecies. Torre’s broad-banded least gecko (S. t. torrei) is confined to a small area of Santiago de Cuba province. Spielman’s broad-banded least gecko (S. t. spielmani) is confined to a small area of Guantánamo province.
The karst toad (Peltophryne florentinoi) is known only from a single locality in coastal south-central Cuba (Matanzas province). It is threatened by rising sea levels.
Blair Hedges’ rain frog (Eleutherodactylus blairhedgesi) is confined to two small areas on the north-western coast of Cuba (La Havana province).
The Zapata Swamp
The Zapata Swamp (Ciénaga de Zapata in Spanish) is located in coastal south-western Cuba (Matanzas province). Much of this globally important wetland habitat is protected.
The dwarf hutia (Mesocapromys nanus) is known only from the Zapata Swamp, where it was last seen in 1937 (although tracks and droppings have occasionally been reported since).
The Zapata rail (Cyanolimnas cerverai) is confined to a single area, where the population is small and declining.
The Zapata wren (Ferminia cerverai) is restricted to the northern and central parts of the Zapata Swamp.
The Zapata sparrow (Torreornis inexpectata inexpectata) is confined to scrub grassland and coastal areas of the Zapata Swamp, where the population of around 250 is considered to be stable.
The Canarreos Archipelago
The Canarreos Archipelago (Archipiélago de los Canarreos in Spanish) is a group of some 350 islands and islets located off the south-western coast of Cuba.
The Isle of Youth (Isla de la Juventud in Spanish; formerly known as the Isle of Pines) is the largest island in the Canarreos Archipelago.
The Cuban greater funnel-eared bat (Natalus primus) was once thought to be extinct but was rediscovered in 1992. It is known only from a single cave on the Isle of Youth.
The Isle of Youth solitaire (Myadestes elisabeth elisabeth) is (or was) a type of passerine bird that has not been observed since the 1950s, and is most likely extinct.
The Isle of Youth least gecko (Sphaerodactylus storeyae) is known only from two localities on the Isle of Youth.
The San Felipe Cays (Cayos de San Felipe in Spanish) are located north-east of the Isle of Youth, within Cayos de San Felipe National Park.
The San Felip hutia (Mesocapromys sanfelipensis) is known only from Cayo Juan García, where it was last seen in 1978 when a large number were collected. It is most likely extinct.
The Sabana-Camagüey Archipelago
The Sabana-Camagüey Archipelago (Archipiélago de Sabana- Camagüey in Spanish) is a group of small islands lining Cuba’s north-central Atlantic coast.
The large-eared hutia (Mesocapromys auritus) is confined to Cayo Fragoso in the Sabana-Camagüey Archipelago.
Hispaniola, politically divided between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, is the second largest island in the Caribbean after Cuba and the most populous. Geologically it was once two islands (a northern and southern) and as a result is notably mountainous and ecologically diverse. Unfortunately, both the flora and fauna have been devastated since the arrival of humans. When Columbus first arrived there in 1492, he became enthusiastic about its beauty: ‘Its lands are high, and there are in it very many sierras. . . . All are most beautiful . . . and filled with trees of a thousand kinds and tall, and they seem to touch the sky.’ Sadly, the island has changed so much that if he were to return Columbus would certainly not recognize it. The Haitian side has, in particular, seen an almost complete destruction of forests, with less than 2 per cent of the country now covered. The Dominican Republic side has faired much better, with around 40 per cent forest coverage remaining.
The Hispaniolan monkey (Antillothrix bernensis) is known only from fossil material. It is thought to have gone extinct sometime during the sixteenth century, for reasons unknown. Allen’s hutia (Isolobodon portoricensis) was originally from Hispaniola and offshore islands, where it was probably abundant. It was later introduced to Puerto Rico, Saint Thomas, Saint Croix, and Mona Island. It likely went extinct some time around 1525, although it may have survived up to the early nineteenth century.
The imposter hutia (Hexolobodon phenax) is known only from fossils associated with introduced rats. The least Hispaniolan hutia (Plagiodontia spelaeum), the Samaná hutia (P. ipnaeum), and the wide-toothed hutia (P. araeum) are all known only from recent fossil material. The only surviving form, Cuvier’s hutia (P. aedium), is usually divided into two ill-defined subspecies (P. a. aedium and P. a. hylaeum) found in a few isolated areas across Hispaniola.
Marcano’s solenodon (Solenodon marcanoi) was a small, burrowing insectivore known only from fossil evidence. It is believed to have been driven extinct soon after the arrival of Europeans owing to introduced predators. The Hispaniolan solenodon (S. paradoxus) is divided into two highly endangered subspecies. The northern Hispaniolan solenodon (S. p. paradoxus) is confined to the northern Dominican Republic. The southern Hispaniolan solenodon (S. p. woodi) is found in the far southern part of the Dominican Republic and the Tiburon Peninsula of Haiti.
Three shrew-like insectivores related to solenodons, the Haitian nesophontes (Nesophontes zamicrus), the Atalaye nesophontes (N. hypomicrus), and the St. Michel nesophontes (N. parmicrus), are all known only from recent fossil material.
Two species of edible rat (Brotomys) endemic to Hispaniola are considered extinct. The Hispaniolan edible rat (B. voratus) is known only from a single report by a Spanish resident of the island in the early sixteenth century. The Haitian edible rat (B. contractus) is known only from a fossil specimen collected from a cave.
Ridgway’s hawk (Buteo ridgwayi) was historically common throughout Hispaniola and on a few adjacent islets and cays. It has since been extirpated from virtually everywhere due to loss of habitat and human persecution, and now survives only in small numbers within a few areas of northern coastal Dominican Republic (Samaná and Hato Mayor provinces) and in the Cayemites Islands off the south-western coast of Haiti.
The Hispaniolan Amazon (Amazona ventralis) is a type of parrot that was historically found throughout Hispaniola and the associated islands of Grande Cayemite, Gonâve, Beata, and Saona. It declined significantly during the twentieth century and, by the 1930s, was mainly confined to the interior mountains, where it remains fairly common. The species has been established on Puerto Rico and on Saint Croix and Saint Thomas in the Virgin Islands.
The Hispaniolan parakeet (Psittacara chloropterus) historically occurred throughout Hispaniola, but is today confined to a few areas of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Introduced populations occur in Puerto Rico and possibly on Guadeloupe and in Florida.
The bay-breasted cuckoo (Coccyzus rufigularis) was historically found throughout central and western Hispaniola. It suffered a dramatic decline in range and numbers during the twentienth century, and has been extirpated from many areas including Gonâve Island.
The white-fronted quail-dove (Geotrygon leucometopia) was historically found throughout much of the western Dominican Republic and south-eastern Haiti, although the species is now extirpated from the latter country and survives only in a few localities in the former.
The western chat-tanager (Calyptophilus tertius) is confined to southern Haiti (including Gonâve Island) and southwestern Dominican Republic. It is threatened by loss of habitat.
The Hispaniolan crossbill (Loxia megaplaga) is a type of finch confined to isolated pine forest pockets throughout southern Haiti and central and south-western Dominican Republic.
The Hispaniolan rhinoceros iguana (Cyclura cornuta) is still found throughout much of Hispaniola and offshore islands, where it prefers rocky lowland areas. It is everywhere threatened, however, by habitat loss and predation by invasive predators.
Warren’s galliwasp (Celestus warreni) is a type of lizard found patchily in northern Haiti, northern Dominican Republic, and on Tortuga Island.
Koopman’s anole (Anolis koopmani) is confined to a small area of the Tiburon Peninsula in south-western Haiti (Sud department), where it is seriously threatened by loss of habitat. The Baoruco cliff anole (A. strahmi) is known only from a few localities in the south-western Dominican Republic (Independencia and Pedernales provinces). The Jacmel gracile anole (A. marron) is confined to the south-eastern coast of the Tiberon Peninsula in southern Haiti (Sud-Est department).
The grey least gecko (Sphaerodactylus cinereus) was historically known disjunctly from north-western and south-eastern Haiti, where it was considered relatively common. Extremely sensitive to habitat destruction, it has not been recorded since 1985. The Dame-Marie least gecko (S. zygaena) is confined to the tip of the Tiburon Peninsula in south-western Haiti (Grand-Anse and Sud departments), where it is seriously threatened by loss of habitat.
