Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

The Bahamas rock iguana searches for food both on the ground and in trees. The diet is primarily herbivorous, consisting of fruit, flowers and leaves of at least 58 species, but occasionally also includes insects, molluscs, crustaceans, arachnids, lizards and carrion (1). Adult males are territorial all year round, seemingly to guard access to the food and females in their range. Mating is seasonal, taking place in May, and females produce a single clutch of two to nine eggs a year, which are laid in the nest burrow in June. Although females show no territorial behaviour during the rest of the year, they will actively defend the burrow for several days to several weeks after nesting, in order to protect their eggs from potential danger (1). The eggs hatch in September, after an incubation period of about 90 days (5). Sexual maturity is not attained until seven years of age for males, six to seven years for females, and evidence suggests that certain individuals live to at least 20 years old (1).
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Description

Bahamas rock iguanas are part of a group of large, 'dinosaur-like' lizards known as the West Indian rock iguanas (Cyclora spp.), which are widely recognised as amongst the most endangered lizards on earth (4) (5). This impressive looking species is adorned with a crest of 80 to 110 scales down the centre of its back, and rings of enlarged spiny scales around its tail (5). Body size and colour vary among island populations, with individuals ranging from grey to brown to dull green. Nine to ten vertical stripes mark the iguana's back and sides, but fade with age. Some populations bare a vermiculated pattern on the head and neck, and have pale blue dorsal crest scales and a reddish-brown tail in adult males. The Bartsch's iguana subspecies is characterised by having a yellow dorsal crest, a golden iris, and adults have a network of faint yellow-brown lines on the body (5).
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Distribution

Range Description

The species is found on 50–60 of the > 200 islands comprising the Turks and Caicos island banks. The combined surface area of all islands in the Turks and Caicos is approximately 500 km². The extent of occurrence for iguanas is 13 km², most of which is accounted for by three large cays (Big Ambergis, Little Ambergris and East Bay). In the Bahamas, the species is found only on Booby Cay, located 0.5 km off the eastern end of Mayaguana Island. The cay is 2 km in length and varies from 100–750 m wide. Approximately 30% of the cay is taken up by two ponds.
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Continent: Caribbean
Distribution: Turks I [HR 31: 253], Caicos I [HR 31: 253], Bahama I, Mayaguana I (E Bahamas)  Cyclura carinata carinata: Turks and Caicos Is.
Type locality: "Turk's Island."  Cyclura carinata bartschi (HOLOTYPE USNM 81212): Bahama Is.: Booby Cay east of Mayaguana I.
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Range

The nominate subspecies, the Turks and Caicos ground iguana (C. c. carinata), is found on 50 to 60 of the islands of the Turks and Caicos island banks, located southeast of the Bahamas, which are politically separate from the Bahamas but geologically part of the Bahama Archipelago (1) (5). The most important remaining populations are on three large cays; Big Ambergris, Little Ambergris and East Bay (1) (5). The Bartsch's iguana subspecies (C. c. bartschi) is found only on Booby Cay at the eastern end of Mayaguana Island in the southern Bahamas (1).
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Physical Description

