Amphibians and reptiles of Caribbean Islands

Features

Caribherp is a web resource that makes available a diversity of information on West Indian amphibians and reptiles (˜750 species), organized primarily in the form of species accounts. Creation of a species list starts by choosing a geographic region, such as the entire West Indies or only a single island, in the narrow panel at left. The wide central area displays the selected list of species accounts and provides—above the list—capability to filter the list by taxon (class, order, or family) and to sort the list by nine different criteria, whether it is filtered or not. The narrow panel at right displays the most recent sighting, and allows for a global search of the database. The individual features of Caribherp are:

Sphaerodactylus nigropunctatus

Classification: Species are organized by class, order, and family, and each of these levels of taxonomy can be used to filter or sort a list of species accounts.

Common name: The English common name is listed next in each species account. Nearly all of these were coined by the author. In doing so, some rules were followed, such as making sure each name is unique, at least in the West Indies, and not excessively long (usually three words, with a single word for the final stem). Also, emphasis was given to names that convey useful information about identifying the species, either with regard to a unique trait or geographic location. Previously proposed common names were not used because many refer to things that are not useful in identifying the species, such as a patronym (name of a person being honored in the scientific name), or to a character that does not apply to the species. For example the term "robber frog" is a frequently used stem for any species of the genus Eleutherodactylus, yet it was coined originally for a single species with a dark face mask, lacking in most species! Also, two-word stem names, such as "robber frog" or "dwarf boa" force one to use four words in the full common name, which then becomes too long. It should be recognized that these are English common names, which are different from colloquial names used by residents of the islands. Colloquial names are not generally useful in organizing and studying biodiversity because different species are often given the same name by local inhabitants. In some cases, scientists (e.g., in Cuba and Puerto Rico) have coined common names, in the native language, for species on their island. Because such local names were coined without considering all West Indian species or any general rules, they are not generally useful, but such Local Names may be added to species accounts in future versions of Caribherp.

Displaying number of species: In many instances you will want to know the number of species on an island, or remaining in a list after it has been filtered. This will always show automatically whenever there is a list, on the right side of the center panel just above the species list. If the list includes any species that occur on more than one island (accounts are repeated because different maps must be shown), the number of species indicated will be the true count and not inflated by the redundant accounts).

Distribution maps: These maps were constructed by the author from the literature, museum records, and his own field records. Additional data were supplied by colleagues, and the maps were reviewed by colleagues, although the author accepts responsibility for mistakes. Ranges (continuous red color) were drawn conservatively, with minimal extrapolation. Therefore, some gaps are expected to be filled in the future with additional collecting. These same maps will appear larger in size in the published book. In the case of species that occur in multiple major regions (e.g., Bahamas, Cuba) the same species account will repeated, but a different map corresponding to each major region will be shown. However, all species number counts shown (Displaying ...species) are true counts and are not inflated by such multiple listings.

Filtering: Many ways to filter species accounts are provided. The default is always to show all accounts, but the user may select one of two classes (Amphibia or Reptilia), four orders, or 32 families. In the latter case, families are shown alphabetical rather than grouped hierarchically into orders, which is non-traditional but takes up less space and simpler to find a name.

Frog calls: Vocalizations of 50 species are included in this release of Caribherp and many more will be added in the next major release in 2011. Sound files are in AIF format, playable with Quicktime and other software on most personal computers (Macintosh and PC). Click on the sound icon and the call will play. Amphibian sound files are presented to assist identification of species; any other use, such as in creation and publication of audio spectrograms, is strictly prohibited.

Geographic regions: By default, only a few randomly selected species are shown on the home page. Initially select the island or region of your interest to get a list of species occurring there, or select WEST INDIES to list all species in Caribherp. Then you may further filter and sort the list by terms at top of central panel. Currently there are two levels of geographic regions. For example, the Lesser Antilles can be selected for a full species list on those islands, or an individual island (e.g., Martinique) can be selected for a more restricted list. A third level will be added in the future that will permit the selection of small islets (e.g., Rocher du Diamant, off of Martinique) associated with each second-level geographic region.

Global search: A search widow appears on the right panel and allows the user to query any word or part of a word in the database. The result will appear as a list of species accounts that fulfill the search criterion. In turn, that list may be filtered and or sorted. This might be useful for many purposes. For example, in finding all species that share the same portion of a common name (e.g., treesnake). That would otherwise not be possible with the common name sort button because the structured sorts (described above) start with the beginning of the text field. Another use of the global search might be to find all species described by one person, regardless of author order.

Hide images: Clicking this button will remove all graphical items (images and maps) from your selected list and show only the textual information.

IUCN Status: The International Union for the Conservation of Nature organizes conservation assessments of species, classifying them into categories from Least Concern to Critically Endangered in a Redlist. That classification is listed here. Useful conservation and distribution data are presented in species accounts listed on that site.

Larger images: Clicking this will send you to the Book page which explains that larger images are not available now but will be available later, in the book.

Scientific name: The species (genus + species) is the primary subject of data organization. The original author(s) and date of publication of the species name is listed.

Sightings: Sightings are short articles in an open-access journal, Caribbean Herpetology, linked to Caribherp. Go to the main journal page to view all past articles and for submission instructions.

Sorting: Once a list of species is selected, first by geographic region (left panel) it will be sorted taxonomically by default. Additional filtering and sorting is possible. If another sorting order is desired, the user may click on one of nine different sort methods in the row above the species accounts. For example if you click on date you will order all accounts by date of publication. However, if you wish to find all species authored by a particular person, you may not succeed by clicking on author because that will only sort the accounts by the first author. Instead, use the global search window in the right panel and type the author's name to find all species described by that person, regardless of author order.

Species images: These are all 100 pixels wide. For many reptiles, two images are shown: whole body and close up of head. The size is small to discourage theft, which is a chronic problem for web sites containing animal photos. The size was arrived at by consultation with experts on this subject, and is just large enough to make a quick visual identification of most species. Caribherp is intended for personal, academic, or other educational purposes. All graphical items (animal images, video clips, maps, etc.) and sound files are copyrighted. Duplication or distribution, through commercial use or otherwise, of any content is strictly prohibited. Unfortunately, no animal images of any size are available for distribution. Larger images, and more of them—including sexual dimorphism and pattern variants—will appear in the published book to appear later.

Taxonomic sort: This is our default sort of species accounts. It is a hierarchical sort that simultaneously orders species by class, order, suborder in the case of squamates (snakes, lizards, and amphisbaenians), family, genus, and species. Ordering is alphabetical within each taxonomic level. This corresponds, more-or-less, to the taxonomic arrangement used in published compendia of West Indian amphibians and reptiles, such as Amphibians and Reptiles of the West Indies (Schwartz and Henderson, 1991) and Natural History of West Indian Reptiles and Amphibians (Henderson and Powell, 2009).

Videos: Short video clips of species may be submitted with Sightings. They will be part of the Sighting (accessible from the main Sightings page) and will also appear in the species account. Clicking on the video icon in the account will play the video clip.

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