Arriving at a hotel at around 3 am with a bad cold is not conducive to the best of tempers. And having got up to catch breakfast the next morning and then having to walk back to the room to collect the wodge of vouchers for different items of breakfast (a bizarre practice never seen before or since) that had been thrust into my hand at check-in, that temper was not improving. Eventually we emerged holding trays as if we were at an American student cafeteria and found a table on the deck close to the beach. We were on the Dutch island of Aruba, off the coast of Venezuela, in October 2002 on our way back to UK from Peru. The KLM flight stopped there to refuel on its way to Amsterdam and a few days of doing nothing before flying on seemed a good plan.
The almost entirely American clientele of the hotel had finished their breakfasts by the time we sat down. Inevitably, each table had been left with piles of uneaten food. That was being made short work of by hungry birds, Carib Grackles (Quiscalus lugubris), Eared Doves (Zenaida auriculata) and Bananaquits (Coereba flaveola). As the tables were cleared, only the sachets of sugar and artificial sweetener were left on the tables. The Bananaquits lifted each sachet in turn until they found one containing sugar. That sachet was then hauled onto a flat surface and pecked until the granulated sugar could be eaten. The day was improving and the champagne (obtained by a special voucher) in the full breakfast booked by our travel agent may well have helped.
Looking downwards we realised that food dropped on the floor by messy human eaters or by the birds was not going to waste. There was a whole squad of Common Iguanas (I. iguana) of all sizes as well as whiptails or racerunners (Cnemidophorus) I had to look up later; they were C. arubensis, as the name implies endemic to the island. Now the day was taking a very different turn and a morning catching up on sleep completed the job.
|Male Aruba Whiptail eating melon
The start of each day followed the same pattern with the iguanas in particular hanging around occupied tables in the hope of handouts. The iguanas would eat pretty well anything offered; the whiptails preferred fruit but were not averse to small pieces of bread or bacon. One morning I took some video. These were the days of ‘standard definition video’ on miniDV tape with no stabilisation of the image.
Common Iguanas are well known omnivores. The Field Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire published in 2005 states that the whiptails on the islands are mainly herbivorous and noted ‘These island whiptails also eat insects and other arthropods and will eat carrion; they gorge on practically all other food which they can find around houses’.
With all I have written in the past few weeks about the colons of omnivorous lizards, the obvious question is does C. arubensis has ‘caecal valves’ as is well documented in I. iguana?
Buurt G van. 2005. The Field Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire. Frankfurt: Chimaira.