Type Information

Paratype for Cyclura carinata
Catalog Number: USNM 81217
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Amphibians & Reptiles
Sex/Stage: ; Juvenile
Preparation: Ethanol
Year Collected: 1930
Locality: Booby Cay, E of Mariguana Cay (= Mayaguana), Mayaguana, Bahamas
  • Paratype: Cochran, D. M. 1931. J. Wash. Acad. Sci. 21 (3): 39.
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Holotype for Cyclura carinata
Catalog Number: USNM 81212
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Amphibians & Reptiles
Sex/Stage: Male; Adult
Preparation: Ethanol
Year Collected: 1930
Locality: Booby Cay, E of Mariguana Cay (= Mayaguana), Mayaguana, Bahamas
  • Holotype: Cochran, D. M. 1931. J. Wash. Acad. Sci. 21 (3): 39.
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Paratype for Cyclura carinata
Catalog Number: USNM 81215
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Amphibians & Reptiles
Sex/Stage: ; Adult
Preparation: Ethanol
Year Collected: 1930
Locality: Booby Cay, E of Mariguana Cay (= Mayaguana), Mayaguana, Bahamas
  • Paratype: Cochran, D. M. 1931. J. Wash. Acad. Sci. 21 (3): 39.
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Paratype for Cyclura carinata
Catalog Number: USNM 81214
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Amphibians & Reptiles
Sex/Stage: ; Adult
Preparation: Ethanol
Year Collected: 1930
Locality: Booby Cay, E of Mariguana Cay (= Mayaguana), Mayaguana, Bahamas
  • Paratype: Cochran, D. M. 1931. J. Wash. Acad. Sci. 21 (3): 39.
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Paratype for Cyclura carinata
Catalog Number: USNM 81213
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Amphibians & Reptiles
Sex/Stage: ; Adult
Preparation: Ethanol
Year Collected: 1930
Locality: Booby Cay, E of Mariguana Cay (= Mayaguana), Mayaguana, Bahamas
  • Paratype: Cochran, D. M. 1931. J. Wash. Acad. Sci. 21 (3): 39.
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
The species is most abundant is rocky coppice and sandy strand vegetation habitats, and friable soil is required for nesting. It is diurnal and spends the night in burrows it has dug or in natural retreats under rocks. It is primarily herbivorous throughout its life, feeding arboreally or terrestrially on the fruits, flowers and leaves of > 60 plant species, as well as occasional invertebrates. Adult males are territorial throughout the year. Courtship and mating occur in April/May, with a single annual clutch of 2–11 eggs laid in May/June. Females defend the nest burrow for several days to weeks after nesting, but are not territorial during the rest of the year. Hatching occurs in September after about 90 days of incubation. Sexual maturity in males occurs at about 7 years and in females at 6–7 years. Annual survivorship ranges from about 55% for the first three years of life, to about 67% during years four through six, to 90–95% in adults. Life table analysis suggests that mean cohort generation time is 14 years. Preliminary data suggest that some individuals live at least 20 years.

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Most abundant in rocky coppice and sandy strand vegetation habitats, with sandy habitat required for nesting. This diurnal species retreats at night into burrows it has dug or into natural crevices in or under rocks (5).
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
CR
Critically Endangered

Red List Criteria
B1ab(i,ii,iii,iv,v)

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2004

Assessor/s
Gerber, G.

Reviewer/s
Hudson, R. & Alberts, A. (Iguana Red List Authority)

Contributor/s

Justification
A comparison of 1995 survey work (Gerber 1995) combined with a less extensive survey conducted in the mid-1970’s (Iverson 1978) indicates that at least 13 iguana subpopulations, most on relatively large islands, have been extirpated over the last 20 years. This represents a 25% or greater rate of population decline. Continuing habitat loss and spread of feral mammal predators (cats, dogs and rats) are contributing to presently accelerating rates of loss. The combined area of islands supporting viable iguana populations at present is approximately 13 km². The largest remaining subpopulation (30% of total population) occurs on an island that is privately owned under extensive development.

History
  • 1996
    Critically Endangered
  • 1994
    Rare
    (Groombridge 1994)
  • 1990
    Rare
    (IUCN 1990)
  • 1988
    Rare
    (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
  • 1986
    Rare
    (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)
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Status

Classified as Critically Endangered (CR B1ab(i,ii,iii,iv,v)) on the IUCN Red List 2004 (1) and listed on Appendix I of CITES (3). Subspecies: Bartsch's iguana or Booby Cay ground iguana (C. c. bartschi) is classified as Critically Endangered (CR B1+2ce, C2b) and the Turks and Caicos ground iguana (C. c. carinata) is classified as Critically Endangered (CR B1+2abcde) on the IUCN Red List 2004 (1).
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Population

Population
Approximately 30,000 adult iguanas remain in the Turks and Caicos islands, fragmented into 50–60 island subpopulations. Subpopulations range from islands without feral mammals, where iguanas are very common (densities may exceed 30 adults per hectare) to islands with feral mammal populations, on which iguana are either absent or extremely rare. The most important remaining subpopulations are on three large cays lacking feral predators (Big Ambergris, Little Ambergis and East Bay), the largest of which (Big Ambergris; 4.3 km²; supporting approximately 10,000 adult iguanas) is privately owned and under development.

In the Bahamas, surveys indicate that iguanas on Booby Cay were fairly numerous in 1988 and 1997, with all age classes present. However, the iguana population is restricted to a single small cay with a high point of 6.2 m and most of its area below 3 m. Although no formal census has been conducted, it is unlikely that the population exceeds 750 adults (Gerber et al., unpublished data).

