Trump-tail Gecko (Thecadactylus rapicauda)

This is a large gecko! I was in my room at Yatama Ecolodge, getting ready to sleep, when I saw a big stain on the wooden wall, and when I got closer to investigate I saw this incredible reptile. After taking a few test pictures, I brought a plastic bowl to try enclosing the lizard, expecting it to just run away, but it did not! With the bowl against the wall, I slowly lowered it trying to force its feet off the wall, but it also did not react much, until a few tries when it landed inside the bowl. I placed the lid and carried the gecko in the bowl outside, where I removed the lid and placed the bowl on the floor, and it first observed outside the bowl hesitantly and then in a explosive dash it disappeared below the floor. I supposed that it was hiding below the floor, so I came out with the camera and indeed it was there. I spent at least 20 minutes taking pictures from a variety of angles, and the gecko barely moved. This is was unexpected, given how common house geckos are wary of people.

Mottled Snail-eater (Sibon longifrenis)

After a two-hour long night walk in search of the Ghost Glass Frog at Yatama Ecolodge, we were getting ready to go to sleep, when our guide found this Snail-eater close to the entrance gate. Using a stick, he tried to grab it from a branch and succeeded, but the snake became active and only wanted to go away. He managed to carry it away and put it on a leaf close to the ground, where it coiled and became calmer. I approached it with my macro lens and snapped plenty of pictures from many angles. This species has an overall olive color, with red blotches delineated with Black and a few white blotches in between. The eye is large and protruding, with a vertical elliptical iris that becomes circular when entirely open. Like most snakes in the country, they are not venomous and should not pose a threat to humans, however it is best to exercise caution and only handle them if you are trained.

Middle American Rattlesnake (Crotalos simus)

The Middle American Rattlesnake is a large, venomous snake. It has a drab color pattern, consisting of dark diamond-shaped blotches on a light brown base coloration. The key differentiator with all other venomous species in Costa Rica is the rattle, which produces a loud, menacing sound when it is vibrated rapidly. Indeed this sound causes fear in most people, as it is associated with the killer nature of these animals. Rattlesnakes however use this sound more as a defensive strategy, trying to scare off potential predators. As long as one is careful not to approach this snake more than it allows, it should be safe to watch them on their habitat.

Side-striped Palm-Pitviper (Bothriechis lateralis)

The Side-striped Palm-Pitviper is a venomous snake, sharing its genus with the Eyelash Palm-Pitviper. The Side-striped is green, which helps to camouflage them in the rain forest, as it mainly has arboreal habits. It has a prehensile tail, which means that it can be coiled around branches that work as an anchor to keep its balance. It is moderate in size, less than 1 meter in length, typically between 60 and 70 centimeters. It has a light-blue postocular stripe. Juveniles are rather drab, having a brown skin.

Annulated Tree Boa (Corallus annulatus)

The Annulated Tree Boa is a large arboreal species that inhabits the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. Unlike other Boa species like the Mesoamerican, one morph of this species are brownish-red in color, which renders them rather conspicuous against the dark green background in the tropical rain forest. Their nocturnal habits and preference for staying high in the trees make them difficult to spot. The color pattern consists of a series of diamond-shaped blotches, which are darker over the dorsum and lighter towards the venter. Some individuals have a cream base color instead of the brownish-red of the specimen shown below.

Green Iguana (Iguana iguana)

Green Iguanas are the biggest species of lizards in the world, reaching lengths up to 1.5 meters including the tail. They are abundant in Costa Rican lowlands, and can be found in most of America’s continent, either naturally occurring or as established populations of escaped pets, as they are a very frequent target among pet lovers. They can be found in many beaches, around rivers, high in the tree canopy or walking slowly on the grass. Their diet is composed mostly of leaves, flowers and fruits, although some individuals have been observed eating insects and rodents.

Green Iguanas are not necessarily green in color, instead they have a lot of variability in their range. In some areas they are green, others brown or red, even blue in Peru. The back of the male is covered with spines, a defense mechanism to keep predators at bay, and they feature a dewlap, which is a fold of skin that starts at the front of the lower jaw and ends at the junction where the front limbs start. The dewlap is normally hanging, although it can be displayed as a sign of aggression.

Pug-nosed Anole (Anolis capito)

The Pug-nosed Anole is a small, slender lizard with a green body and a conspicuous black line that runs from the lower jaw through the eye and to the top of the head. The iris is orange with a black, round pupil. They are active during the day and sleep during the night. One individual below was seen during a night hike in Yorkin near the frontier with Panama, where it stayed motionless for more than half an hour, while we illuminated it with lamps and took pictures from close distances. The other was seen in Yatama Ecolodge, during a day hike in search of birds. My mom who was walking in front, believed that she was seeing a Gecko covered in moss, which I was certain was not the case. Some turtles are known to grow moss, fungi and lichens on their shells given how they stay motionless for a lot of time in a pool of water, but Anoles do not do that as far as my understanding goes. Nevertheless, this little friend was pretty confident on its camouflage, as it just stayed on the edge of the trail, only turning its head slightly in the 20 minutes we observed it.

Spectacled Caiman (Caiman crocodilus)

Caimans are easy to confuse with crocodiles, however both belong to different families in the Taxonomic hierarchy. While each species in both families has its specific characteristics, there are a few physical traits that differentiate species from each family:

  • Jaws: The Crocodile has a V-shape, while the Caiman and Alligator have a U-shape. This can be seen most notably from above or the front, not so easily from the side.
  • Teeth: In Caimans, due to the way the teeth are placed, the lower jaw’s teeth are not visible when the mouth is closed. Crocodiles do show both upper and lower teeth at all times.

The Spectacled Caiman in particular has become established and common in Costa Rica. Like most reptiles, being cold blooded, they bask in the sun during the morning to warm up their bodies, before going for a day’s hunt. During that time, they may lie motionless in almost any place, like fallen trees, beaches and riversides. Adults have a length between 1.4 and 2.5 meters.

Green Basilisk (Basiliscus plumifrons)

The Green Basilisk, also known as the Jesus Christ Basilisk due to its incredible feat to run on water, is one of the four species of the Basiliscus genus and of three species to occur in Costa Rica. The similar Striped Basilisk is brown with two yellow lines that run one through they, and a thicker one from below the eye, both ending in the upper portions of the back. The male has a big crest that protudes both on the head, back and tail, which can be raised to signal that it is angry or defending its territory. Most of its body is green with light blue spots around the back, a color pattern that lets it camouflage very easily in foliage and vegetation, particularly during the morning when they bask in the sun to warm up their bodies. The female shows a lighter shade of green than the male. Their eyes are bright yellow. Both their fingers and toes are very large, with scales that can be extended, increasing the effective surface area of their feet and enabling them to run over water for short distances, up to 20 meters.

Striped Basilisk (Basiliscus vittatus)

The Striped Basilisk, also known as the Jesus Christ Basilisk due to its incredible feat to run on water, is one of the four species of the Basiliscus genus and of three species to occur in Costa Rica. The similar Green Basilisk is (obviously) green, and the male has a big crest that protudes both on the head, back and tail, while the Striped Basilisk only has a crest on the head and a small ridge on the back. It is brown with two yellow lines that run one through the eye, and a thicker one from below the eye, both ending in the upper portions of the back; this color pattern lets it camouflage very easily, particularly during the morning when they bask in the sun to warm up their bodies. Both their fingers and toes are very large, with scales that can be extended, increasing the effective surface area of their feet and enabling them to run over water for short distances, up to 20 meters.