The Atalaye curly-tailed lizard (Leiocephalus pratensis) was historically known from a small area of northern Haiti (Artibonite department) and on the island of Cabrit. The species has not been recorded for more than half a century and is most likely extinct, a victim of habitat destruction and introduced mongooses.
The Cayemite long-tailed worm lizard (Amphisbaena caudalis) is a fossorial species confined to Grand Cayemite Island and the adjacent south-west Haitian mainland (Nippes department). The Barahona dusky worm lizard (A. hyporissor) is confined to the Barahona Peninsula on the south-western coast of the Dominican Republic (Pedernales and Barahona provinces) and on Beata Island. The innocent worm lizard (A. innocens) is found over a relatively wide area of southern Haiti and south-western Dominican Republic. All are threatened by loss of habitat and mongoose predation.
The Hispaniolan racer (Haitiophis anomalus) is the largest colubrid snake in the New World. Historically found throughout Hispaniola, it now survives only in a few areas of southwestern Dominican Republic, Beata Island, and perhaps on Tortuga Island off the north-western coast of Haiti as well, where it was last reported in the 1970s.
The La Vega racer (Hypsirhynchus melanichnus) is known only from two specimens collected from widely separated localities on Hispaniola in 1862 and 1910. It is most likely extinct.
Parish’s fanged snake (Ialtris parishi) is known only from a single locality in south-western Haiti and from Tortuga Island.
The Tiburon blind snake (Typhlops hectus) is a fossorial species known only from south-western Haiti (Grand-Anse, Sud, and Nippes departments) and offshore islands.
The Barahona blind snake (Antillotyphlops syntherus) is confined to the Barahona Peninsula of south-western Dominican Republic (Pedernales and Barahona provinces), and to Beata Island.
The giant bromeliad tree frog (Osteopilus vastus) is found patchily throughout Hispaniola, having disappeared from many areas due to loss of habitat. The Hispaniolan yellow tree frog (O. pulchrilineatus) occurs in widely separated populations across Hispaniola, suggesting that it has declined from a historically more uniform distribution.
The Hispaniolan gladiator tree frog (Boana heilprini) has a fragmented distribution throughout Hispaniola, although it is mainly associated with mountain streams.
The Dame-Marie rain frog (Eleutherodactylus caribe) is known only from a single area of coastal mangrove marsh on the Tiburon Peninsula, south-western Haiti (Grand-Anse department). It was last reported in 1991. Schmidt’s rain frog (E. schmidti) was historically known from two disjunct areas in northern Haiti (Nord-Ouest, Nord and Artibonite departments) and northern and central Dominican Republic, but has undergone a massive decline possibly due to chytridiomycosis and may be extinct. The foothill rain frog (E. semipalmatus) and the rednose rain frog (E. oxyrhyncus) are both found disjunctly in south-western and south-eastern Haiti, where they are seriously threatened by loss of habitat. The La Selle red-legged rain frog (E. furcyensis) is confined to a small area of south-eastern Haiti (Ouest and Sud-Est departments) and south-western Dominican Republic (Independencia and Pedernales provinces). The spiny rain frog (E. nortoni) is found disjunctly in south-western and south-eastern Haiti and in south-western Dominican Republic. The Baoruco rain frog (E. hypostenor) is confined to a small area of south-eastern Haiti (Sud-Est department) and south-western Dominican Republic (Pedernales and Barahona provinces). Sommer’s rain frog (E. sommeri) is confined to northern Haiti (Nord, Nord-Est, and Artibonite departments) and adjacent north-western Dominican Republic (Dajabón province). The patternless rain frog (E. diplasius) is confined to a small area of the Tiburon Peninsula in southwestern Haiti (Grand-Anse and Sud departments). Armstrong’s rain frog (E. armstrongi) is confined to two disjunct areas of south-eastern Haiti (Ouest and Sud-Est departments) and south-western Dominican Republic (Barahona and Pedernales provinces). The yellow-mottled rain frog (E. pictissimus) is found in southern coastal Haiti and south-western Dominican Republic. Audant’s rain frog (E. audanti) is found widely but patchily in south-western Haiti and in western and central Dominican Republic. The half-stripe rain frog (E. heminota) is confined to southern Haiti and south-western Dominican Republic. Wetmore’s rain frog (E. wetmorei) is found disjunctly in northern and southern Haiti and in western Dominican Republic. Ruth’s rain frog (E. ruthae) is found widely but patchily throughout Hispaniola, although some of the various populations may represent distinct species.
Hispaniola has several major mountain ranges running east to west across the island. As a consequence, the island (at least historically) showed considerable variation in climate and habitat. Few areas of montane moist or dry forest now remain, however.
The montane hutia (Isolobodon montanus) probably disappeared just before or soon after the arrival of Europeans.
The white-winged warbler (Xenoligea montana) is confined to montane forests in central and western Hispaniola.
The Central Cordillera
The Central Cordillera (Cordillera Central in French and Spanish) spans the central part of the island, extending from the south coast of the Dominican Republic into north-western Haiti (where it is known as the Massif du Nord). It contains Pico Duarte, at 3098 m the highest peak in the Caribbean.
Swale’s thrush (Turdus swalesi) is endemic to the mountains of Hispaniola, where it is divided into two subspecies. The southern Swale’s thrush (T. s. swalesi) occurs in isolated habitat patches within the La Selle Massif of south-eastern Haiti and the Bahoruco Range of south-western Dominican Republic. The northern Swale’s thrush (T. s. dodae) is found in the Neiba Range and in the Cordillera Central of western Dominican Republic.
The golden swallow (Tachycineta euchrysea) historically inhabited both Hispaniola and Jamaica, where it is divided into two subspecies. The Hispaniolan golden swallow (T. e. sclateri) is largely confined to isolated montane forest patches within the Central Cordillera.
Darlington’s galliwasp (Celestus darlingtoni) is a type of lizard found patchily within the Cordillera Central of westcentral Dominican Republic, where it is threatened by loss of habitat. Cochran’s galliwasp (C. haetianus) is divided into three rather ill-defined subspecies (C. h. haetianus, C. h. mylicus, and C. h. surdus) from the La Selle of south-eastern Haiti and the Bahoruco Range of south-western Dominican Republic.
The melodious rain frog (Eleutherodactylus pituinus), Dominican mountain rain frog (E. montanus), hammer rain frog (E. auriculatoides), minute rain frog (E. minutus), Patricia’s rain frog (E. patriciae), and the Cordillera Central rain frog (E. haitianus) are all endemic to small areas of the Cordillera Central, where they are seriously threatened by loss of habitat.
The Northern Massif (Massif du Nord in French) is located in northern Haiti (Nord department).
Poole’s rain frog (Eleutherodactylus poolei) appears to entirely confined to the Citadelle Laferrière, a large fortress built on the peak of a mountain within the Massif du Nord (Nord department).
The Neiba Range
The Neiba Range (Sierra de Neiba in Spanish) rises in the south-west of the Dominican Republic and continues northwest into Haiti parallel to the Central Cordillera (as the Montagnes Noires, Chaîne des Matheux, and the Montagnes du Trou d’Eau).
The Neiba agave least gecko (Sphaerodactylus schuberti) is confined to a small area of western Dominican Republic (Independencia province).
The Neiba rain frog (Eleutherodactylus notidodes) and the Independencia rain frog (E. parabates) are both endemic to the Neiba Range, where they are seriously threatened by loss of habitat.
The Southern Cordillera
The Southern Cordillera (Cordillera del Sur in Spanish/ Cordillera du Sud in French) is located in southern Haiti and south-western Dominican Republic.
Leonce’s rain frog (Eleutherodactylus leoncei) is confined to the Massif de la Selle in Haiti and to the Sierra de Bahoruco in the Dominican Republic.
The La Hotte Massif (Massif de la Hotte in French) is located in south-western Haiti on the far western end of the Tiburon Peninsula (Grand-Anse, Nippes, and Sud departments). It is one of the most biologically important and diverse areas on Hispaniola, and supports some of Haiti’s last cloud forests on its peaks. It is partly protected within Pic Macaya National Park.
