Discovery of the Leeward Blindsnake, Antillotyphlops geotomus (Thomas, 1966), on St. Eustatius, Caribbean Netherlands
The Leeward Blindsnake (Antillotyphlops geotomus) is a near threatened species according to the IUCN Red list (Powell et al., 2016), and was known only to occur on Antigua, Barbuda, St. Kitts, and Nevis, where it is considered a native species (Thomas 1966). Here we report the discovery of A. geotomus on St. Eustatius, Caribbean Netherlands. We obtained a DNA sequence of the mitochondrial 16S rRNA gene from a specimen collected on St. Eustatius in 2018 using the primers 16Sar (5’-CGCCTGTTTATCAAAAACAT-3’) and 16Sbr (5’-CCGGTCTGAACTCAGATCACGT-3’) (Palumbi 1996). The sequence was deposited in Genbank (MT256921). Blast analysis of the sequence resulted in 100% and 99.8% identity to sequences in Genbank of A. geotomus from Nevis (KF993199) and Antigua (AF366789) respectively. A 98.5% identity match was found with its nearest relative Antillotyphlops monastus (AF366708, KF993209). This species identification (A. geotomus) is consistent with the absence of pigment on the underside of the tail, a diagnostic trait of A. geotomus compared with A. monastus (Thomas 1966). The collected specimen had a total length of 125 mm, although they are known to reach lengths of up to 213 mm (Hedges et al. 2014). Furthermore, St. Eustatius is geographically in close proximity to St. Kitts & Nevis, which lie on the same shallow submarine bank only to be separated by the sea after the last ice age. Therefore, A. geotomus is likely native to St. Eustatius and not introduced. The other snake known from the island is the Red-bellied Racer (Alsophis rufiventris, native).