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Target Species: Santa Catalina Rattlesnake, Crotalus catalinensis, and San Esteban Rattlesnake, Crotalus estebanensis
Location: Isla Los Lobos, Baja California Norte; Isla San Esteban, Sonora, and San Ignacio and Isla Santa Catalina, Baja California Sur, Mexico
Director: Roger Finnigan


Location: Baja California stretches approx. 1000 miles (1700km) south from Tijuana, an arid desert peninsula with numerous isolated offshore islands.

Mission Statement:

Rattlesnakes evolved rattles as audible warnings to protect themselves from short-sighted herds of heavy-footed mammals like buffalo, on the prairies of southwestern USA. However, some rattlesnakes are evolving away from owning a rattle, they don’t need to deter large animals because they live in habitats without such a threat. The rattleless rattlesnake of Santa Catalina Island in the Mexican Sea of Cortez has gone to whole way and lost its rattle completely. It neither requires a rattle for protection, nor, since it climbs bushes to catch birds, does it want a rattle. Mark and Baja California reptile expert Prof Lee Grismer set out to explore the gradual loss of the rattle in mainland and island rattlesnakes along the arid and forbidding Baja California peninsula. [Lee Grismer also introduces Mark to a curious group of lizards which feed on salt-rich marine isopods and have evolved a way of coping with otherwise fatally excessive levels of salt using large excretory glands on their snouts, but this section did not make the final film.]


A close view of the Santa Catalina Island rattlesnake (Crotalus catalinensis), note the complete absence of a rattle.

Species recorded during 'Silent Rattler'

Species Common Name
CHELONIDAE SEA TURTLES
Chelonia mydas Green sea turtle
EMYDIDAE POND TERRAPINS & BOX TURTLES
Trachemys scripta nebulosus Baja California slider
BIPEDIDAE MOLE LIZARDS
Bipes biporus Five-toed mole lizard/ajolate
ANGUIDAE ALLIGATOR LIZARDS & LEGLESS LIZARDS
Elgaria velazquezi Velazquez alligator lizard
GEKKONIDAE GECKOES
Phyllodactylus xanti Leaf-toed gecko
IGUANIDAE IGUANAS
Ctenosaura hemilopha conspicuosa San Esteban Island spiny iguana
Dipsosaurus dorsalis catalinensis Santa Catalina desert iguana
Sauromalus klauberi Spotted chuckwalla
Sauromalus varius San Esteban chuckwalla
PHRYNOSOMATIDAE SWIFTS & SPINY LIZARDS
Callisaurus draconoides rhodostictus Mojave zebra-tailed lizard
Phrynosoma coronatum coronatum Cape horned lizard
Sceloporus orcutti Granite spiny lizard
Sceloporus zosteromus San Lucan spiny lizard
Urosaurus nigricaudis Blacktailed brush lizard
Uta squamata Santa Catalina side-blotched lizard
Uta stansburiana Side-blotched lizard
Uta tumidarostra Swollen-snouted side-blotched lizard
TEIIDAE MACROTEIIDS
Cnemidophorus hyperythrus schmidti Schmidt's orange-throated whiptail lizard
Cnemidophorus tigris tigris Great Basin whiptail lizard
Cnemidophorus tigris catalinensis Santa Catalina whiptail lizard
Cnemidophorus tigris estebanensis San Esteban whiptail lizard
BOIDAE BOAS
Lichanura trivirgata trivirgata Mexican rosy boa
COLUBRIDAE TYPICAL SNAKES
Chilomeniscus stramineus Bandless sand snake
Masticophis fuliginosus Baja Californian coachwhip
ELAPIDAE CORALSNAKES & THEIR KIN
Pelamis platurus Yellow-bellied seasnake
VIPERIDAE VIPERS & PITVIPERS
Crotalus catalinensis Santa Catalina rattlesnake
Crotalus enyo enyo Southern Baja California rattlesnake
Crotalus estebanensis San Esteban rattlesnake
Crotalus exsul ruber Red diamond rattlesnake

 


Location: Our Baja Californian expedition visited Los Lobos, Isla Sand Esteban and Isla Santa Catalina, enroute south to La Paz.


L.Lee Grismer, the world authority on Baja Californian reptiles, and Mark O'Shea take a drive in a Baja Buggy.

 


Most of the islands in the Sea of Cortez are uninhabited, arid, cactus-strewn desert islands. This is San Esteban Island, Sonora.

 


O'Shea with the San Esteban Island rattlesnake (Crotalus estebanensis) he caught at night during our stay on the island.

 

 


A close view of the San Esteban Island rattlesnake (Crotalus estebanensis), the first specimen Lee had seen with a full rattle.

 


O'Shea caught these female San Esteban chuckwallas (Sauromalus varius) sheltering from the sun under a cactus.

 


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