The Casillon rain frog (Eleutherodactylus parapelates), Baker’s rain frog (E. bakeri), the false green rain frog (E. chlorophenax), the Caye Paul rain frog (E. corona), the Castillon rain frog (E. lamprotes), Shreve’s rain frog (E. ventrilineatus), the miniature rain frog (E. thorectes), the shadowy rain frog (E. sciagraphus), the Pic Macaya rain frog (E. counouspeus), Doris’ rain frog (E. glandulifer), Mozart’s rain frog (E. amadeus), the short-nosed rain frog (E. brevirostris), the limestone rain frog (E. glaphycompus), the Apostates rain frog (E. apostates), the Dolomedes rain frog (E. dolomedes), and the Les Cayes rain frog (E. eunaster) are all confined to small areas of the La Hotte Massif, where they are seriously threatened by loss of habitat.
The La Selle Massif (Massif de la Selle in French) is located in south-eastern Haiti (Ouest department) and south-western Dominican Republic (Independencia province).
Thomas’ galliwasp (Celestus macrotus) is a type of lizard confined to high-elevation pine forest in south-eastern Haiti (Ouest department).
The La Selle thread snake (Mitophis leptepileptus) is known from a single locality in south-eastern Haiti (Ouest department).
Four species of rain frog (Eleutherodactylus) endemic to the Massif de la Selle are threatened by loss of habitat. The La Visite rain frog (E. glanduliferoides) is known only from a small area of the Massif de la Selle, where it is very rare and possibly extinct. Darlington’s rain frog (E. darlingtoni) is known only from a few specimens, the last of which was collected during the mid-1980s. Fowler’s rain frog (E. fowleri) is known only from two isolated sites on the Massif de la Selle. The dusky rain frog (E. jugans) is confined to the Massif de la Selle.
The Bahoruco Range (Sierra de Bahoruco in Spanish) is located in far south-western Dominican Republic (Independencia, Pederales, and Barahona provinces).
The red-legged rain frog (Eleutherodactylus rufifemoralis) is confined to the eastern end of the Bahoruco Range, where it is threatened by habitat destruction.
Lowland Moist Forests
Hispaniola is largely deforested and only small patches of forest remain in lowland areas.
The San Cristóbal galliwasp (Celestus anelpistus) is a type of lizard known only from a single small valley in south-central Dominican Republic (Santo Domingo and San Cristóbal provinces). All original habitat at this locality has been destroyed and the species is most likely extinct.
The Cap-Haïtien least gecko (Sphaerodactylus lazelli) is known only from a single locality in northern coastal Haiti (Nord department), where it is most likely extinct. The Marche Leon least gecko (S. elasmorhynchus) is confined to a single locality in south-western Haiti (Grand-Anse department). The tailspot least gecko (S. epiurus) is confined to a single isolated karst outcrop in eastern Dominican Republic (La Altagracia province). Cochran’s least gecko (S. cochranae) is confined to a small area of north-eastern coastal Dominican Republic (Hato Mayor province). The rough-banded least gecko (S. callocricus) is known only from two areas of north-central Dominican Republic (Monte Plata, Sánchez Ramírez, and Samaná provinces). The Samaná Bay least gecko (S. samanensis) is known only from a small area of Dominican Republic (Hato Mayor province).
The Santo Domingo two-lined skink (Mabuya hispaniolae) is confined to a small area of southern coastal Dominican Republic (Santo Domingo province).
Leal’s worm lizard (Amphisbaena leali) is known only from a single locality on the north-western Tiburon Peninsula of south-western Haiti (Grand-Anse and Nippes provinces).
The La Hotte blind snake (Antillotyphlops agoralionis) is known only from a single locality in south-western Haiti (Grand-Anse department). The pestel blind snake (A. sylleptor) is confined to a small area of south-western Haiti (Grand- Anse and Nippes departements).
The Calypso thread snake (Mitophis calypso) is confined to a single locality on the Samaná Peninsula in coastal northeastern Dominican Republic (Samaná province).
Lucio’s rain frog (Eleutherodactylus lucioi) and Rhode’s rain frog (E. rhodesi) are each confined to a small area of far north-western Haiti (Nord-Ouest department). Paulson’s rain frog (E. paulsoni) is found disjunctly on the Tiburon Peninsula of south-western Haiti (Grand-Anse, Sud, Nippes, and Ouest departments). All are seriously threatened by loss of habitat.
Lowland Tropical Dry Forests and Xeric Shrublands
Much of Hispaniola was either historically xeric due to the rainshadow effect of the mountains, or has become so due to deforestation and drought.
Ricord’s rock iguana (Cyclura ricordii) was long thought to be confined to two populations within the coastal lowlands of south-western Dominican Republic (Barahona and Pedernales provinces), including Cabritos Island. In 2008 a third population was discovered at the south-eastern tip of Haiti (Sud-Est department). It is threatened by loss of habitat, hunting for food, and predation of juveniles by feral dogs and cats as well as introduced mongooses.
Thomas’ galliwasp (Celestus agasepsoides) is a type of lizard is confined to two small, disjunct areas of dry forest in coastal south-western Dominican Republic (Pedernales and Barahona provinces).
Sommer’s leaf-toed gecko (Phyllodactylus sommeri) is confined to a single locality in coastal north-western Haiti (Artibonite department), where it is seriously threatened by loss of habitat. The Dominican leaf-toed gecko (P. hispaniolae) is confined to a small area of south-western Dominican Republic (Independencia, Baoruco, Barahona, and Azua and provinces).
A great number of least geckos (Sphaerodactylus) are threatened by loss of habitat. Williams’ least gecko (S. williamsi) is known only from a single specimen collected from western coastal Haiti (Artibonite department). It is most likely extinct. The Independencia least gecko (S. cryphius) is confined to a small area of south-western Dominican Republic (Independencia province). The Neiba least gecko (S. rhabdotus) is confined to the Neiba Valley in south-western Dominican Republic (Baoruco province). The Fond Parisien least gecko (S. omoglaux) is confined to a small area of southeastern Haiti (Sud-Est and Ouest departments). Plummer’s least gecko (S. plummeri) is confined to a small area of south-western Dominican Republic (Pedernales province). The north-west Haitian least gecko (S. asterulus) is found disjunctly in two small areas of north-western Haiti (Nord-Ouest and Artibonite departments). Thompson’s least gecko (S. thompsoni) is confined to a small area of south-eastern Haiti (Sud-Est department) and south-western Dominican Republic (Pedernales province), including Beata Island. The small-eared least gecko (S. streptophorus) is confined to a small area of south-eastern Haiti (Ouest and Sud Est departments) and south-western Dominican Republic (Pedernales and Barahona provinces). The Martin Garcia least gecko (S. ladae) is confined to a small area of south-western Dominican Republic (Barahona province). The Peravia least gecko (S. ocoae) is confined to a small area of southern Dominican Republic (Peravia province). The Terrre Nueve least gecko (S. sommeri) is confined to a small area of north-western Haiti (Artibonite department). The Barahona least gecko (S. perissodactylius) is confined to a small area of southern coastal Dominican Republic (Barahona province). Rand’s least gecko (S. randi) is known disjunctly from the Barahona Peninsula of south-western Dominican Republic (Pedernales province) and the small offshore island of Cayo Pisaje. It is likely more widespread in southern Hispaniola.
The Plateau Central curly-tailed lizard (Leiocephalus endomychus) is known only from a single locality in eastcentral Haiti (Centre department). Last seen in 1976, it is most likely extinct. The Lapierre curly-tailed lizard (L. rhutidira) is known only from a single locality in coastal north-western Haiti (Artibonite department). Last seen in 1978, it is most likely extinct due to loss of habitat.
The Hispaniolan four-lined skink (Spondylurus haitiae) is known only from a small area of western Haiti (Nord-Ouest department), where it has not been recorded since the midnineteenth century. It is most likely extinct. The Hispaniolan ten-lined skink (S. lineolatus) is known from a heavily degraded area of northern Haiti (Artibonite department) and north-western Dominican Republic (Monte Cristi province), although it appears to have been extirpated from the latter country as a result of mongoose predation.
The Tiburon racer (Hypsirhynchus scalaris) is confined to the Tiburon Peninsula in south-western Haiti (Grand-Anse, Sud, Nippes, Ouest, and Sud-Est departments).
