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South Florida Aquatic Environments

Mangroves



MANGROVE LIFE: REPTILES AND AMPHIBIANS
Alligator
courtesy South Florida Water Management District


Mangrove life:

Amphibians and Reptiles

American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) and American crocodiles (Crocodylus acutus) are both residents of mangrove habitats. The American alligator ranges throughout the southeastern U.S., and is found only in low salinity areas of Florida mangroves. On the other hand, the American crocodile is quite rare, relying heavily on mangrove habitats for their survival. In recent years, the range of this reptile has decreased considerably due to destruction of habitat and increase in human activity within the Florida Keys. The American crocodile now occurs in the north Florida Bay and nearby swamps, as well as the north end of Key Largo.

Mangrove Water Snake
© Kenneth Krysko

Mangrove Water Snake

Nine species of snakes reside in the mangroves of Florida.

Species residing in mangroves include:

  • mangrove water snake (Nerodia clarkii compressicauda)
  • Florida green water snake (Nerodia floridana)
  • eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon corais couperi)
  • rosy rat snake (Elaphe guttata rosacea)
  • Florida rough green snake (Opheodrys aestivus carinatus)
  • Florida banded watersnake (Nerodia fasciata pictiventris)
  • Florida king snake (Lampropeltis getula floridana)
  • eastern cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus)
  • Atlantic saltmarsh snake (Nerodia clarkii taeniata)

Eastern Cottonmouth
courtesy South Florida Water Management District

Anoles, including the green anole (Anolis carolinenesis), brown anole (Anolis sagrei), and the bark anole (Anolis distichus), reside in the trees within mangroves, feeding on insects.

Loggerhead Sea Turtle
© John White

Loggerhead Sea Turtle

Freshwater species of turtles are found near the headwaters of mangrove river systems. The ornate diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin macrospilota and M. t. rhizophorarum) relies upon mangroves as its primary habitat along with three other species of freshwater turtles occur in mangroves. Also associated with mangrove vegetation during at least some point in their life histories are sea turtles. The loggerhead (Caretta caretta) and green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) utilize the mangroves as juvenile nurseries, receiving protection from predators as well as an area rich in food. The green sea turtle and Hawksbill sea turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) have been observed feeding on mangrove roots and associated submerged vegetation. The Atlantic ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kempii) is commonly observed in the mangrove-lined bays of south Florida.

The Cuban treefrog is an introduced species in south Florida
courtesy South Florida Water Management District

Only three species of amphibians are known to occur in mangroves. This is due to the inability of osmoregulatation in saltwater as well as lack of detailed surveys in low salinity regions within mangrove systems. The occurrence of more amphibian species within this habitat is highly suspected, although unknown at this time.

Species known to occur in mangroves include:
Giant Toad
© Hugo Claessen

Giant Toad