Preprint Article Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

Are Tropical Reptiles Really Declining? A Six-year Survey of Snakes in Drake Bay, Costa Rica, and the Role of Temperature, Rain and Light

Version 1 : Received: 9 August 2019 / Approved: 11 August 2019 / Online: 11 August 2019 (05:35:15 CEST)

A peer-reviewed article of this Preprint also exists.


Introduction: studies in the last two decades have found declining snake populations in both temperate and tropical sites, including informal reports from Drake Bay, Costa Rica. Objective: to investigate if reports of decreasing snake populations in Drake Bay had a real basis, and if environmental factors, particularly temperature, rain and light, have played a role in that decrease. Methods: we worked at Drake Bay from 2012 through 2017 and made over 4000 h of transect counts. Using head flashlights we surveyed a transect covered by lowland tropical rainforest at an altitude of 1238 m above sea level, near the Agujas River, mostly at 19302200 hours. We counted all the snakes that we could see along the transect. Results: snake counts increase from August to September and then decline rapidly. The May snakes/rainfall peaks coincide, but the second snake peak occurs one month before the rain peak; we counted more snakes in dry nights, with the exception of Imantodes cenchoa which was equally common despite rain conditions. We saw less Leptodeira septentrionalis on bright nights, but all other species were unaffected. Along the six years, the number of species with each diet type remained relatively constant, but the number of individuals declined sharply for those that feed on amphibians and reptiles. We report Rhadinella godmani, a highland species, at 1238 m of altitude. Conclusion: night field counts of snakes in Drake Bay, Costa Rica, show a strong decline from 2012 through 2017.


snake demography; moonlight; rain; temperature; climate change in Osa


Biology and Life Sciences, Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

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