The Barreras fanged snake (Ialtris agyrtes) is known only from three localities within a small area of south-western Dominican Republic (Independencia, Pederales, and Barahona provinces). Cochran’s fanged snake (I. haetianus) is divided into three rather ill-defined subspecies (I. h. haetianus, I. h. perfector, and I. h. vaticinata) found disjunctly in southern Haiti (Grand-Anse, Nippes, Sud, Ouest, and Sud-Est departments) and south-western Dominican Republic (Pedernales and Barahona provinces). All are threatened by loss of habitat and possibly introduced mongooses.
The pale-lipped blind snake (Antillotyphlops capitulatus) is confined to southern and south-central Haiti (Sud, Nippes, Sud-Est, and Ouest departments).
The Sierra Martín García thread snake (Mitophis asbolepis) is confined to a small area of south-western Dominican Republic (Barahona province). Thomas’ thread snake (M. pyrites) is confined to a small area of south-eastern Haiti (Sud-Est department) and south-western Dominican Republic (Pedernales province).
The Cibao crestless toad (Peltophryne fluviatica) is confined to the Cibao Valley in north-western Dominican Republic (Monte Cristi, Valverde, and Santíago Rodrígues provinces). The eastern crested toad (P. fracta) is known only from a small area of eastern Dominican Republic (La Altagracia province). Günther’s crested toad (P. guentheri) is found widely but patchily throughout northern and southern Haiti and western Dominican Republic. All are threatened by loss of habitat.
Graham’s rain frog (Eleutherodactylus grahami) is confined to coastal north-western Haiti (Nord-Ouest and Artibonite provinces). The Boca de Yuma rain frog (E. probolaeus) is confined to a small area of far eastern Dominican Republic (La Altagracia province). Alcoa’s rain frog (E. alcoae) is confined to a small area of south-western Dominican Republic (Barahona and Pedernales provinces) and south-eastern Haiti (Sud-Est department).
Lakes, Rivers, and Marshes
The majority of Hispaniola’s rivers have dried up and there is very little freshwater habitat remaining.
The Hispaniolan slider (Trachemys decorata) is a type of turtle confined to the wetlands of Hispaniola.
The Domingo mosquito fish (Gambusia dominicensis) is naturally confined to two lakes on Hispaniola: Lake Azuei in south-eastern Haiti (Ouest department) and Lake Enriquillo in the south-western Dominican Republic (Independencia province). A popular aquarium fish, it was introduced to billabongs and streams near Alice Springs, in Northern Territory, Australia, in the mid-twentieth century.
Navassa (l’île de la Navasse in French) is a small, uninhabited island located about 56 km west of Haiti’s southwestern peninsula.
The Navassa rhinoceros iguana (Cyclura onchiopsis) has not been collected since 1878. It was presumably driven to extinction by a combination of hunting and introduced predators.
The Navassa curly-tailed lizard (Leiocephalus eremitus) is known only from a type specimen collected during the nineteenth century.
The Navassa anole (Anolis longiceps) is still abundant, although considered vulnerable owing to its small range.
Gonâve Island (Île de la Gonâve in French) is located off the western coast of Haiti.
Cochran’s curly-tailed lizard (Leiocephalus vinculum) is confined to Gonâve.
The Gonâve worm lizard (Amphisbaena gonavensis) is known only from Gonâve and the smaller Petite Gonâve, where it has not been seen in many years.
The Gonâve blind snake (Typhlops gonavensis) was last collected in 1971.
The Cayemites (Les Cayemites in French) are a pair of islands off the south-western coast of Haiti, specifically Grande Cayemite and Petite Cayemite.
The Cayemite short-tailed worm lizard (Amphisbaena cayemite) is known only from one area of dry forest on Grand Cayemite Island.
Tortuga Island (Ile de la Tortue in French) is located off the northern coast of Haiti.
Warren’s rain frog (Eleutherodactylus warreni) is confined to Tortuga Island.
Alto Velo (Isla Alto Velo in Spanish) is a small island located off the south-western coast of the Dominican Republic.
The Alto Velo curly-tailed lizard (Leiocephalus altavelensis) is confined to Alto Velo.
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.
Puerto Rico is an archipelago located in the north-eastern Caribbean that includes the main island as well as numerous smaller ones, among them Mona, Culebra, Vieques, Desecheo, and Caja de Muertos. Of the latter five only Culebra and Vieques are inhabited year-round. Puerto Rico itself is the smallest of the Greater Antilles and mostly mountainous. Few islands of the West Indies have been so drastically altered since the European occupation as Puerto Rico. During the nineteenth century its rich forests and other habitats were destroyed almost everywhere. This had a disturbing effect on agriculture, the water table, local climate, and so forth. During the 1920s the United States authorities began forest restoration and today there is probably no other Caribbean area where people have worked so hard and effectively to repair the damage done by earlier generations. By the late 1940s the natural vegetation of the island had been reduced to about 6 per cent of the island’s land surface, but rapid regeneration of forest increased this figure to 31 per cent in the early 1980s. About 1 per cent of the forests is still primeval, rich in species and abounding in tree ferns. In these forests most of the island’s threatened animals have found a refuge. However, a number of little-known species had already become extinct by the time wildlife restoration was begun.
The insular cave rat (Heteropsomys insulans) was historically known from Puerto Rico and Vieques. It was most likely exterminated by introduced rats brought with the first European colonists.
The Puerto Rican long-nosed bat (Monophyllus plethodon frater) is known only from a skull fragment excavated in the large Cathedral Cave near Morovis, Puerto Rico prior to 1917. It is thought to have become extinct during the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries due to hurricanes.
The Puerto Rican flower bat (Phyllonycteris major) is known only from fossil material. It has probably been extinct since the eighteenth century.
The Puerto Rican Amazon (Amazona vittata) is a type of parrot divided into two subspecies. The nominate form (A. v. vittata) was historically widespread and abundant on Puerto Rico, Vieques, and Mona Island, where it lived in both montane and lowland forest areas. It declined drastically during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries with the destruction of most of the native habitat, disappearing entirely from Vieques and Mona Island. With the extinction of the Culebra Amazon (A. v. gracilipes) it became the only extant parrot in the Puerto Rican archipelago. In the mid-1960s, when efforts to save the birds began, there were estimated to be about 150 remaining. By 1975 this had fallen to just 13. The establishment of the Loquillo National Forest no doubt saved the species from extinction, along with captive-breeding efforts which have more than once served as a safeguard against stochastic events. However, as of 2012 the total wild population remained at a perilously low 58–80, confined to a small area in the north-east.
The Puerto Rican nightjar (Antrostomus noctitherus) was long considered to be extinct prior to its rediscovery in 1961 in southern Puerto Rico, where the total population is estimated at between 1400 and 2000.
The Puerto Rican plain pigeon (Patagioenas inornata wetmorei) was long considered extinct until its rediscovery in 1961. During the 1970s the total population was less than 100, but has increased to several thousand thanks to the recovery of secondary-growth forests resulting from the abandonment of marginally productive pasture and cropland.
The yellow-shouldered blackbird (Agelaius xanthomus) is divided into two subspecies. The nominate form (A. x. xanthomus) was historically widespread throughout Puerto Rico, but is now restricted to a few coastal areas.
The Puerto Rican skink (Spondylurus nitidus) is found patchily along Puerto Rico’s northern and southern coasts and on the islands of Cayo Luis Peña, Cayo Norte, Culebra, and Icacos. It has declined due to predation by introduced mongooses.
A number of species of rain frog (Eleutherodactylus), known locally as coquis, are endemic to various parts of Puerto Rico, where loss of habitat combined with the infectious fungal disease chytridiomycosis have driven some of them to the point of extinction. Eneida’s rain frog (E. eneidae) was historically found throughout much of the central and eastern interior of Puerto Rico, but underwent a massive decline for unknown reasons. Last seen in 1990, it is most likely extinct. Karl Schmidt’s rain frog (E. karlschmidti) was also formerly widespread but has not been recorded in many years, and is most likely extinct. The locust rain frog (E. locustus) is now confined to two disjunct areas in eastern Puerto Rico. The upland rain frog (E. portoricensis) and Richmond’s rain frog (E. richmondi) are both found in a few localities throughout Puerto Rico. Juan Rivero’s rain frog (E. juanariveroi) is confined to two small, seasonally flooded wetland areas in northern coastal Puerto Rico. Wightman’s rain frog (E. wightmanae), Hedrick’s rain frog (E. hedricki), and the cricket rain frog (E. gryllus) have all undergone similar declines and are now known only from a few localities in central and eastern Puerto Rico.
