Studying the Diverse Snakes of the Galápagos

The second phase of the research project on the diversity of endemic Galápagos snakes has begun.

In November of 2016, the Galápagos National Park Directorate of the Ministry of Environment of Ecuador, Island Conservation, and the University of Massey, New Zealand, started the second phase of a project on the diversity of a group of endemic reptiles that has not been studied that much: Galápagos snakes. This study aims to evaluate the taxonomy and distribution of the snakes based on morphological and genetic analyzes. There are seven known species of snakes in the archipelago, however there is little knowledge of their morphological and genetic variability. Dr. Luis Ortiz-Catderal, professor of Massey University and leader of the project noted:

A better understanding of the number of species of snakes and their distribution is crucial for an integrated management of the biodiversity of the Galápagos Islands.


Fernandina Snake. Credit: Manny Barrera

In its first phase (November-December 2015), this study obtained morphological and population data on the Champion and Gardner-by-Floreana islets, where it is estimated that there are about 1,200 specimens of the Floreana snake, also known as “Galápagos Racer” (Pseudalsophis biserialis biserialis).

The second phase included an expedition to Fernandina where they obtained data on Pseudalsophis occidentalis, P. slevini and a brief expedition to Rábida, where data on the P. dorsalis was obtained. Paula Castaño, Restoration Specialist for Island Conservation said:

A clear understanding of taxonomy allows us to guide the reintroduction programs such as those proposed under the Floreana Island Ecological Restoration Project. However, in order to reintroduce this and other species that were eradicated from the islands by invasive species, such as rodents and cats, we must first eliminate the threat posed by the invasive species.

The third phase of this project will begin in July 2017 when researchers from the University of California and the University of North Carolina will join in.

Reprinted from:
Featured photo: Galápagos Coastline. Credit: Tommy Hall/Island Conservation
Versión en Español/Spanish transcript

About Island Conservation

Island Conservation prevents extinctions by removing invasive species from islands. To date, we have successfully restored 64 islands worldwide, benefiting 1195 populations of 487 species and subspecies. Working together with local communities, government management agencies, and conservation organizations, we select islands that have the greatest potential for preventing the extinction of globally threatened species.

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