Mundo Maya



Central American fer-de-lance, Bothrops asper

One of the most infamous of the world’s venomous snakes, this species is the leading snakebite species in its habitat. It is found from southern Mexico down to Northern South America. Like rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, and copperheads, it is a pit viper, equipped with heat sensing organs in a cavity between their eyes and nostrils. Females grow much larger than males, weighing more than ten pounds, and have bigger heads and longer fangs. The haemotoxic venom causes severe tissue damage, and many fatalities have been recorded.

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Crevice spiny lizard, Sceloporus poinsettia

There are more than ninety species in the genus Sceloporus, many of them familiar as “Blue-bellies”, “Swifts”, and “Fence Lizards”. In the same family as “Horned Toads”, they are found across through much of the US, Mexico, and Central America. This species is found throughout in the Chihuahuan Desert, on both sides of the border in Texas, New Mexico, Chihuahua and Coahuila. Its name honors Joel Poinsett, amateur scientist and first US minister to Mexico (1825-1830) after whom the Poinsettia is also named.

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Red-eyed tree frog, Agalychnis callidryas

For years this amphibian was known either as a spectacular subject of photos, or as a lump-like creature, fast asleep while stuck to a leaf or the wall or glass of its exhibit. Experiments with lighting at the DWA have resulted in increased activity, so that the startling red eyes and beautifully patterned legs and flanks are more likely to be appreciated. Found from Mexico to Northern Colombia, this is another frog that lays its eggs on leaves above water, into which the tadpoles fall.

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Marine toad, Bufo marinus

The infamous Australian Cane toad was originally native to Tropical America, from South Texas to the Amazon Basin. It can exceed five pounds in weight and attain a snout-vent length of more than a foot. Because of its voracious appetite, it was introduced to tropical places around the world to control sugar cane pests. Initial successes in Puerto Rico encouraged introductions elsewhere, with disastrous results. Both tadpoles and adults are highly toxic, causing the decline of predatory reptiles, not to mention small prey species.

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Four-eyed butterflyfish, Chaetodon capistratus

The “false eye” on the flanks of this fish is much larger than the real one in its head. This is a classic example of a distraction pattern which misleads predators into aiming for the rear of the fish, rather than its head. Similar eye-like spots are seen in other fishes and many insects. This is an abundant species in the Caribbean and the Southern Gulf of Mexico. In the summer, young specimens drift up the Atlantic coast with plankton, as far north as New England. This species has been popular in public aquariums for more than a hundred years.

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Clarion angelfish, Holacanthus clarionensis

While many angelfish have broad ranges in the Pacific or Atlantic, others are found in only a few locations. One of the more famous is this beautiful species, named for Clarion, one of the Revillagigedo Islands off the Pacific coast of Mexico. These islands are its center of distribution, but they are also found around remote Clipperton Island, and occasionally around the tip of the Baja Peninsula. Though kept in aquariums for more than 40 years, it remains a prized exhibit, collected only under special permit from the Mexican Government.

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Longsnout seahorse, Hippocampus reidi

Of the three Caribbean seahorse species found in US waters, this one has the smallest distribution, being absent from the Gulf of Mexico. In the US, it is found only in North Carolina and the Atlantic Coast of Florida. Its range extends to Brazil, where it is an important species in the tropical fish trade. It is also called the Brazilian or Slender seahorse. Like most seahorses, the color can be highly variable, but tends towards bright yellows and oranges. Its favored habitat is seagrass beds and mangroves.

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Spotted moray eel, Gymnothorax moringa

The 200 or so species of eels in the moray family have long fascinated humans. In the time of Julius Caesar, Romans kept their local species as status symbol pets in specially built pools at their Mediterranean villas. One kept thousands, and another held a funeral when his favorite pet died. Today they are popular with divers and snorkelers. Found in tropical and temperate seas around the world, they seize their prey with a unique set of “double jaws” (the second pair being in the pharynx). This species grows to seven feet, and is found in the Tropical Atlantic.

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Arrow crab, Stenorhynchus seticornis

It may not be immediately apparent that this delicate-looking creature, with its four-inch leg-span, is a fairly close relative of the Japanese giant spider crab, with its 12-foot leg span, or the Snow crab, whose legs are popular at seafood buffets. Inhabiting coral reefs from Bermuda and North Carolina through the Caribbean to Brazil, this nocturnal animal preys on marine worms and other invertebrates. Quite aside from its unique appearance, it is prized by aquarists for controlling Bristle worms, which can be pests in aquariums.

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Burrowing owl, Athene cunicularia

Found all the way from the prairies of Southern Canada to Tierra del Fuego at the tip of South America, this is one of the most widespread birds of the New World. Throughout this vast range, it lives in holes in the ground. Though often awake in the daytime, its favorite times to hunt are dusk and dawn. Its prey is mostly insects and rodents. It thrives in captivity, and has bred at the DWA and in other collections. In mythology, owls were messengers of the Mayan Underworld, and companions of the Aztec Death God.

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