The Cordillera Central
The Cordillera Central is the name for the mountainous central part of the island, which separates the large lowland coastal areas to the north and south.
The Luquillo Range
The Luquillo Range (Sierra de Luquillo in Spanish) is located in north-eastern Puerto Rico. The important El Yunque Rainforest is located on its slopes, which has long been protected as a national forest. It was heavily damaged by Hurricane Maria in 2017.
The elfin woods warbler (Setophaga angelae) was first discovered in 1968 in a small, high-elevation ‘tropical dwarf forest’ area of the Loquillo National Forest. Another population was later found in Maricao State Forest and on some nearby private lands. The total population is around 2700.
The unicolor rain frog (Eleutherodactylus unicolor) is confined to elfin forest within the Luquillo Range.
The Cuchilla de Panduras Range
The Cuchilla de Panduras Range is located in south-eastern Puerto Rico.
Cook’s rain frog (Eleutherodactylus cooki) is confined to the lower elevations of the Cuchilla de Panduras Range.
The Cayey Range
The Cayey Range (Sierra de Cayey in Spanish) is located in south-western Puerto Rico.
The Cayey rain frog (Eleutherodactylus jasperi) is known only from the Cayey Range, where it has not been seen since 1981 and is most likely extinct.
Mona Island (Isla de Mona in Spanish) is a small, remote, lowprofile limestone plateau situated midway between Puerto Rico and Hispaniola. It has a dry, subtropical climate that supports an open canopy forest of short, seasonally deciduous trees, shrubs, cacti, and bromeliads. Rainwater percolates rapidly through the porous limestone substrate, allowing no freshwater streams or ponds. The island is a natural reserve and, although there are no native inhabitants, rangers reside on the island to manage visitors and undertake research projects.
Mauge’s parakeet (Psittacara maugei), which may or may not have historically ranged on Puerto Rico itself, was last seen on Mona Island in 1882. The date of its extinction is not well established, but was likely sometime during the early twentieth century.
The Mona yellow-shouldered blackbird (Agelaius xanthomus monensis) is confined to Mona and Monito islands.
The Mona rhinoceros iguana (Cyclura stejnegeri) is confined to Mona Island, where it is rare and declining.
The Mona skink (Spondylurus monae) is known mainly from museum specimens, although said to be common in one locality.
The Mona boa (Chilabothrus monensis) is confined to Mona and Cayo Diablo Islands, where it is highly vulnerable to predation by feral cats.
The Mona blind snake (Antillotyphlops monensis) is a little-known burrowing species restricted to a few areas on Mona.
The Mona rain frog (Eleutherodactylus monensis) is confined to Mona, where it is still fairly abundant but vulnerable to introduced predators.
Monito Island (Islote Monito in Spanish) is a tiny limestone islet located 5 km north-west of Mona. At one time devastated by introduced rats, the latter have since been eradicated and the island is now uninhabited.
The Monito least gecko (Sphaerodactylus micropithecus) is confined to two localities on the island.
The Monito skink (Spondylurus monitae) is known only from a few specimens collected in 1993, along with an earlier sight record from the 1960s. It may be extinct.
Culebra (Isla Culebra in Spanish, literally ‘Snake Island’), located near the eastern coast of Puerto Rico, is an archipelago consisting of the main island and some two dozen smaller ones.
The Culebra Amazon (Amazona vittata gracilipes) became extinct about 1912.
The Culebra giant anole (Anolis roosevelti) is known only from a few specimens and has not been reported since 1932.
The Culebra skink (Spondylurus culebrae) is confined to a few localities on Culebra and the adjacent islet of Culebrita.
Vieques (Isla de Vieques in Spanish) is located about 16 km east of Puerto Rico.
The Vieques screech-owl (Otus nudipes newtoni) is likely extinct on the island, but may still survive on Saint Thomas and perhaps elsewhere in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The Cayman Islands
Located south of Cuba and north-west of Jamaica in the western Caribbean, the three islands in this chain are actually the peaks of a massive underwater ridge which flanks the 6000- m-deep Cayman Trough. The terrain, however, is mainly flat owing to the presence of large surrounding coral heads, with the vegetation consisting of dry forest and xeric scrub. Mammalian species on the islands include the introduced Central American agouti (Dasyprocta punctata) and eight types of bat. At least three now-extinct native rodent species were present up until the discovery of the islands by Europeans, but have not been officially described.
The Cayman Islands nesophontes (Nesophontes hemicingulus) was a small, shrew-like insectivore known only from subfossil remains found on Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac. It is believed to have disappeared sometime during the colonial era due to introduced rats.
Grand Cayman is the largest of the Cayman Islands.
The Grand Cayman rose-throated Amazon (Amazona leucocephala caymanensis) is a type of parrot confined to Grand Cayman.
The Grand Cayman thrush (Turdus ravidus) was last seen in 1938 and extinct by 1965.
The Grand Cayman oriole (Icterus leucopteryx bairdi) was last recorded in 1967, and is now extinct.
The Grand Cayman blue iguana (Cyclura lewisi) is confined to Grand Cayman.
The Grand Cayman blind snake (Cubatyphlops caymanensis) is confined to Grand Cayman.
Little Cayman and Cayman Brac
Little Cayman and Cayman Brac are small islands located north-east of Grand Cayman.
The Lesser Caymans rose-throated Amazon (Amazona leucocephala hesterna) was historically found on Little Cayman and Cayman Brac, but is now restricted to the latter.
The Lesser Caymans rock iguana (Cyclura nubilia caymanensis) is confined to Little Cayman and Cayman Brac.
The Lesser Caymans galliwasp (Celestus maculatus) is confined to Little Cayman and Cayman Brac.
Cayman Brac is located about 8 km east of Little Cayman.
The Cayman Brac blind snake (Cubatyphlops epactius) is confined to a few areas on Cayman Brac.
The Lesser Antilles
The Lesser Antilles are a long, partly volcanic island arc in the south-eastern Caribbean between the Greater Antilles to the north-west and the continent of South America, and form the eastern boundary of the Caribbean Sea with the Atlantic Ocean. The islands are sometimes divided into three groups: the Leeward Islands in the north, the Windward Islands in the south, and the Leeward Antilles lying just off the coast of Venezuela on the South American continental shelf.
The Nevis rice rat (Pennatomys nivalis) formerly occurred on Nevis, Saint Kitts, and Saint Eustatius, where archaeological records indicate that it was a major component of the diet of prehistoric Amerindians. Although it has never been definitely reported extant during the European period it is known to have survived until almost immediately prior to their arrival in the Caribbean, suggesting perhaps that introduced rats and mongooses may have been to blame for its extinction.
The Lesser Antillean big-eyed bat (Chiroderma improvisum) is known from Guadeloupe, Montserrat, and Saint Kitts, where it is threatened by habitat destruction and hurricanes.
Two little-known species of mouse-eared bat, Myotis nyctor and M. dominicensis, are endemic to the Lesser Antilles, where they are threatened by habitat destruction and hurricanes.
The Antiguan burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia amaura), which occurred on both Antigua and Barbuda, became extinct about 1890.
The forest thrush (Turdus lherminieri) is found on Montserrat, Dominica, Guadeloupe, and St Lucia, where it has been much reduced by loss of forest habitat and introduced mongooses.
The Lesser Antillean green iguana (Iguana delicatissima) historically occurred throughout the northern Lesser Antilles, but has been extirpated from a number of islands due to habitat destruction and introduced feral predators. The species is currently confined to Anguilla, Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, Saba, Dominica, Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Saint Barthélemy.
The Saint Martin anole (Anolis pogus) formerly occurred on Anguilla and possibly on Saint Barthélémy as well, but is today found only in a few highland areas of Saint Martin.
The Antigua least gecko (Sphaerodactylus elegantulus) is a naturally rare species from Antigua, its satellites, and Barbuda.
