Wednesday, April 9, 2014

10 weirdest Caribbean animals

The Caribbean is not only a mash-up of Old and New World cultures, it's also a mash-up biologically. Indigenous species live side-by-side with animals who floated in from South America or were brought in by Europeans. That can make for some surprises for visitors who stumble across these critters unexpectedly.


Green vervet monkeys arrived in St. Kitts with Africans brought as slaves to work the sugar cane fields. Researchers theorize the monkeys got a taste for the hooch by snacking on fermented cane that was left in the fields after harvest. There's a lot less cane cultivation in St. Kitts nowadays, but, luckily for the monkeys, there are a lot more bars. Like drunks everywhere, they exhibit poor manners, swiping rumrunners and running or pilfering piña coladas poolside. Researchers studying the monkeys found that the ratio of alcoholic monkeys to teetotalers was about the same among the monkeys as it is in human populations. As the saying goes, there's one in every crowd. So what's a vervet monkey's favorite beer? Free beer. What's a vervet monkey's second favorite beer? Free light beer.


Before you go packing garlic in your carry-on, vampire bats are only found in the Caribbean in Trinidad and along the Central American coast. Having said that, they're thirsty little suckers. Fortunately, they're also small — 3 inches long and an ounce and half in weight. Yes, they do attack sleeping mammals (including people) and drink their blood, but because they're so small, they only drink about an ounce of blood at a time. Want to be freaked out? Vampire bats are pretty nimble on the ground, too, hopping and running by using their wings as an extra set of feet. Early Spanish naturalists reported that the Conquistadors in Panama and the Yucatan were attacked by vampire bats. And that name — actually the bat was named for the mythological monster, not the other way around. The Aztecs called them quimich-paplotl, which means butterfly mouse. That's much less threatening.

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