As part of the Caribbean biodiversity hotspot, Barbados is home to a number of native and endemic flora and fauna. Barbados’ biodiversity is low compared to the other Caribbean islands likely because the island is isolated and upstream of its Leeward neighbours. Despite this, the island was historically home to endemic species of grass snake, rice rat, and skink as well as native populations of iguana, pelican, raccoon and barn owl. Many of these species were lost due to forest clearing for development and agriculture, human hunting, and competition or predation by invasive alien species. Today, few endemic species remain like the recently rediscovered Barbados leaf-toed gecko, the omnipresent Barbados bullfinch and the Barbados threadsnake, the smallest snake in the world, to name a few.
The Barbados threadsnake holds the world record for the smallest snake species, only growing to 10cm in length and less than a gram in weight. This species will be featured alongside Barbados’ other wild plants and animals in a new nature documentary currently underway by filmmaker, Robert Boyd (@boydrb3). Mr. Boyd is a Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellow here in search of the elusive threadsnake, the last confirmed sighting of which was nearly 15 years ago in 2008. The species is difficult to study because it lives in the soil under rocks and logs so little is known about it. The threadsnake is listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN and is threatened by habitat loss and competition with the introduced all-female parthenogenetic Brahminy blind snake, locally known as the flower pot snake. These blind snakes are larger than the Barbados threadsnake and reproduce asexually, making them highly successful and a relatively common sight in gardens.
Mr. Boyd has searched a myriad of gully systems for the threadsnake. The tiny serpent is only known from forested habitat, with sightings concentrated in the east-central portions of the island. Unfortunately, only 10% of Barbados’ land area is forested so each location visited without a sighting is increasingly worrying. We hope Mr. Boyd has success in finding the Barbados threadsnake, one of the island’s last endemic vertebrate species.