The Lesser Antillean curly-tailed lizard (Leiocephalus cuneus) is an extinct species known only from fossil remains found on Anguilla, Barbuda, Antigua, and Guadeloupe. Historical literature from Guadeloupe indicates that it survived there at least up into colonial times.
The Lesser Windward skink (Marisora aurulae) is confined to Grenada and some of the Grenadines along with Trinidad, Tobago, and possibly Saint Vincent.
The Leeward Island racer (Alsophis rijgersmaei) is found on the islands of Anguilla (and its satellite Scrub Island), as well as on Saint Barthélemy and La Tortue. It formerly occurred on St. Martin as well, but appears to have been extirpated there in the 1990s, although it may still survive on two small French islets (Île Fourchue and L’île Chevreau). The red-bellied racer (A. rufiventris) is still found on Sint Eustatius and Saba, but was extirpated from Saint Kitts and Nevis during the nineteenth century.
The giant ditch frog (Leptodactylus fallax), one of the largest frogs in the world, is today confined to parts of Montserrat and Dominica, where it has undergone catastrophic declines due to the amphibian fungal disease chytridiomycosis and volcanic eruptions. The species was historically found on Guadeloupe, Martinique, and St Kitts as well, and possibly also St. Lucia and Antigua, but has been extirpated from there. Known locally and rather stupidly as the ‘mountain chicken’, it is still prized for its meat by locals and frequently harvested.
The Virgin Islands
The Virgin Islands are the western island group of the Leeward Islands, which are in turn the northern part of the Lesser Antilles.
The Virgin Islands least gecko (Sphaerodactylus parthenopion), one of the world’s smallest terrestrial vertebrates, is confined to Virgin Gorda, Tortola, and Moskito Island.
Three skinks of the genus Spondylurus endemic to the Virgin Islands are highly threatened by introduced mongoose predation and habitat destruction. The greater Virgin Islands skink (S. spilonotus) is known from six specimens collected sporadically between 1799 and 1877 from Saint Thomas and Saint John. Assuming that the provenence is correct, the species is most likely extinct. It is possible, however, that the specimens actually originated from a different island or islands, and if so, surviving populations may yet be found. The lesser Virgin Islands skink (S. semitaeniatus) was historically widespread within the British and U.S. Virgin Islands but now appears to survive only on Tortola, Virgin Gorda, and a few smaller islets. The Virgin Islands bronze skink (S. sloanii) was also formerly widespread but is now confined to four small islands within the British Virgin Islands (Little Tobago, Norman, Peter, and Salt), and to Saint Thomas and four adjacent islets in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Cope’s worm lizard (Amphisbaena fenestrata) is confined to St. Thomas, St. John, Tortola, Great Camanoe, and Virgin Gorda, where it is threatened by loss of habitat.
The Virgin Islands boa (Chilabothrus granti) is confined to Tortola, Great Camanoe, Necker, and Virgin Gorda.
Schwartz’s rain frog (Eleutherodactylus schwartzi) is now confined to Tortola, Virgin Gorda, and Great Dog in the British Virgin Islands, having been extirpated from Saint John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The yellow-mottled rain frog (E. lentus) is confined to Saint Thomas, Saint John, Saint Croix, and Hassel Island in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and on Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands (where it may have been introduced). Both are threatened by habitat destruction.
Anegada is geologically distinct from the other British Virgin Islands, being low, flat, and composed of limestone and coral. It is also known for the large salt ponds that cover much its western end. In the 1830s thousands of Caribbean flamingos (Phoenicopterus ruber) lived in these ponds, but they were hunted for food and feathers throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and disappeared by 1950; they are now being re-established.
The Anegada rock iguana (Cyclura pinguis) was formerly found over the entire Puerto Rico bank, but is now confined to Anegada and nearby Guana Island.
The Anegada skink (Spondylurus anegadeae) is confined to Anegada.
The Anegada blind snake (Antillotyphlops catapontus) is confined to Anegada.
Saint Croix is the largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Indian mongoose (Herpestes edwardsi) was introduced in 1884 and has had a devastating effect on endemic reptiles.
The Saint Croix least gecko (Sphaerodactylus beattyi) is confined to Saint Croix and a few satellite islets.
The Saint Croix ameiva (Ameiva polops) is a type of ground lizard that was historically indigenous to Saint Croix and a few coastal islets, where it was thought to have become extinct due to habitat destruction and the introduction of mongooses in the 1880s. However, in the 1960s populations were found in Frederiksted on the west coast (later extirpated) and on two small islets (Protestant Cay and Green Cay). In 1968 lizards began to be introduced onto nearby Buck Island, which had been declared a reserve, and on Ruth Cay (a manmade island constructed by dredging). In 2011 the total population was thought to be less than 1000.
The greater Saint Croix skink (Spondylurus magnacruzae) historically occurred on Saint Croix and Green Cay, where it was last recorded in the late nineteenth century. While most likely extinct, it may survive in small numbers on Green Cay.
The lesser Saint Croix skink (Capitellum parvicruzae) is known only from a single specimen collected during the nineteenth century, and is most likely extinct.
The Saint Croix racer (Borikenophis sanctaecrucis) is known only from Saint Croix, where it was last seen in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century. It is almost certainly extinct.
Virgin Gorda is the third largest of the British Virgin Islands.
The Virgin Gorda blind snake (Antillotyphlops naugus) is confined to Virgin Gorda.
Peter Island is located south of Tortola.
The Carrot Rock skink (Spondylurus macleani) is confined to Carrot Rock, a small island located south of Peter Island. It is seriously threatened by drought and introduced rats.
Anguilla is a flat, low-lying coral and limestone island located in the Leeward Islands, directly north of Saint Martin. Apart from the main island there are also a number of adjacent smaller islands and cays, most of which are uninhabited.
Little Scrub Island
Little Scrub Island is located off the north-eastern tip of Anguilla.
Censky’s ameiva (Ameiva corax) is a type of ground lizard confined to Little Scrub Island.
Sombrero Island is located 54 km north-west of Anguilla. It is the northernmost island of the Lesser Antilles.
The Sombrero ameiva (Ameiva corvina) is confined to Sombrero Island.
Saint Martin is located in the Leeward Islands, approximately 300 km east of Puerto Rico.
The Saint Martin turnip-tailed gecko (Thecadactylus oskrobapreinorum) is confined to Saint Martin.
The Saint Martin skink (Spondylurus martinae) is known only from a handful of specimens collected from a single locality, and is probably extinct.
Saint Barthelémy is a small volcanic island located in the Leeward Islands, about 35 km south-east of Saint Martin.
The Saint Barthelémy blind snake (Antillotyphlops annae) was first first described from a single specimen in 1996, and was not observed again until 2014.
Saint Kitts and Nevis
Saint Kitts and Nevis are a pair of volcanic islands lying close together in the Leeward Islands, west of Antigua.
The Saint Kitts bullfinch (Loxigilla portoricensis grandis) has not been recorded since 1880. It likely became extinct due to the introduction of nest-raiding African vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus).
Located north of Antigua, in the middle of the Leeward Islands, Barbuda is a flat island comprised mostly of coral limestone. In September 2017 Hurricane Irma destroyed virtually all of the island’s buildings and forced the evacuation of the entire population to nearby Antigua.
The Barbuda giant rice rat (Megalomys audreyae) became extinct soon after the European occupation.
The Barbuda warbler (Dendroica subita) is confined to the island, where it is threatened by land development and vulnerable to stochastic events.
Antigua is located in the northern Leeward Islands.
The Antiguan racer (Alsophis antiguae) was once, arguably, the world’s rarest snake. Formerly it occurred on Antigua, Barbuda, and smaller islets. Only subfossil remains have been found on Barbuda, and it became extinct on Antigua at the end of the nineteenth century after the introduction of the mongoose, surviving only on Great Bird Island. Since 1995 efforts have been made to reintroduce it to three other smaller islands, where the total population is now in excess of 1000.
The small, uninhabited island of Redonda is located in the Leeward Islands off the western coast of Antigua. It is the remnant of an extinct volcano and essentially a giant rock jutting from the sea. Historically forested, today it is almost completely unvegetated except for a small area of sloping grassland
The Redonda skink (Copeoglossum redondae) was described from a single specimen collected between 1863 and 1873. It has not been recorded since.