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Threats

Major Threats
In the Turks and Caicos Islands, the primary threat to iguanas is introduced mammals, particularly cats and dogs. Iverson (1978, 1979) documented the near-extirpation of a population of over 5,000 adults in three years as a result of predation by feral cats and dogs. Feral livestock (goats, cows, donkeys and horses) pose a serious threat also, presumably because they compete for food plants, alter the vegetational composition of habitats and trample soft substrates where iguanas burrow and nest. In 1995, iguanas were found on only 5–26 islands with cats or livestock. Iguanas on these islands were very rare, whereas iguanas on islands without introduced mammals are common. Recently, feral cats have crossed a newly formed sand spit connecting Pine and Water Cay (two islands with cats) to Little Water Cay (an important nature reserve that was previously cat-free). Development for tourism is also an increasing cause of habitat loss.

On Booby Cay, Bahamas, the immediate threat to the population is the presence of goats, which are degrading the vegetation through over-browsing. Catastrophe, particularly in the form of a hurricane or storm surge, is a significant threat.

In the Turks and Caicos, iguanas are still occasionally eaten by local fishermen, and although illegal exportation for international trade is undocumented, it probably occurs. There have been no reports of poaching of iguanas on Booby Cay, although it is unknown is any are taken by local fishermen for consumption.
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At least 13 iguana subpopulations, most on relatively large islands, have disappeared over the last 20 years, predominantly due to ongoing habitat loss and the spread of introduced or feral mammal predators, with this decline apparently accelerating (1). The primary threat in the Turks and Caicos Islands is introduced mammals such as cats, dogs and rats, which managed to almost completely destroy one population of 5,000 iguanas on Pine Cay in just three years (5). Worryingly, feral cats have recently crossed a newly formed sand spit from Pine and Water Cay to Little Water Cay, an important nature reserve that was previously cat-free. Feral livestock such as goats, cows, donkeys and horses also pose a significant threat, through competing for food, altering vegetation compositions of the islands, and trampling soft substrates where these iguanas borrow and nest. Development for tourism is an increasing cause of habitat loss and an additional cause for concern. The population of the Bartsch's iguana subspecies on Booby Cay has been protected to a degree by the fact that the cay is not readily accessible from the settlements on Mayaguana, minimising disturbance. The main immediate threat to this population on Booby Cay is the presence of goats, which are over-browsing vegetation and causing extensive habitat degradation. Environmental catastrophes here, such as hurricanes or storm surges, also pose a very real danger (1). While there are no reports of poaching on Booby Cay, iguanas on the Turks and Caicos Islands are occasionally eaten by local fishermen and illegal international trade is thought likely to occur, despite being undocumented (1).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
The Turks and Caicos has a fairly extensive system of national parks, nature reserves and sanctuaries, a number of which encompass areas supporting iguanas. However, these reserves are not immune to the effects of introduced mammals and few government resources are presently allocated to maintain or enforce protection of non-marine parks. Largely due to the urging of the TCI National Trust, legislation to protect iguanas within the islands has recently been drafted, although not yet implemented. In addition, the government has granted the TCI National Trust stewardship of Little Ambergris Cay, which supports a healthy iguana population, and Little Water Cay, which supports a large population of iguanas but needs management due to its popularity with tourists and recent invasion by feral cats. Finally, the TCI National Trust has initiated a public education campaign that includes a tour of all schools to discuss iguanas and other conservation issues. In November, 2003, a Conservation and Management Plan was drafted at a joint IUCN-government sponsored workshop attended by in-country conservation managers, government officials, private businessmen, and international iguana conservation experts. The plan lays out a comprehensive strategy to conserve and restore populations of the Turks and Caicos iguana within its historic range, and perpetuate it as a symbol of national pride and sound environmental management.

All Bahamian rock iguanas are protected under the Wild Animal Protection Act of 1968. The Bahamas National Trust has proposed to the Bahamas government that Booby Cay, which is also of significant value for nesting seabirds, be named a protected area under the national parks system (Carey et al. 2000). Representatives of the Wildlife Committee of the Bahamas National Trust and the Department of Agriculture are planning the removal of feral goats.

