Tuesday 18 June
Saint Lucia racer (Liophis ornatus)
Saint Lucia racer fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
Saint Lucia racer description
|Family||Dipsadidae (1) (2)|
One of the world’s rarest snakes, the Saint Lucia racer is clinging to a precarious existence on the tiny Caribbean island of Maria Major (5). A relatively small, non-venomous snake, the Saint Lucia racer is distinguished by a comparatively short tail, and a stripe of dark brown that runs from the neck to the tip of the tail (6). Otherwise the body is a light brown, fading to olive whilst moulting, with a yellowish white on the undersides (5). A black band sits behind the large, conspicuous eyes, while the blackened pointed snout may have a scattering of yellow streaks (4) (6). In common with other Colubrid snakes, the two halves of the lower jaw are not connected, an adaptation that allows the Saint Lucia racer to swallow large food items (7).
- Also known as
- St Lucia racer. Top
The Saint Lucia National Trust:
Ministry of Agriculture, Lands, Forestry and Fisheries:
- Active during the day.
- A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
- Henderson, R.W. and Powell, R. (2009) Natural history of West Indian reptiles and amphibians. University Press of Florida.
Caribherp: Database of West Indian Amphibians and Reptiles (March, 2010)
IUCN Red List (March, 2010)
- Schwartz, A. and Henderson, R.W. (1991) Amphibians and reptiles of the West Indies: Descriptions, distributions and natural history. The University of Florida Press, Florida.
- Corke, R. (1987) Reptile conservation on the Maria Islands (Saint Lucia, West Indies). Biological Conservation, 40: 236-279.
The J. Craig Venter Institute: Reptile Database (March, 2010)
- Burnie, D. (2001) Animal. Dorling Kindersley, London.
- Tyler, R.E. (1849) Notes on the serpents of St. Lucia. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, 1849: 100-104
- Powell, R. and Henderson, R.W (2005) Conservation status of Lesser Antillean reptiles. Iguana, 12: 63-77.
- Young, R.P., Fa, J.E., Ogrodowczyk, A., Morton, M., Lesmond, S. and Funk, S.M. (2006) The Saint Lucia whiptail lizard Cnemidophorus vanzoi: a conservation dilemma? Oryx, 40: 358-361.
- Halliday, T. and Adler, K. (2002) The New Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
- Henderson, R.W. (2004) Lesser Antillean snake faunas: distribution, ecology, and conservation concerns. Oryx, 38: 311-320.
- Henderson, R.W. (1992) Consequences of predator introductions and habitat destruction on amphibians and reptiles in the post-Columbus West Indies. Caribbean Journal of Science, 28: 1-10.
The Saint Lucia National Trust (March, 2010)
- view the contents of, and Material on, the website;
- download and retain copies of the Material on their personal systems in digital form in low resolution for their own personal use;
- teachers, lecturers and students may incorporate the Material in their educational material (including, but not limited to, their lesson plans, presentations, worksheets and projects) in hard copy and digital format for use within a registered educational establishment, provided that the integrity of the Material is maintained and that copyright ownership and authorship is appropriately acknowledged by the End User.
Saint Lucia racer biology
Known from only a few specimens and sightings, very little is known about the biology of the Saint Lucia racer. This lack of sightings may be explained by its burrow-dwelling habits, as the Saint Lucia racer may enter the burrows of lizards to prey upon eggs, a unique behaviour within the Liophis genus, as most species prey upon amphibians in moist habitats (5). The Saint Lucia racer is thought to be diurnal; however, its breeding biology has yet to be described, but as is typical of most racers, it most likely lays eggs (1) (11).Top
Saint Lucia racer range
Historically the Saint Lucia racer was found across the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia, and the offshore Maria Islands (3) (8). However, today it is restricted to the tiny uninhabited island of Maria Major, having become extinct on mainland Saint Lucia, with a total range of less than a tenth of a square kilometre (3) (5) (9).Top
Saint Lucia racer habitatTop
Saint Lucia racer status
Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (3).Top
Saint Lucia racer threats
The West Indies is considered a biodiversity hotspot for reptiles, with over 87 percent of snake species endemic to the region. However, the region is also characterised by having some of the rarest snake species in the world, many of which, including the Saint Lucia racer, are extremely close to extinction (12). Once widespread across the island of Saint Lucia and the neighbouring Maria Islands, the introduction of small Asian mongooses (Herpestes javanicus) initiated a dramatic decline, resulting in the complete extirpation of the species from the mainland, restricting the species to its present day distribution (9) (13). As a ground dwelling, diurnal snake, the Saint Lucia racer is particularly vulnerable to predation by mongooses, and consequently it now occupies a vulnerable position, with a population that is critically small (5) (9) (13).Top
Saint Lucia racer conservation
Facing the very real threat of extinction, the survival of the Saint Lucia racer is dependant upon the implementation of major conservation measures. As it is restricted to the very small island of Maria Major, along with a further six reptiles, four of which are Saint Lucian endemics, the Saint Lucian government declared the Maria islands a nature reserve in 1982 (5) (14). As a direct result of this, reserve wardens have been employed to take tourist tours to the island, and to monitor activities on the island, thus generating funds for conservation and ensuring the island’s fragile environment is preserved (5). The Saint Lucia National Trust has also operated tours to the island, with plans to revive this, and efforts are underway to prevent exotic species establishing on the islands (5) (14).Top
Find out more
For more information on the conservation of Saint Lucia, see:
Authenticated (23/06/2010) by Matthew Morton, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, c/o - Forestry Department, Ministry of Agriculture, Castries, Saint Lucia, West Indies.
MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.
Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials
Copyright in this website and materials contained on this website (Material) belongs to Wildscreen or its licensors.
Visitors to this website (End Users) are entitled to:
End Users shall not copy or otherwise extract, alter or manipulate Material other than as permitted in these Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials.
Additional use of flagged material
Green flagged material
Certain Material on this website (Licence 4 Material) displays a green flag next to the Material and is available for not-for-profit conservation or educational use. This material may be used by End Users, who are individuals or organisations that are in our opinion not-for-profit, for their not-for-profit conservation or not-for-profit educational purposes. Low resolution, watermarked images may be copied from this website by such End Users for such purposes. If you require high resolution or non-watermarked versions of the Material, please contact Wildscreen with details of your proposed use.
Creative commons material
Certain Material on this website has been licensed to Wildscreen under a Creative Commons Licence. These images are clearly marked with the Creative Commons buttons and may be used by End Users only in the way allowed by the specific Creative Commons Licence under which they have been submitted. Please see http://creativecommons.org for details.
Any other use
Please contact the copyright owners directly (copyright and contact details are shown for each media item) to negotiate terms and conditions for any use of Material other than those expressly permitted above. Please note that many of the contributors to ARKive are commercial operators and may request a fee for such use.
Save as permitted above, no person or organisation is permitted to incorporate any copyright material from this website into any other work or publication in any format (this includes but is not limited to: websites, Apps, CDs, DVDs, intranets, extranets, signage, digital communications or on printed materials for external or other distribution). Use of the Material for promotional, administrative or for-profit purposes is not permitted.