The Redonda ameiva (Ameiva atrata) is a type of lizard confined to the island, where it is threatened by invasive rats and goats.
The island of Montserrat is located in the Leeward Islands, approximately 48 km south-west of Antigua. In July, 1995, the Soufrière Hills volcano became active and quickly buried the capital city of Plymouth. Further eruptions caused much of the population to flee and rendered the southern end of the island uninhabitable. Fortunately, the northern part of Montserrat has been barely affected by volcanic activity, and remains lush and green.
The Montserrat oriole (Icterus oberi) seems always to have had a restricted range, but volcanic eruptions in recent years have extirpated it from all but two localities.
The Montserrat galliwasp (Diploglossus montisserrati) has only been observed a handful of times, all from a single locality.
The Montserrat skink (Mabuya montserratae) is known only from eight specimens and has not been seen since 1984. It is suspected to be extinct.
The Montserrat racer (Alsophis manselli) is confined to Montserrat, where the 1995 volcanic eruption rendered as much a one-third of its distribution uninhabitable.
The Guadeloupe Archipelago
The Guadeloupe Archipelago is a group of six inhabited and numerous uninhabited islands located in the Leeward Islands.
The Guadeloupe macaw (Ara guadeloupensis) was extinct about 1640.
The Guadeloupe Amazon (Amazona violacea) was a type of parrot noted by Buffon to be very rare in 1779. It presumably became extinct soon after owing to heavy hunting.
The Guadeloupe parakeet (Psittacara labati) is thought to have been driven to extinction by hunting during the second half of the eighteenth century.
The Guadeloupe burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia guadeloupensis) become extinct around 1890.
The Guadeloupe house wren (Troglodytes aedon guadeloupensis) was thought to have gone extinct around 1914, but was rediscovered in small numbers in 1969. Last reported in 1973, it likely disappeared sometime during the late twentieth century.
The Guadeloupe ameiva (Ameiva cineracea) was a type of lizard that has not been recorded since the early twentieth century.
The Guadeloupe racer (Alsophis antillensis) was historically widespread on Guadeloupe and present on Marie-Galante. It disappeared from the latter island in the mid-nineteenth century, and today is known only from two small areas on Grande-Terre.
Grande-Terre and Basse-Terre
Although usually referred to as a single island, ‘Guadeloupe’ actually consists of two islands (Basse-Terre and Grand-Terre) that are separated by a narrow strait. An active volcano, ‘La Grande Soufrière’, is the highest in the Lesser Antilles. It last erupted in 1976, resulting in the evacuation of the southern part of Basse-Terre.
The Guadeloupe big brown bat (Eptesicus guadeloupensis) is confined to Basse-Terre.
Pinchon’s rain frog (Eleutherodactylus pinchoni) and Barlagne’s rain frog (E. barlagnei) are both confined to Basse-Terre.
Located south of Grande-Terre, Marie-Galante is the third largest island in the Guadeloupe Archipelago.
The Marie-Galante skink (Capitellum mariagalantae) is known only from a single specimen collected on Marie- Galante during the early nineteenth century. It is possible that it occurred, or still occurs, on very close offshore islets.
The Islands of the Saints
The Islands of the Saints (Îles des Saintes in French) are a small island group located south of Basse-Terre.
The Îles des Saintes racer (Alsophis sanctonum) is confined to the islands of Terre-de-Bas, Terre-de-Haut, and Îlet Cabris.
The Petite Terre Islands
The Petite Terre Islands (Îles de la Petite Terre in French) are two small, uninhabited islands located about 10 km south-east of Grande-Terre.
The Petite Terre giant ameiva (Ameiva major) is an extinct species of lizard known only from two specimens collected prior to 1825. The latter were long thought to have originated from Martinique, but are now thought to have come from the Petite Terre Islands.
Dominica (Dominique in French) is located in the Windward Islands between Guadeloupe and Martinique. The montane forests of the island harbour the only large extent of tropical rainforest remaining in the Lesser Antilles. Although some areas are protected, habitat destruction is ongoing.
The Dominica green and yellow macaw (Ara atwoodi) is possibly a hypothetical species. If it existed at all it was driven to extinction by hunting in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century, likely around 1791.
The imperial Amazon (Amazona imperialis), Dominica’s national bird, is mostly restricted to high mountain areas, but will forage at lower elevations occasionally. A victim of habitat destruction, hunting and trapping for the pet trade, the total population is thought to be around 250–350. A related species, the lesser Dominica Amazon (A. arausiaca), is also endemic to the island. It has made a remarkable conservation comeback after an all-time population low in 1980, but remains vulnerable.
The Dominica racer (Alsophis sibonius) is a type of snake confined to the island.
The Dominica rain frog (Eleutherodactylus amplinympha) is confined to high-elevation forest in the centre of the island, where it seems to be fairly safe.
Martinique is located in the Windward Island directly north of Saint Lucia, north-west of Barbados, and south of Dominica. Mongooses (Herpestes auropunctatus) were introduced during the nineteenth century in an effort to control the venomous Martinique lancehead (Bothrops lanceolatus) and have proven to be particularly disastrous to the endemic fauna.
The Martinique giant rice rat (Megalomys desmarestii) has been extinct since the end of the nineteenth century.
The Martinique macaw (Ara martinicana) became extinct around 1658.
The Martinique Amazon (Amazona martinicana) was a type of parrot driven to extinction by hunting at the end of the eighteenth century. The last record dates from 1779.
The Martinique oriole (Icterus bonana) is confined to Martinique, where it is threatened by loss of habitat and competition from introduced bird species.
The white-breasted thrasher (Ramphocinclus brachyurus) is a passerine bird found on Martinique and Saint Lucia. The Martinique white-breasted thrasher (R. b. brachyurus) was not seen after 1886 until its rediscovery in 1950. It remains confined to the Caravelle Peninsula.
The Martinique house wren (Troglodytes aedon martinicensis) has been extinct since about 1886.
The Martinique curly-tailed lizard (Leiocephalus herminieri) is known only from five specimens collected in the 1830s. The reasons for its extinction are unknown.
The greater Martinique skink (Mabuya mabouya) was historically found throughout Martinique, but was decimated after the introduction of mongooses. Last seen in 1889, it may survive in remote areas of the island or on one of its many unsurveyed satellites.
The Martinique rough-scaled wormlizard (Gymnophthalmus pleii pleii) is endemic to Martinique.
The lesser Martinique skink (Capitellum metallicum) is known only from a single specimen collected from an unknown locality on Martinique. A second specimen illustrated by Bocourt has been lost.
Lacépède’s false coral snake (Erythrolamprus cursor) was long thought to have disappeared until rediscovered in 1962. Last recorded from the main island in 1965, it continued to survive on a small coastal islet (Rocher du Diamant) until at least 1968, but has not been reliably reported there for many years and is most likely extinct.
Mount Pelée is an active stratovolcano located at the northern end of Martinique. It has erupted in 1792, 1851, and twice in 1902. The eruption of 8 May 1902 completely destroyed the main town of Saint-Pierre and killed 28,000 people within 2 minutes, while that of 30 August 1902 caused nearly 1100 deaths.
The Martinique cryptic forest frog (Allobates chalcopis) is confined to Mount Pelée.
Saint Lucia (Sainte-Lucie in French) is a notably mountainous island located in the Windward Islands. Mongoose introduction had a devastating effect on the local fauna.
The Saint Lucia giant rice rat (Megalomys luciae) has not been recorded since before the year 1881.
The Saint Lucia Amazon (Amazona versicolor) is a type of parrot confined to the central-southern mountains. During the twentieth century it had declined rapidly owing to the destruction of forest habitat and illegal hunting, but appears to have been saved by concerted conservation efforts.
The Saint Lucia wren (Troglodytes aedon mesoleucus) was believed extinct by the 1970s, but subsequently rediscovered. It remains restricted to a single area.
Semper’s warbler (Leucopeza semperi) was last collected in 1932, last officially seen in 1947, and last heard in 1961. It may have already been driven extinct by introduced mongooses, perhaps compounded by habitat destruction, although a number of possible sightings since the 1960s suggest that a small population may still survive.
The Saint Lucia black finch (Melanospiza richardsoni) is a rare species from the mountains of Saint Lucia.
