Lizard

Brief Guide to Amphibians, Reptiles & Insects of Costa Rica

Lizard

Costa RIca's natural wonders draw birding enthusiasts and herpetologists alike. Home to more than 500,000 species of flora and fauna, Costa Rica is widely considered to have the highest density of biodiversity of any country on the planet. Despite comprising just one-third of a percent of the earth’s landmass, this tropical isthmus contains a whopping 5% of all species estimated to exist across the planet. Here are just a few examples of the many species you’re likely to catch sight of during your Costa Rica tour…

Amphibians and Reptiles of Costa Rica

More than 200 species of reptile (half of them snakes) and over 150 species of amphibian call the forested landscapes of Costa Rica home. Here are some of the more alluring examples of the country’s cold-blooded inhabitants:
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Green Iguana
The most commonly sighted reptile in Costa Rica thanks to their apparent indifference to human presence, the dragon-like green iguana can be found in a wide range of forested environments below 2,500 feet. Growing up to two meters in length and sporting an armor of spines, they will aggressively defend their territory if threatened. But, in truth, they’re actually harmless vegetarians.

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Poison Dart Frogs
Defining a group of dendrobatidae frogs that reside in Central and South America, poison dart frogs are easily recognizable thanks to their vibrant colorings and aposematic patterns,  which advertise their unpalatable nature to predators. Endemic to humid, tropical environments, these tiny amphibians (sometimes measuring less than 1.5cm in length) can usually be found on or close to the ground, and also in trees.

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American Crocodile
Known locally as the Cocodrilo, the American Crocodile can be found in abundance along sections of the Tárcoles River, which boasts as many as 240 crocodiles per square mile. Living for 80 years or more, these relics of prehistoric times spend their days basking on mud banks and their nights snapping, catching, tearing and devouring their daily catch of fish in a terrifying display of power and agility.

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Olive Ridley Sea Turtle
Named for its green-grey appearance, the Olive Ridly is the most abundant species of turtle in the world. Despite nesting en masse at twice-yearly events known as arribadas (which are considered one of Costa Rica’s natural wonders), they’re listed as endangered and are under threat from illegal egg-gathering and destructive fishing practices.


Insects of Costa Rica
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Leaf-Cutter Ants
Often found scuttling along the decomposing forest floor and marching up and down tree trunks, leaf-cutter ants are the gardeners of the rainforest. Rather than eating the leaves, the ants use them to cultivate a soft, spongy fungus which grows deep within their underground colonies.

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Blue Morpho Butterfly
The most common species of butterfly in Costa Rica, the blue morpho is an adaptive beauty that can be found living along the edge of a range of habitats including forest, field, river and ocean. Its iridescent blue wings flap in a flight-and-fall pattern, highlighting its chocolate-brown underside and perplexing potential predators.

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Scorpions
Of the 14 species of Scorpion found in Costa Rica, none are equipped with a deadly poison. They live in a variety of environments, however most individual species are adapted to that of one particular location. The Centruroides limbatus (a bark scorpion) is the most common in Costa Rica. Although its sting is not considered life-threatening to humans, being stung by this eight-legged arachnid is certainly no picnic. 


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Brief Guide to Birds & Mammals of Costa Rica

 

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Photos: Sea Turtle Bernard Gagnon;  Scorpion Shantanu Kuveskar; Crocodile Charles J. Sharp