This beautiful snake is found in the rainforests across a large area of South America. Unlike its more famous relatives, the Boa constrictor and the Anaconda, it only reaches a length of about six feet. It has the longest fangs in proportion to its size of any living snake. Females give birth to as many as 20 young, which do not attain their bright green color until they are around nine months old. Until then, they are orange or dark red. In recent years it has been regularly bred in captivity.
This inhabitant, of the dry Chaco forests in Southeastern South America, has developed some decidedly unfrog-like behaviors. Instead of laying its eggs in water, it builds a nest above it, laying eggs on a leaf, which it folds around them. There the tadpoles hatch, then fall into the stream below. It smears its body with wax secreted out of its own skin, using complicated maneuvers of its hind legs. Its unusually expressive appearance has made it popular in zoos, and it is now captive-bred in increasing numbers.
Since “leucomelas” means “white and black” in Greek, it is likely this scientific name was assigned on the basis of colorless museum specimens, preserved in alcohol. In life, these frogs are bright orange-yellow, with black bands or stripes. Like other dart frogs, wild ones, which are poisonous, but captive animals kept on a diet of fruit flies and crickets largely lose their toxicity. This species comes from Venezuela and adjoining areas of Northern South America.
In North America, the Teiid family of lizards is represented by rather small racerunners and whiptails, which have the appearance of “typical lizards”. In South America, Teiids occur in much greater variety. One of the most specialized is the semi-aquatic Caiman lizard, named for its crocodilian-like scales. Growing up to four feet long, often with a bright orange head contrasting with a greenish body, it might present a ferocious appearance. Its diet, however, consists almost entirely of snails, which it crushes with enormous molar-like teeth.