The Saint Lucia white-breasted thrasher (Ramphocinclus brachyurus sanctaeluciae) is confined to a small area of north-eastern Saint Lucia, where it is threatened by woodland clearance for agriculture.
The Saint Lucia skink (Alinea luciae) is known only from four specimens collected during the nineteenth century. It was extinct by 1937.
Luetken’s rough-scaled worm lizard (Gymnophthalmus pleii luetkeni) is found on Saint Lucia and possibly on two of its satellites (Rat and Praslin), although the latter may represent as-yet undescribed subspecies.
Underwood’s mussurana (Clelia errabunda) was a large black snake that was said to be common during the midnineteenth century. It appears to have been exterminated long ago, although the reasons remain unclear.
The ornate false coral snake (Erythrolamprus ornatus) is confined to the offshore island of Maria Major, having been extirpated from Saint Lucia by mongooses during the nineteenth century. It is currently considered to be the world’s rarest snake.
Breuil’s threadsnake (Tetracheilostoma breuili) is confined to Saint Lucia and Maria Major.
The Maria Islands
The Maria Islands are located of the south-eastern coast of Saint Lucia.
Vanzo’s whiptail (Cnemidophorus vanzoi) is a type of lizard confined to the Maria Islands, where it has been successfully introduced (or reintroduced) to Praslin and Rat islands.
The Maria Islands rough-scaled worm lizard (Gymnophthalmus pleii nesydrion) is confined to the Maria Islands.
Located in the Windward Islands, Saint Vincent is mountainous and includes little level ground. Its highest peak is La Soufrière volcano at 1234 m.
The Saint Vincent pygmy rice rat (Oligoryzomys victus) is known only from a single specimen and is thought to have gone extinct in the 1890s.
Burir’s big-eared bat (Micronycteris buriri) is known only from Saint Vincent.
The Saint Vincent Amazon (Amazona guildingii) is a type of parrot confined to the upper western and eastern ridges of the island, where it declined seriously during the twentieth century through forest destruction and intensive hunting. Beginning in the 1980s, however, habitat conservation, law enforcement and public awareness campaigns halted its course towards extinction. The population remains small and vulnerable.
The Saint Vincent house wren (Troglodytes aedon musicus) was close to extinction by the mid-twentieth century, but has since recovered.
The whistling warbler (Catharopeza bishopi) is confined to rainforest areas on Saint Vincent, where it is threatened by loss of habitat.
The Saint Vincent vine snake (Chironius vincenti) is confined to a small area of Saint Vincent.
Shreve’s robber frog (Pristimantis shrevei) is confined to Saint Vincent.
The Grenadines are a chain of small islands lying on a line between the larger islands of Saint Vincent and Grenada. Most are uninhabited.
The Union Island clawed gecko (Gonatodes daudini) is confined to Union Island in the Grenadines.
The Grenadines least gecko (Sphaerodactylus kirbyi) is confined to the islands of Bequia, Mustique, Petit Nevis, and Mayreau.
The Grenada Bank worm snake (Amerotyphlops tasymicris) was, until fairly recently, known only from two specimens collected on Grenada in 1968. In 2010, however, it was rediscovered on Union Island near Saint Vincent. Searches on other islands have so far revealed no evidence of further populations.
Barbados is considered separate from both the Leeward and Windward islands, being located about 168 km east of Saint Vincent and 400 km north-east of Trinidad. A flat island, it has been devastated by deforestation as well as by introduced mongooses and green monkeys (Chlorocebus sabaeus).
The Barbados leaf-toed gecko (Phyllodactylus pulcher) is confined to rocky coastal areas on Barbados and Culpepper Island, a small satellite.
The Barbados skink (Alinea lanceolata) is known only from three specimens and not seen since 1889.
The Barbados false coral snake (Erythrolamprus perfuscus) was formerly widespread and common, but has not been recorded since before 1963. It is now considered to be extinct.
The Barbados threadsnake (Tetracheilostoma carlae) has only ever rarely been recorded, the last time being in 2005.
Grenada is an island country consisting of Grenada itself along with six smaller islands at the southern end of the Grenadines, in the Windward Islands of the south-eastern Caribbean. It is much cultivated in the lowlands, while the hills and the valleys of the interior are covered by rainforests that show the effects of violent hurricanes.
The Grenada hook-billed kite (Chondrohierax uncinatus mirus) is an extremely rare endemic subspecies.
The Grenada dove (Leptotila wellsi) was historically widespread on the island and possibly on a few coastal and offshore ones as well, but may always have been rare. It has certainly long been close to extinction, having been reduced to around 100 individuals by 1998. The population increased to around 180 by 2004, but a hurricane that year had a devastating impact on the population, from which it is only now recovering to previous levels.
The Grenada Euler’s flycatcher (Lathrotriccus euleri flaviventris) has not been recorded since the early 1950s, and is likely extinct.
The Grenada robber frog (Pristimantis euphronides) is confined to central and south-eastern Grenada.
Anthropogenic effects on the flora and fauna
Originally an Earthly paradise, the Caribbean Realm has one of the most appalling environmental records of them all. The earliest archaeological evidence of human settlement there comes from Hispaniola and dates to about 3600 bc, although the reliability of these finds has been questioned. Consistent dates of 3100 bc appear for Cuba. The earliest dates for the Lesser Antilles are from 2000 bc (Antigua). A lack of preceramic sites in the Windward Islands along with differences in technology suggest that these first settlers may have had Central American origins. Between 400 and 200 bc another wave of migrants entered Trindad from northern South America before spreading rapidly north through the Caribbean, to followed by success waves up until ad 1300. These hunter-gathering indigenous peoples annihilated virtually all endemic mammal species and much else besides. But it was not until the arrival of Europeans during the late fifteenth century that this destruction would begin to affect the ecological balance within the Caribbean as a whole. In 1492, under the patronage of the Catholic monarchs of Spain, the Italian explorer Cristoforo Colombo (known as Cristóbal Colón in Spanish, and as Christopher Columbus to history) along with his crew made the first of his four voyages to what was the ‘New World’, visiting the Bahamas, Cuba, and ‘Española’ (Hispaniola). During his second voyage in 1493–94 he reached Dominica and Guadeloupe among other islands of the Lesser Antilles, as well as Puerto Rico and Jamaica. European settlers cut down the forests and hunted what little remained of the larger mammals into extinction. Moreover, the indigenous people were displaced by new immigrants, in particular slaves brought in from Africa, and the islands were also victimized by the introduction of exotic animals. Tremendous damage to the native fauna has been done due to the latter, and is still being done as a result. Worst of all has been the introduction of the mongoose (Herpestes), which has led to a complete or nearly complete extirpation of numerous native species. Not only do introduced dogs, rats, pigs, monkeys, cats, racoons, and opossums prey extensively on endemic species, but goats have largely destroyed the vegetation, resulting in the erosion of soil. While some areas continue to be rich in plants and animals, a shamefully high proportion of the original wildlife is now gone forever. Indeed, a very high proportion of the world’s vertebrate extinctions during historic time have occurred here. Much of what remains is highly threatened. Nor have things improved since nations began to achieve independence. Haiti, for instance, is now almost entirely deforested and has long been one of the poorest countries in the world. But habitat destruction is continuing almost everywhere, driven by massive overpopulation, and a number of other manmade factors are also at work. The West Indies are also highly prone to devastating stochastic events such as volcanic eruptions and hurricanes, from which they have little ability to recover.
In recent historical time (i.e. since ad 1500), the Caribbean Realm has lost at least 76 species/15 subspecies of vertebrates. Among the extinct forms 35 species/3 subspecies are mammals, 12 species/12 subspecies are birds, 26 species are reptiles, and 3 species are amphibians. Another 24 species/1 subspecies are possibly extinct.
In addition, there are 347 species/32 subspecies currently threatened with extinction (that is to say, either Critically Endangered, Endangered, or Vulnerable according to the IUCN Red List, as well as certain forms either listed as Data Deficient or Not Assessed but which are clearly at some risk of extinction). Of these, 21 species/2 subspecies are mammals, 44 species/16 subspecies are birds, 139 species/14 subspecies are reptiles, 135 species are amphibians, and 8 species are freshwater fishes.