Invasive Boa constrictor in Puerto Rico and Aruba
In collaboration with a number of other researchers, I am studying the genetics and ecological implications of recent introductions of Boa constrictor to western Puerto Rico and to the Caribbean island of Aruba.
Invasive Boa constrictor in Puerto Rico
The tropical island Puerto Rico is potentially vulnerable to invasion by some species of exotic snakes; however, until now no established populations had been reported. We reported and genetically characterized the nascent invasion of Puerto Rico by an exotic constricting snake of the family Boidae (Boa constrictor) using mtDNA and microsatellite data. Over 150 individual B. constrictor have been removed from Mayagüez municipality since May 2011, and our results from the genetic analysis of 32 individuals suggested that this population was recently founded by individuals of one subspecies from a genetic lineage common to zoo and breeding collections, but that the potential propagule pool consists of two subspecies. We also suggested that anthropogenic long-distance dispersal within the island of Puerto Rico may be occurring from the established population, with implications for further establishment across the island. This study represents the first report of the naturalization of an invasive species of boid snake in Puerto Rico and will be important in determining mitigation strategies for this invasion as well as providing a basis for comparison to other on-going studies of invasive snakes.
Boa constrictor was first documented on the Caribbean island of Aruba in 1999 and has since rapidly expanded its population size and distribution across the island. We generated mitochondrial sequence
and multilocus microsatellite data for individuals from this population to characterize the origins and means of introduction to the island. We conclude that the present B. constrictor population on Aruba probably was not established from the introduction of a single gravid or parthenogenic female but instead most likely resulted from the release or escape of a small number of unrelated captive snakes. This study adds to the growing body of evidence suggesting the ease with which a small number of relatively slow-maturing B. constrictor can quickly invade, become established, and avoid eradication efforts in a new location with suitable habitat
Publications from this research:
Reynolds, R.G., A.R. Puente-Rolón, R.N. Reed, and L.J. Revell. 2013. Genetic analysis of a novel invasion of Puerto Rico by an exotic constricting snake. Biological Invasions 15: 953-959 [doi]
Reynolds, R.G., M.L. Niemiller, and L.J. Revell. 2014. Toward a Tree-of-Life for the boas and pythons: multilocus species-level phylogeny with unprecedented taxon sampling. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 71: 203-213 [doi]
Bushar, L.M., R.G. Reynolds, S. Tucker, L.C. Pace, W.I. Lutterschmidt, R.A. Odum, and H.K. Reinert. 2015. Genetic characterization of an invasive Boa constrictor population on the Caribbean island of Aruba. Journal of Herpetology 49: xx-x