In April of 2007 I ventured with some friends into the Costa Rican lowland rain forests of La Selva for the first time and we went shooting photos. And in 2009 we went to the Canopy Tower area of Panama. I was trying to get as many robber fly shots and butterfly shots as possible at both sites (see those pages linked from the respective main pages for those two groups). But, as everywhere, reptiles and amphibians always commanded my attention. Central America is rich with them, though not as rich as you would think. I believe the American south has a richer fauna in this selected group.

This is the adult male Green Basilisk, or Jesus Christ Lizard. Extraordinary things. This one looked to be three to four feet long with tail. They are in the family Corytophanidae. La Selva has three members in that family. All have fans or crests in the males. We did not see the Casque-headed Lizard. Have to find him next time. This male was in an open area where Giant Bamboo had been downed. He was wary and the shot was taken from probably 20 feet. This guy will eat fruits and loves riverine banana plantations. They will also eat insects and the occasional bat (!!).

This is what I assumed was a juvenile male. I don't think females are this green. He was feeding on a big leafcutter ant nest in woods with an open understory.

I had a poor shot, this is Eric's cleaner shot of the only adult male Striped Basilisk we saw. I believe the same individual outside the cafeteria. When I saw him he was after a female, who was smaller and uncrested with back stripes. These are supposed to be rare at La Selva but have been seen near the open disturbed areas where the cabins and cafeteria are located according to Guyer and Donnelly. Strictly an insect eater. I did see one female over a creek on the start of one of the eastern forest trails. This one ran off with the classic rear-leg-only run. Wondrous things.

Anoles were the dominant small reptile in the jungle and on the trails. This was one of the most common. It is the well named Slender Anole, Norops limifrons. It is a leaper and leaf-top hunter. Certainly active in the daytime there. That tail went off the map.

This is the Ground Anole, Norops humilis, the second most common anole there. This one was freshening up its outer layer. Very alert things. Love that copper eye ring which is a feature of this species.

This is a lovely anole but I am not sure which one it is. If the Lemur Anole is very variable in the female I suppose this could be one. I could not make it into anything else definitive.

I think the head shape and dark bar make this a Pug-nosed Anole, Norops capito. This was a pretty small specimen. Very active. Supposedly the pug head shape is distinctive along with the raised crests near the eye. Apparently an ant eater. And also takes flies.

Suggests another Pug-nosed Anole. They are often green tinged. Long hind legs. I think it has the eye crests again as well. 

Damned if I know. Send me a note if you know. Surely not another Pug variation? 

Beauty. I think this is the Lemur Anole, Norops lemurinus. Excellent markings. These jungle anole species never flashed that dewlap like our local green anoles. Apparently the color of those helps in ID. Oh well.

Thank God for something that was not an anole. This is a member of the big Teiidae family of whiptails. It is the Central American Whiptail, Ameiva festiva.  And there are only two from this family in Costa Rica. This is the only one in La Selva. And it was a common trail runner. This is a male.

A larger individual from Eric. The older and larger adults lose the bright blue tail and frankly look like a different lizard. We saw some adults that were 14 to 15 inches with tail.

Okay, not a lizard. Yellow form of the Eyelash Viper, Bothriechis schlegelii. Almost in focus. Had to lean way over a log jam of brush. This is the dramatic color form. And it is much less common than the camo form. The only tree climbing viper in La Selva. Though apparently the Fer-de-lance, or Terciopelo occasionally begrudges a climb. This one was only a foot long or so.

Dark in the primary forest. And this was a five foot long snake. This is the Bird-eating Snake, Pseustes poecilonotus. Eats birds, bird eggs and bats. When confronted, it flairs the neck and strikes. This thing was stunning.

This is the adult Fer-de-lance or Terciopelo, Bothrops asper. Crossed the trail in front of Eric. I had one five inch specimen crawl across my boot in a rainstorm. Of the four vipers at La Selva, this is the one most likely to be seen. And is frankly one of the commonest snakes there apparently. Very cryptic when coiled and sleeping during the day. They are mostly nocturnal. Fortunately it takes a big disturbance to fire them up when you are out in the daytime. At night the belly scales are very reflective when they are on the move and they show up in the lights. The Bushmaster is paler and has darker offset diamonds on the back. Much rarer and deadlier.

