What is so peculiar about the anomalous islands?

Have you ever had a dream where you were surrounded by thousands of venomous, hungry snakes? Or how about jumping into water and swimming amongst the turtles with bright sun shining through the water onto their emerald green shells? Well, these scenarios are perfectly plausible if you visit one of the anomalous islands.

The term ‘Anomalous islands’ covers a range of islands where something extraordinary has happened or is happening; be it a gruesome historical event, or disproportionate amounts of some animal species. I’m going to focus on the latter one.

So, are you still surrounded by group of snakes glaring at you with their blank, yellow eyes thinking it’s just a nightmare? Be wary, as it might not be the case, in fact you may have winded up on the Ilha de Queimada Grande- the snake island. This small island is located 93 miles away from Sao Paulo, Brazil, but what is so unusual about it? The island is full of serpents. It is estimated that there are from one to five snakes per square meter of the island! Moreover vast majority of them are the venomous golden lance head pit vipers. This is the same snake that has caused 90% of snake bite related fatalities in Brazil.

It is surprising how pure ‘luck’ can alter the whole ecosystem of an island. It is believed that the first snake on the island has arrived on a log, which embarked from Brazil. Since the island was mainly populated by small rodents and birds, the snake had no natural enemies, while there was plenty of prey around. This imbalance has allowed the viper to reproduce rapidly increasing its population on the island. Eventually all the rodents have been eliminated from the island and many wondered how these snakes can survive. Where they get their food from? The island happens to be a resting station for many unsuspecting migrating birds. Considering that the snakes can last without food for several months, it is enough for them to be able to wait for the next ‘batch’ of birds. The theory also explains why the majority of the snakes are the golden lance head pit viper, as this was the snake that has arrived on the log. This is an amazing example of the nature’s resilience. The ecosystem of the island has been so heavily altered, yet not destroyed completely.

What if you prefer the second scenario? You may want to go to the Ascension Island. It is located more than about 2,500 miles away from the coast of Brazil. This tiny plot of land is a site where 3,000 to 5,000 green sea turtle females lay about 100 eggs each. What has perplexed people all over the world is why such seemingly isolated island is such a major breeding ground for the green sea turtle? One of the theories states that the turtles travel with currents, however, this can’t explain why turtles never seem to ‘miss’ the tiny ‘pin’ in the middle of the ocean. Other theory states that this ancient migration path was developed when the layout of the continents was very different and the path was ‘imprinted’ in the creatures’ minds over the time.

The anomalous islands are fascinating places to see, however many of them restrict tourist’s access to them. The snake island is surrounded by Brazilian navy warding off any vessels around due to obvious danger associated with it. The Ascension Island on the other hand, has few tourist facilities and visitors need to acquire a special pass in order to enter this peculiar plot of land.

golden lancehead viper

image from: atlasobscura.com

Article written by: Hubert Bieluczyk

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