Fauna of Belize

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The keel-billed toucan is native to Belize

Belize is a country with a rich variety of wildlife, due to its unique position between North and South America, and a wide range of climates and habitats for plant and animal life.[1] Belize's low human population, and appromxiately 8,867 square miles (22,970 km2) of undistributed land, provides an ideal home for more than 5000 species of plants, and hundreds of species of animals — including armadillos, snakes, and monkeys.[2][3]

Amphibians[edit]

There are many species of salamanders, toads, and frogs found in the tropical forests of Belize such as the Rufescent Salamander, Red-Eyed Tree Frog, Maya Rain Frog, Marine Toad, and Mexican Burrowing Toad. Out of 450 different species of salamanders found in the world, only 6 different types are found in Belize, all of which belong to the Family Plethodontidae group. This group of salamanders are the lungless salamanders, meaning they do not breath through lungs, but instead through the pores of their moist skin. There are 3 different species of toads living in Belize, out of more than 300 species. The largest known toad can be found in Belize, the Marine Toad. It can grow up to 20 cm (8 in), and weight as much as 1.2 kg (2.5 lb.). These toads are more commonly found in human settlements rather than wildlife, so they are easily seen by tourists. They have adapted to human settlements, so they will eat cat or dog food left out for house pets.[4]

There are more than 800 species of rain frogs that exist, and 8 of them are found in Belize. They vary in size, from the Maya Rain Frog which is about 2.5-3.5 cm (1 in), to the Central American Rain Frog which can be 9 cm (3.5 in) long. Rain frogs are usually terrestrial, so they can be found on the forest floors, in or near pools, ponds, and streams. They are different from tree frogs in their color; usually having more earth tones with dark markings on their backs and legs. Out of more than 700 species of tree frogs, 12 of them can be found in Belize. Unlike rain frogs, they have more bright colors such as orange, blue, red and yellow to warn predators that they are poisonous. Tree Frogs, like their name, are most commonly found in trees. Despite their skinny legs, the are very good jumpers and climbers.[4]

Reptiles[edit]

In Belize, there are 2 species of crocodilians (crocodiles, alligators, and caimans) that roam around the waters, the American Crocodile and Morelet's Crocodile. Although both of these species are not particularly aggressive, they are found as a danger to humans. The American Crocodile can grow up to 6.4 m (21 ft), on average being about 4 m (13 ft). They are usually found in the swamps and lowlands of Belize. Morelet's Crocodile, which is smaller than the American can grown up to 4 m (13 ft) but the average size is 2.5 m (8 ft). These crocodiles are mostly seen along the coast of Northern and Central Belize in freshwater.[5]

Belize has many different species and types of turtles. There are 3 different species of Hard-Shelled Sea Turtles such as the Loggerhead, which on average is 2.3 m (7.5 ft) long and 540 kg (1190 lb.). They are found in the open oceans and coastal waters of Belize. Another is the Green Sea Turtle which on average is 1.5 m (5 m) and can weigh up to 100 kg (220 lb.). Green Sea Turtles migrates across open seas but are primarily found in shallow coastal waters. The third type of hard-shelled Sea Turtle that can be founding Belize is the Hawksbill Turtle. This sea turtle is only about 1 m (3.3 ft) and does not exceed 50 kg (110 lb.), and they are usually found near coral reefs or rocky areas of the sea. Only 1 specie of Leatherback Sea Turtle is found in Belize and that is the Trunk-back Sea Turtle, which can be up to 2 m (6.6 ft) and over 800 kg (1764 lb.). They are found more in shallow waters or coastal waters. 5 species of Mud and Musk Turtles are found in the fresh water bodies of Belize: Narrow-Bridged Musk Turtles, Tabasco Mud Turtles, White-Lipped Mud Turtles, Scorpion Mud Turtles, and Mexican Giant Musk Turtles. 2 of the species of turtles that live primarily on land in Belize are the Furrowed Wood Turtle and the Slider Turtle. Some other species of turtles commonly found in Belize are Central American river turtles which live in fresh water bodies and average size is about 65 cm (25 in), and Snapping Turtles which can tolerate any type of body of water, and on average are about 47 cm (18 in).[6]

