Nicaragua’s Reptiles, Insects, and Amphibians

Part of a biological corridor that for millions of years has allowed plant and animal species from two continents to mingle, Nicaragua boasts an extraordinary blend of flora and fauna. Here’s a look at the reptiles, amphibians, and insects you’ll find here.

Reptiles in Nicaragua

Of the 172 reptile species in Nicaragua, nearly half are North American, found in Nicaragua at the southern limit of their habitat. Fifteen species are found only in Central America and another five are endemic to Nicaragua.

You’ll see a lot of the common Asian House Gecko (Hemidactylus frenatus) on walls and windows, especially around lights, where they wait to catch bugs. They’re often referred to as perrozompopos, especially in Managua.

Nicaragua’s several species of marine turtles are all in danger of extinction. The Paslama turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) in the Pacific and the Carey turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) and Green turtle (Chelonia mydas) in the Atlantic are protected, and much effort has gone into setting aside habitat for them. However, the struggle against those who’d like to harvest their eggs, meat, and shells is fierce. There are approximately 20 beaches in the Pacific whose conditions permit the nesting of these turtle species, most of which play host to only occasional nesting events. But two beaches, Chacocente and La Flor on the Pacific coast, are the nesting grounds of the Paslama turtle and experience massive annual egg-laying events between July and January (primarily during the first and third quarters of the moon). In them, 57,000 and 100,000 turtles crawl up on the moist sand at night to lay eggs. Only 1 out of 100 hatchlings makes it to adulthood. Armed guards on these beaches try to make sure the youngsters make it to the sea instead of the soup.

Caimans are plentiful along the river in Nicaragua. Photo © Elizabeth Perkins.
Caimans are plentiful along the river in Nicaragua. Photo © Elizabeth Perkins.

Alligators, crocodiles (Crocodilus acutus), caimans (Caiman crocodilus), and the Ñoca turtle (Trachemys scripta) are frequently seen along the Río San Juan and some larger rivers of Jinotega. The garrobo is a bush lizard the size of a small house cat you’re more likely to see suspended by its tail on the side of the road than in the wild. Poor campesino children hunt and sell them to passing motorists who make an aphrodisiac soup from the meat. Similarly, the cusuco (Dasypus novemincinctus) is a type of armadillo with plated sides and sharp-clawed feet, commonly found in drier areas of the countryside.

Insects in Nicaragua

Each of Nicaragua’s different ecosystems has a distinct insect population. Estimates of the total number of species reach as high as 250,000, only 1 percent of which have been identified. Notable species to seek out are several gigantic species of beetles, including Dynastes hercules (found in cloud forests); several species of brilliant green and golden Plusiotis (found in Cerro Saslaya and Cerro Kilambé); the iridescent blue butterfly Morpho peleides, common all over the country, and its less common cousin, M. amathonte, found at altitudes of 300-700 meters, especially in the forests of Bosawás. Nocturnal moths like the Rothschildia, Eacles, and others are common. There is an increasing number of mariposarios (butterfly farms) in Nicaragua, notably in Los Guatuzos, Papaturro, El Castillo (Río San Juan), and San Ramón (Matagalpa).

Nicaraguan frog. Photo © Elizabeth Perkins.
Nicaragua boasts 64 known species of amphibians. Photo © Elizabeth Perkins.

Amphibians in Nicaragua

Sixty-four known species of amphibians, four of which are endemic, live in Nicaragua’s humid forests and riversides. They include the Mombacho salamander (Bolitoglossa mombachoensis), the miadis frog, the Cerro Saslaya frog (Plectrohyla sp.), and the Saslaya salamander (Nolitron sp.).

Excerpted from the Sixth Edition of Moon Nicaragua.