Reptiles & Amphibians of Costa Rica

REPTILES

Teeth are well represented among the 200 reptiles of Costa Rica. More than half of these species, 138 to be exact, are snakes. Costa Rica is also home to iguanas, lizards, turtles, caiman, and crocodiles. The richness of food sources available allows all of these species a plethora to feast upon.

Tourists to the lowlands frequently see crocodiles and caiman in the lagoons and lazy rivers. Fish populations are held in check naturally by these predators, and it is with caution that people take to the waters. Bites are not common, but can be devastating. The Tarcoles River has a high density population of American Crocodiles, up to 240 per mile. Conservation efforts are paying off.

Snakes are one of the most common phobias of humans in the world, and those humans probably should not visit Costa Rica. They are not commonly seen, but even the majority of them that are not venomous can be more than just interesting to look at. Boa constrictors growing past 10 feet in length are aggressive to bite and can cause significant harm to anyone who may be struck at. 18 venomous species live in Costa Rica, including the hognosed pit viper, and plenty of them are capable of delivering fatal bites. These bites can be delivered from the highly aggressive fer de lance, which grows to nearly 10 feet, or the brightly colorful and significantly smaller coral snake. Take caution to watch for snakes on the ground or in the trees, and certainly give them space if you do see one.

All of the turtles, iguanas, and lizards in Costa Rica have close relationships with the water. Lowlands offer the best places to find any of them, and it should be noted that they deserve their space. To get away from anything of it as a predator, all of these will move toward water… Most of them to swim away, but the Jesus Christ lizard will simply sprint across its surface.

 

Amphibians

No such thing as a quiet evening in Costa Rica, where the roughly 160 species of amphibians, dominated by frogs and toads, are all calling to each other under the cover of darkness. Noises ranging from meows to outright whoops can be traced back to all sorts of hopping along creatures. And not all of these frogs and toads can safely be dealt with if they are found.

20 of the species of amphibians are actually toxic to people. These species are referred to as the poison dart frogs. Native tribes would run the tips of their arrows across the frogs before shooting their prey, causing instant paralysis if the animal was not killed by the shot. Do not touch these brightly colored beauties.

Tadpoles are frequently found in collected water high in the trees, or in the streams above roughly 4500 feet elevation. Fish predation is high, and these precautions help to avoid an early end to life before it begins. And what a shame it would be to lose any of these varied lives!