This species is listed on CITES Appendix I.
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Conservation

Many of the Turks and Caicos Islands are protected by being encompassed in national parks, nature reserves and sanctuaries, a number of which support Bahamas rock iguana populations. Unfortunately, many of these reserves still suffer from the effects of introduced mammals and few government resources have been allocated to maintain or enforce protection of non-marine parks (1). However, the establishment of the National Trust for the Turks and Caicos Islands in 1994 has significantly increased the conservation of terrestrial wildlife. The National Trust has been granted stewardship of Little Water Cay, and similar transfers of Little Ambergris and East Bay Cays are currently pending. On Little Water Cay, boardwalks and observation towers have been constructed at two popular landing sites to reduce the damaging impacts of tourism, and a visitation fee has been implemented with the proceeds going towards supporting conservation activities. A trapping programme to remove feral cats from Pine, Water, and (if necessary) Little Water Cays has also been established by the National Trust (5). Legislation to protect iguanas within these islands has recently been drafted, and in November 2003 a Conservation and Management Plan was drawn up, which lays out a comprehensive strategy to conserve and restore populations of the Turks and Caicos iguana within its historic range, and perpetuate it as a symbol of national pride (1). Beginning in 2000, the translocation of 218 animals was undertaken, from islands where they are currently threatened to four uninhabited cays within the Turks and Caicos reserve system. To date, the translocated iguanas have experienced a 98 percent survival rate (6). This example provides hope for similar translocations in the future to other islands where the species has dwindled or been extirpated (7) (8). On Booby Cay, the Bartsch's iguana subspecies is protected like all Bahamian rock iguanas under the Wild Animal Protection Act of 1968. Additionally, the Bahamas National Trust has proposed to the government that Booby Cay, which is also of great importance to nesting seabirds, be named a protected area under the national parks system. Most importantly, the removal of feral goats has been planned, which would effectively eliminate the main threat to this subspecies and massively help its chances of survival (5).
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Wikipedia

Turks and Caicos rock iguana

The Turks and Caicos rock iguana (Cyclura carinata) is a critically endangered species of lizard of the genus Cyclura that is endemic to the Turks and Caicos islands. Turks and Caicos has 50,000 rock iguanas, the healthiest population of rock iguanas in the Caribbean.

Taxonomy[edit]

The Turks and Caicos rock iguana, Cyclura carinata carinata, was first described by American Zoologist Richard Harlan in Fauna Americana in 1825.[2] Its generic name (Cyclura) is derived from the Ancient Greek cyclos (κύκλος) meaning "circular" and ourá (οὐρά) meaning "tail", after the thick-ringed tail characteristic of all Cyclura.[3] Its specific name carinata means "keeled" and refers to the animal's scales. The species is endemic to 50-60 of the 200 islands and cays that make up the Turks and Caicos Islands.[1] It has one subspecies which lives on Booby Cay, Bartsch's iguana (Cyclura carinata bartschi).[1][4] Morphological and genetic data indicate that the closest living relative of C. carinata is C. ricordi of Hispaniola.

Anatomy and morphology[edit]

Measuring less than 770 millimetres (30 in) in length when full grown, the Turks and Caicos Rock iguana is one of the smallest species of Cyclura.[5][6] The lizard's basic color can range from green to brownish grey, usually patterned by darker markings.[1] The species lacks the large scales on the upper surface of its head, characteristic of other species of cyclura and possesses larger dorsal spines than other species of iguana.[7]

Like other members of the genus cyclura, males of this species are larger than females(in this case twice as large in body mass) and have larger dorsal crests and femoral pores on their thighs making the animals sexually dimorphic.[8][9]

Habitat and distribution[edit]

Turks and Caicos rock iguana

The Turks and Caicos rock iguana inhabits small cays, but has been reduced to less than 5% of its original range largely due to the introduction of predators.[5][7]

2,000 iguanas are the only land creatures that inhabit Little Water Cay.[7] To promote tourism on Little Water Cay, a boardwalk has been built throughout the island. Tourists can take a tour of the island, along this boardwalk, but are not permitted to step off it.[7]

The Turks and Caicos rock iguana dwells in rocky areas and sandy habitats as sand is required for nesting. The Turks and Caicos iguana is diurnal and spends the night in the burrows it has dug or in natural retreats in or under the rocks.[citation needed]

Diet and longevity[edit]

Like all Cyclura species, the Turks and Caicos rock iguana is primarily herbivorous, consuming leaves, flowers, and fruits from over 58 different plant species.[1] This diet is very rarely supplemented with insects, mollusks, crustaceans, arachnids, lizards, and carrion. It has been noted that in captivity, it eats both animal and plant food. Gerber and Iverson write that the Turks and Caicos rock iguana may live at least 20 years.[citation needed]