Belize is home to many different tropical snake species, including both venomous and nonvenomous snakes. The families found in Belize consist of Colubridae, Boidae, Elapidae and Viperidae, of which the latter two families are highly venomous and may present a potential health hazard to humans if provoked. Out of 1500 different species of colubrids known in the world, 60 of these species live in the tropical habitats of Belize. Many of the colubrid species found in Belize are often Neotropical forms of the Neartic colubrids found in Mexico, the United States, and Canada, with some of the species of colubrid snakes consisting of the water snakes, brown snakes, garter snakes, whip snakes, green snakes, rat snakes, and king snakes.[4] Colubrid snakes differ from other Belize snakes in a few ways. Colubrids typically do not have a definable jaw line, and often have heads that are not much thicker than the neck, if at all.[6] In addition, they have several rows of teeth on the roof of their mouth, as well as single row of teeth on the bottom jaw, but they do not have elongated, hollow fangs in the upper jaw as some of the venomous snakes often do.[4] The only species in the family Boidae that is found in Belize is the Boa constrictor, which includes a separate locality form (potentially a separate subspecies) from Crawl Cay.[7] A dwarf form, Belizean boa constrictors can reach up to a maximum length of 7 feet (2.1 m) but typically only reach a length of 2.5–4 feet (0.76–1.22 m). Their patterns typically consists of brown or black squarish markings on a grey or brown background that become progressively rounder, larger, and darker towards the tail, and this pattern helps them to camouflage in their surroundings, often in leaf litter, bushes, and tree canopies, to remain hidden from both prey and predators.[4] Both the nonvenomous boa constrictors and much of the colubrid species primarily kill their prey via constriction, grabbing their prey within their jaws before throwing coils of their muscular bodies around the prey item and squeezing a great amount of pressure, killing their prey by asphyxiation and ruptured blood capillaries. Boa constrictors are ambush hunters, while colubrids will vary between being either active hunters or ambush hunters.

The venomous snakes in Belize can be split into two different categorical families: the Viperidae, and the Elapidae. The Viperidae of Belize contains pit vipers such as rattlesnakes, lanceheads, and the cantils. Most of the venomous snakes in Belize are in this family. Some of the specific species found in Belize are the Fer-de-Lance, (Bothrops asper) which can grow up to 2.5 m (8 ft) in length, the Eyelash Viper (Bothriechis shlegelii), which can grow up to 1 m (3 ft), and the Neotropical rattlesnake (Crotalus durissus), with can reach a length of 1.5 m (5 ft). Pit vipers, much like the nonvenomous boa constrictor, are usually ambush hunters that will remain hidden, laying in wait in a single general area, potentially up for several days, before striking a prey item that crosses their path with immense speed. There are only 3 species of the Elapidae family that are found in Belize, all of which are classified as different species of coral snakes. Coral snakes are often found in bright vivid patterns which represent a warning to potential predators or aggravators, also of which are known to be mimicked by the colubriod milk snakes as a form of Batesian mimicry. Coral snakes from Belize are typically small, rarely ever grow longer than 1 m (3 ft). However, their venom is known to be a very powerful neurotoxin.

There are 8 species of geckos that inhabit Belize. They are very small, harmless lizards, that can climb walls due to their big toes and claws that allow them to cling easily. This is why they are often found in homes of people in Belize, hanging on the walls. They are usually a length of 5–10 cm (2–4 in), not including the tail. The size of the tail can vary dramatically because of the gecko's ability to detach it, and grow another. There is one specie of gecko that can only be found in Belize, which is the Island Leaf-Toed Gecko, or the Belizean Atoll Gecko. The world's smallest reptile, the Caribbean Dwarf Gecko, which on average is 4 cm (1.5 in) long, has also made its home in Belize.[4]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Moon Handbooks (2006). "Know Belize - Flora & Fauna". CentralAmerica.com. Retrieved 2008-02-15. 
  2. ^ "BELIZE". Encyclopedia of the Nations. 2007. Retrieved 2008-02-15. 
  3. ^ Jayawardena, Chandana (2002). Tourism and Hospitality Education and Training in the Caribbean. University of the West Indies Press. pp. 165–176. ISBN 976-640-119-5. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Beletsky, Les (1999). The Ecotravellers’ Wildlife Guide: Belize and Northern Guatemala. London: Academic Press. pp. 66–76, 83–105. ISBN 0-12-084811-2. 
  5. ^ "Fauna". Retrieved 1 October 2012. 
  6. ^ a b Stafford, Peter J. (2000). A Guide To The Reptiles of Belize. London: The Natural History Museum. pp. 60–83. ISBN 0-12-662760-6. 
  7. ^ http://gazboas.co.uk/crawlcay.html