Monday, August 3, 2009

A Haitian Ghost

In honor of Rich's collecting trip to Haiti, which begins this week, I thought I'd do a little post on a creature that's even more elusive than Anolis dolichocephalus and which graced the pages of last week's Science: the solenodon. Solenodons are very unusual mammals - they are venomous, injecting it with their teeth, like snakes. They are also likely to be critically endangered - but it's hard to say since hardly anyone has ever seen one. In 2007, biologist Samuel Turvey went looking for them on Hispaniola for 11 days and found remains of just 3 dead ones (one of which had apparently been gnawed on by a hungry Haitian). A new survey to be conducted this October will try to get a better handle on the distribution of and threats to the solenodon as well as to do molecular phylogenetic work to help to unravel its taxonomy and population structure.

5 comments:

Thomas said...

If anyone is passing through the zoo in Santo Domino there are several of these that they are using to start a captive breeding colony. Contact their Vet. staff if you would like to see them.

Susan Perkins said...

Very cool!

sergios-orestis kolokotronis said...

And a couple of recent papers...

Turvey et al. 2008. Continued survival of Hispaniolan solenodon Solenodon paradoxus in Haiti. Oryx 42:611-614.

Roca et al. 2004. Mesozoic origin for West Indian insectivores. Nature 429:649–651.

Jonathan said...

There are some fabulous photos of a solenodon in Eladio Fernandez's spectacular book, Hispaniola, published by Harvard University Press.

Glor said...

Turns out that solendons are not so difficult to find in the Dominican Republic if you hire the right guide. A fellow named Nicolas (a.k.a. Tarzan) who lives in Pedernales can find them pretty consistently. This is how all the Dominican naturalists and photographers have come to see and photograph these animals over the past year or so.