Origin of the Invasive Boa Constrictor population in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

Israel Aaron Golden

Abstract


Boa constrictors (B. constrictor) are an extremely diverse species of snake with a Neotropical range stretching from Mexico to Argentina. Their generalist diet, high fecundity, and live birth strategy have made them extremely adaptable to a wide variety of environments. Due to these exceptionally adaptive traits they have great potential to become an invasive species. In the summer of 2013 the first B. constrictor sightings were reported on the U.S. Virgin Island of Saint Croix. As of the spring of 2016 twenty-one individuals, including three juveniles and three adults exceeding 2.25 meters in length, have been found on the west coast of the island, north of the city of Frederiksted. Due to the presence of juveniles it is believed that a successful invasive population has been established on the island. Despite their abundance, the geographic origin and subspecies of the St. Croix population was unknown. Through analysis of the CYTB gene from the shed-skin of these snakes, their subspecies, B. c. imperator was determined; their geographic origin can then be inferred. This information has important implications for management, prevention of further introductions, and further study of the invasive population. This study represents a unique opportunity to observe the onset of an invasion by a constricting snake in an island context.


Keywords


Boa constrictor; St. Croix; Invasive species

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