& Arachnids |
Amphibians | Reptiles |
Herpetofauna of the Tikal National Park
The herpetofauna of Peten includes 160 species
out of 4,500 which exist world wide. Out of these 2 are caecilians,
6 are salamanders, 36 are frogs, 9 are turtles, 36 are lizards, 69 are
snakes and 2 are crocodilians... Ninety-one of these species are present
in the Tikal National Park (19 frogs, 5 turtles, 24 lizards, 41 snakes,
1 salamander and 1 crocodilian). This is very important because the
park is one of the few remaining undisturbed habitats in the region,
where the herpetofauna is effectively protected. Clearing and burning
of rainforest accounts for the reductions in amphibian and reptile habitats.
This comes as no surprise, as in 1950 there were only 15,000 inhabitants
in all of the Peten region. Today the population is 350,000 and rising.
Most of the immigrants are ignorant of the local wildlife and fear reptiles
and amphibians with a passion.
|Mostly, amphibians are
secretive and nocturnal, therefore
people tell incredible stories about them, implying they are very
dangerous to humans. One such story involves the tapalcuas
(caecilians), which are said to jump into bodily orifices when people
answer the call of nature in the wild. Another story is that of
the niņo dormido, a nocturnal salamander, which receives
its popular name because, unfortunately, ignorant peasants hold
the popular belief that the salamander climbs into babies' beds
and infects them and the children die a sudden death. None of these
stories are true, and there cannot be any scientific substance to
these allegations. However, people are out to kill any salamander
in sight, thus breaking nature's fragile balance.
Photo Courtesy of Claire Masaya
Amphibians have glandular skins, and are usually
moist creatures, who live near water and need a damp environment to
survive. They have biphasic life cycles, which means that they usually
hatch from eggs and then metamorphose into their final adult form, such
as tadpoles that then turn into toads or frogs. (Most of the amphibians
in Peten, however, such as salamanders, hatch into miniature adults
which then grow, forgoing the larval stage.) Each family has particular
features: caecilians have long limbless bodies, they lack eyelids and
have rigid skulls. Their fertilization takes place internally.
Salamanders have 4 limbs of equal size and a tail, all of the Guatemalan
salamanders have eyelids. Frogs and toads are called anurans, they are
jumping amphibians, with stronger and larger hind legs.