Fossil snakes from the Bahamas

Nerodia clarki

The late Pleistocene snake fossils from Sawmill Sink (Abaco, The Bahamas) represent five taxa: a blindsnake or threadsnake (Scolecophidia); the Abaco boa (Boidae: Chilabothrus cf. exsul); a rat snake (Colubridae: Pantherophis sp.); a water snake (Natricidae: Nerodia sp.); and the Cuban racer (Dipsadidae: Cubophis cf. vudii). A scolecophidian, lChilabothrus exsul, and Cubophis vudii still exist on Abaco and have been previously recovered in fossil deposits in the West Indies. In contrast, no forms of Pantherophis or Nerodia have been reported as fossils anywhere in the West Indies until now. This is the first evidence of any indigenous species of Pantherophis (living or extinct) in the Caribbean, whereas the only indigenous Nerodia in the West Indies is the extant N. clarkii along the northern coast of Cuba. In being present on Abaco in late Pleistocene but not Holocene contexts, Pantherophis sp. and Nerodia sp. resemble 17 species of birds that apparently did not survive the dramatic changes in climate, habitat, and land area associated with the Pleistocene–Holocene Transition in The Bahamas. It is likely that Pleistocene fossils of both Pantherophis and Nerodia will be found eventually on other Bahamian islands. With the discovery of these two snakes, the vertebrate fauna of Sawmill Sink now stands at 97 species, by far the richest in the West Indies.

Mead JI, Steadman DW. Late Pleistocene snakes (Squamata: Serpentes) from Abaco, The Bahamas. Geobios. 2017 Oct 10.

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