This is the famous Boa constrictor, which is both the scientific and common name.  Impressive enough. And we were so happy to see it. It is mostly nocturnal. But this one was on the road at the Canopy Tower right outside the gate near dusk. Wow. What an animal. I am still impressed looking at it now. Eats virtually any small animal or bird it can wrap in its coils. The only member of its genus in Central America.

The same snake in Norm's overhead shot. Maybe four feet. Luscious colors.

This is the Satiny Parrotsnake, Leptophis depressirostris. Most common of the group in Central America apparently and fond of disturbed areas. This one was in the ultimate disturbed area, the zoo gardens at Summit near the Canopy Tower in Panama. It was climbing across a fence and some boards between display areas. Cheryl spotted it first. Egglayers with very little sexual differentiation. They feed mostly on frogs and are rear-fanged. They have a slashing bite that can cause alot of bleeding in humans but not much other danger.

Wet in the primary forest. This is certainly the most common frog at the end of the dry season in La Selva. Or the most common visible frog anyway. This is the Strawberry Poison Dart Frog, Dendrobates pumilio. And once you learn its little chip noise it is easy to find. Kind of shy when you loom at it with a lens though. Alkaloid secreters. They sequester the poison from insect prey, they don't manufacture it. Though they are not to be handled anyway. This species has dual parental care with the males caring for the eggs and the female for the tadpoles. Basically she hauls them on her back to a wet pool, often up in the bromeliads. Wow frogs, up close.

Okay, good God. Forgive me, but I think I said, "holy shit" when I saw this animal. It was under some Giant Bamboo. I was going over to see the river where a fine Tiger-Heron was feeding. These things are ungodly. And this is not native to La Selva. This is the Green-and-black Poison Dart Frog, Dendrobates auratus. Apparently they were introduced in 1986. Just for the hell of it. They flourished. And damn, who wouldn't want them around. No other frog looks like this. And it is literally eight or nine times the size of the above Strawberry. Male carries the tadpoles in this species. Makes a 'cheez cheez cheez' noise that I never heard.

The most impressive frog as far as presence at La Selva. Look at that face. And for scale you should think Bullfrog. These guys are hefty. And we only saw them at night next to the trail. Their eyes shine bright golden reddish. This is the Smoky Jungle Frog, Leptodactylus pentadactylus. Unlikely to be confused with other frogs. Sits next to its escape burrow at night. Apparently calling from there, though we did not hear calls. I am betting this is a female. Males have dark spines on the thumbs and chest.

The thumb spines would presumably be visible here. What a face. And after I picked this one up I read that they have a toxin in the skin that can cause problems in sensitized humans. Sneezing and itching, etc. Nothing happened. In collection bags, the other frogs in the bag will be killed by the toxin. Also, the adults are supposed to scream like babies when grabbed. This one made not a sound.

One of the many other smaller Leptodactylidae at La Selva, this is the Northern Masked Rainfrog, Eleutherodactylus mimus. Far more normal looking frogs do occur in the forests. Apparently pretty silent things and ground nesters. This one had an impressive leap. Love leaf litter, mostly nocturnal. I bumped this one up on a river bank.

Another of the Leptodactylidae, I think this is Bransford's Litterfrog. Eleutherodactylus bransfordii. Extremely common in the dry season in litter. Also a good leaper, and they essentially vanish in the litter. These guys are diurnal.

Could be another Bransford's Litterfrog. Maybe not. I will leave it to you.

Many more treefrog species occur in the lowland forests than we saw. And since we were there in the dry season I am betting the wet season is much busier for frogs in general. I believe this is the Drab Treefrog, Smilisca sordida. We found this one at night and it was taking in a very fat caterpillar.

The monster Marine Toad, Bufo marinus. This is the creature that invades Texas and Florida yards and gardens, eating, well, anything it wants. Looks more natural in the jungle. Massive parotid glands with very toxic secretions, some of which are psychoactive. Just makes most people ill with handling. One of the largest Anurans on the planet. Mostly nocturnal as well.