Mating[edit]

Adult males are sexually mature at seven years of age and are territorial throughout the year in order to guarantee access to food and females. Females only become territorial when defending their nest site upon laying eggs and for several weeks following. The animals mate in May, and the female lays a single clutch of two to nine eggs in June. The eggs hatch in September after a 90-day incubation period.[citation needed]

Causes of decline[edit]

Like most Cyclura species the Turks and Caicos rock iguana is in decline. In this species' case it is primarily due to its small body size which makes it vulnerable to introduced predators such as dogs and cats.[1][5] In the 1970s a population of 15,000 iguanas was completely destroyed within five years by a mere handful of dogs and cats brought to Pine Cay by hotel workers.[5] Competitive grazing with domestic and feral livestock is a secondary factor.[1][10]

Conservation measures[edit]

Although Little Water Cay is home to over 2,000 Turks and Caicos rock iguanas, they have been wiped out from the other cays in their former range.[1][7] Little Water Cay is now a nature reserve and neither dogs nor cats are permitted on the island to ensure the survival of the critically endangered species.[1]

In 2000 scientists from the San Diego Zoo's division of Conservation and Research for Endangered Species (CRES), under the direction of Conservation Research Fellow Dr. Glenn Gerber translocated 218 iguanas from Big Ambergris and Little Water Cay where their populations were threatened to four uninhabited cays within the Turks and Caicos reserve system.[5][11]

To date, these iguanas have experienced a 98 percent survival rate; they have adapted to new conditions and even successfully reproduced the immediate breeding season.[5][11] Yearling iguanas resulting from the reproduction of the original translocated adults from 2002 are exceeding the size of their counterparts on the source Cays from which their ancestors were translocated by as much as 400%.[5]

Legislation to protect the iguanas has been drafted by the Turks and Caicos government in 2003.[5] Additionally, the National Trust for the Turks and Caicos Islands has stewardship for the Little Water Cay to ensure that it is not mismanaged and has initiated a program to remove feral cats from Pine Cay and Water Cay.[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Gerber, G. (2004). "Cyclura carinata". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 9 May 2014. 
  2. ^ "Cyclura carinata Harlan, 1825", Integrated Taxonomic Information System, 2001, retrieved 10/5/2007 
  3. ^ Sanchez, Alejandro. "Family Iguanidae: Iguanas and Their Kin". Father Sanchez's Web Site of West Indian Natural History Diapsids I: Introduction; Lizards. Kingsnake.com. Retrieved November 26, 2007. 
  4. ^ Hollingsworth, Bradford D. (2004), "The Evolution of Iguanas: An Overview of Relationships and a Checklist of Species", Iguanas: Biology and Conservation (University of California Press): 35, ISBN 978-0-520-23854-1 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Hudson, Rick (4/1/2007), "Big Lizards, Big Problems", Reptiles Magazine 15 (4): 54–61 
  6. ^ Hudson, Richard D.; Alberts, Allison C. (2004), "The Role of Zoos in the Conservation of West Indian Iguanas", Iguanas: Biology and Conservation (University of California Press): 281–285, ISBN 978-0-520-23854-1 
  7. ^ a b c d e Welch, Mark E.; Gerber, Glenn P.; Davis, Scott K. (2004), "Genetic Structure of the Turks and Caicos Rock Iguana and Its Implications for Species Conservation", Iguanas: Biology and Conservation (University of California Press): 58–70, ISBN 978-0-520-23854-1 
  8. ^ De Vosjoli, Phillipe; David Blair (1992), The Green Iguana Manual, Escondido, California: Advanced Vivarium Systems, ISBN 1-882770-18-8 
  9. ^ Martins, Emilia P.; Lacy, Kathryn (2004), "Behavior and Ecology of Rock Iguanas,I: Evidence for an Appeasement Display", Iguanas: Biology and Conservation (University of California Press): 98–108, ISBN 978-0-520-23854-1 
  10. ^ Hayes, William K.; Carter, Ronald L.; Cyril, Samuel; Thornton, Benjamin (2004), "Conservation of a Bahamian Rock Iguana, I; Iguanas: Biology and Conservation", Iguanas: Biology and Conservation (University of California Press): 245, ISBN 978-0-520-23854-1 
  11. ^ a b "Turks and Caicos Iguana Restoration Program". 
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