Turks Island Boa

For the last 7 years I have been studying the ecology, natural history, distribution, and genetics of the Turks Island Boa, with the intention of initiating meaningful conservation measures for this species. I have a long-term mark-recapture research population on Big Ambergris Cay, where Glenn Gerber (San Diego Zoo) and I have marked over 450 individuals.



I found relatively low genetic divergence in Turks Island boas across the Turks and Caicos archipelago, a finding with significant conservation and management implications. I suggested that the Turks Island boa represents a single evolutionarily significant unit, and therefore recommended that translocation and reintroduction campaigns would not disturb any significant genetic structure, a strategy that may well be the most important component of long-term conservation management of this species (Reynolds 2011; Reynolds et al. 2011).



Prior to our studies which began in 2007, almost nothing was known about the ecology or status of the Turks Island Boa (Epicrates c. chrysogaster). We have since initiated a long-term study of these snakes on Big Ambergris Cay, and plan to expand to North Caicos.




Natural History

We have expanded our understanding of the distribution and natural history of this species. Significantly, boas were thought to have been extirpated from the Turks Bank, where the holotype was collected. We have since discovered a remnant of the Turks Bank lineage on a tiny island near Grand Turk- a tenuous existence of this group  (Reynolds 2011; Reynolds and Niemiller 2010).


Color Pattern Evolution

I am currently writing a manuscript describing ontogenetic color change (OCC) and remarkable color polymorphism from the observation of over 400 individual E. chrysogaster in the TCI.







We are focusing on improving our understanding of this species, as well as engaging the local public in understanding that these are interesting creatures and not to be killed or bulldozed. We have generated popular articles, displays, and brochures to improve awareness; and have also appeared on local TV programs introducing viewers to this species, which is mistakenly viewed as venomous and an evil omen.




Publications from this research:

Reynolds, RG. 2008. The Snakes of the Turks and Caicos Islands. Brochure for the National Environmental Centre on Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands.

Reynolds, RG and ML Niemiller. 2009. Expedition report and recommendations for the Department of Environment and Coastal Resources. Unpublished Technical Report for the Ministry of Natural Resources, Turks and Caicos Islands.Environmental Centre on Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands.

Reynolds, RG, and C Deal. 2010. Where do all the babies go? Understanding the biology of juvenile Rainbow boas. Green Pages, Times of the Islands Magazine, Winter, 93: 34-36. [pdf]

Reynolds, RG, and ML Niemiller. 2010. Epicrates chrysogaster (Southern Bahamas Boa), distribution. Caribbean Herpetology 14:1. [doi]

Reynolds, RG, GP Gerber, and J Burgess. 2010. Tropidophis greenwayi greenwayi (Big Ambergris Dwarf Boa). Distribution. Herpetological Review 41: 520.

Reynolds, R.G. 2011. Status, conservation, and introduction of amphibians and reptiles in the Turks and Caicos Islands, British West Indies, p. 377-406. In: A. Hailey, B.S. Wilson, and J.A. Horrocks (Eds.). Conservation of Caribbean Island Herpetofaunas, vol. 2: Regional Accounts of the West Indies. Brill, Netherlands. [doi] [pdf]

Reynolds, R.G., G.P. Gerber, and B.M. Fitzpatrick. 2011. Unexpected shallow genetic divergence in Turks Island Boas (Epicrates c. chrysogaster) reveals single evolutionarily significant unit for conservation. Herpetologica 67: 477-486. [doi] [pdf]

Reynolds, RG, and ML Niemiller. 2011. Epicrates chrysogaster chrysogaster (Turks Island Boa). Diet. Herpetological Review 42: 290. [pdf]

Reynolds, RG, ML Niemiller, and BN Manco. 2011. Epicrates chrysogaster chrysogaster (Turks Island Boa). Maximum Size. Herpetological Review 42: 290. [pdf]

Buckner, S.D., R. Franz, and R.G. Reynolds. 2012. Bahama Islands and Turks & Caicos Islands. In: R. Powell and R.W. Henderson (Eds.). Island Lists of West Indian Amphibians and Reptiles. Bulletin of the Florida Museum of Natural History 51: 85-166. [doi] [pdf]

Reynolds, R.G. and G.P. Gerber. 2012. Ecology and conservation of the endemic Turks Island Boa (Epicrates c. chrysogaster: Serpentes: Boidae) on Big Ambergris Cay. Journal of Herpetology  46: 578-586

Reynolds, R.G. 2012. Epicrates chrysogaster. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles 898: 1-5.

Reynolds, R.G., M.L. Niemiller, S.B. Hedges, A. Dornburg, A.R. Puente-Rolón, and L.J. Revell. 2013. Molecular phylogeny and historical biogeography of West Indian boid snakes (Chilabothrus). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 68: 461-470