Anolis References

Anole species

Your source for the latest on Anolis lizards.

Anolis bartschi photograph by Joe Burgess.

A juvenile Cuban endemic Anolis bartschi at Cueva del Indio, Vinales, Cuba. Although observed most frequently on rocks in karstic regions, individuals like this one are also commonly seen on trunks and other broad perches emerging from the karst beneath. The quality and clarity of this image are superb. The subtle colors along the animals spine and the steely blue of the eye and surrounding region are beautiful under natural light (perhaps complemented with a tactfully subtle fill flash?). A catch-light in the black eye gives the lizard some personality, and makes me wonder what it might be thinking. The right front forelimb is lifted off the trunk and possibility somewhat blurred by motion, impressing me with the animals agility and suggesting that its ready to make a move. This photo that makes me want to get out and find some anoles.

New Method For Visualizing Trait Evolution On A Tree

Phylogenetic comparative methods whiz Liam Revell has developed a new method to visualize character evolution of continuous traits on a phylogeny. The program is cool and worth checking out on his Phytools blog, but the important point is that he illustrates the method by reconstructing size evolution in Greater Antillean anoles.

  • Genealogic family tree

Name That Anole

Could this be the all-time coolest anole dewlap?

As we all know, even though the diversity of anoles is greater on mainland Central and South America, we know a lot more about the island species. This extends even to simple matters such as resources for learning about and identifying species–for many mainland areas, it is hard to get information on the species that occur there, although this has changed in recent years.

Nowhere is this more true than in Mexico, an anologically rich area for which information on the anolifauna has not been brought together into a single compendium. Into this breach step Levi Gray, Steve Poe, and Adrian Nieto Montes de Oca, who have just produced a photo guide to the anoles of Mexico.

They recognize 46 species of Mexican anoles.  Of these 46, the authors and collaborators in the Poe Lab have caught 40 of them, including approximately 21 from their type localities, and field work this month is targetting three of the others.  The photos in the key are all from the authors, except the carolinensis photo provided by Alexis Harrison.  The key includes all Mexican anoles that the authors recognize (leaving out forms they consider unlikely to be valid–e.g., cumingi–or that have questionable status–e.g., utowanae).  The authors report that the well-known species schmidti, simmonsi, breedlovei, polyrhachis, microlepis and adleri are junior synonyms of other forms; these points will be discussed in a paper currently in review in Zootaxa; unfamiliar names in the key (e.g., rubiginosus) will be explained in that paper as well.

Below are low-resolution pictures of the guides; larger, downloadable pdfs can be accessed here. And I can’t help but adding: isn’t the diversity of dewlap colors and patterns incredible? I vote for sericeus as one of the greatest ever!

Spend A Night At The Museum With Anolis Lizards

Darwin Day, Comparative Zoology Museum

Attention Boston-area Anolophiles – This Friday, November 9th, the Harvard University Biological Sciences Society (HUBSS) is hosting its annual Night at the Museum event! This free and recurring event at the Harvard Museum of Natural History features plenty of tasty treats, exciting exhibits, and exclusive behind-the-scenes tours of the research collections in the Museum of Comparative Zoology. Although the event is sponsored and hosted by the undergraduate society, interested members of the public are welcome to participate.

As part of this event, I will be giving two free tours of the Herpetology collections. I love working for these events because I get to display my favorite pieces from our amazing collections, including enormous croc skulls, strange and rare reptiles, and, naturally, a dizzying array of anoles. Anoles will be featured prominently in my tours as I use them to illustrate the principles of convergent evolution and to talk about island biogeography. Visitors will get to participate in a team activity using Anolis specimens. If you’re in the area, how else would you rather spend a Friday night than learning about anoles?

Oliver The Over-Achieving Anole: The Book

Another entry into the ever-expanding genre of anole literature. Check out snippets of the book. describes the book thusly: “From the moment of his hatching, in a flowerpot high above the ground, Oliver Anole saw the world as a game and an adventure. His spirit of play and love of creating spreads through the anole world, as just by being himself, he is able to inspire others to be inventive and create the lives they enjoy. I wrote Oliver the Overachiever to encourage children to celebrate their individuality and sense of community. I wanted to illustrate, through story and pictures, that a small person can create great effects that can change his world for the better.” And as for the author, “Karin Mesa has worked for the past nineteen years as a designer of decorative glass. She lives on the west coast of Florida with her husband, glass artist, Julian Mesa. Their studio, located in a one acre garden, provides the inspiration of nature that Karin has always used for her illustrations. Throughout her life observing nature has been fuel for Karin s imagination. Jagged tree stumps in a snowy winter became elven castles. Tree frogs nestled among orchid roots whisper of their cozy hidden homes throughout a garden world. Small lives, out of sight to many, are brought to life in water color and pencil. Karin s stories about these small creatures can be applied to their own lives by children, in ways that are real to them as individuals. Karin has stated her purpose in writing and illustrating like this: I hope that in a light and playful way my stories and pictures will encourage children to develop their creativity and sense of adventure. I want them to know the power they have to change things for the better.”

Anole Research Featured In Animal Cognition Documentary

Manuel Leal’s fascinating studies showing that anoles have more going on than anyone would have expected is featured in a new Canadian TV documentary. The Nature of Things is a well known series hosted by the inimitable David Suzuki. This episode on the cognitive abilities is wide-ranging and has all the usual suspects (chimps, crows, etc.)…and anoles! Not to mention Manuel Leal. Unfortunately, the series can only be accessed online if you’re in Canada, but the rest of us can see a snippet on the post on Chipojolab, as well as a “behind-the-scenes” discussion of the film crew’s visit to Leal’s lab.

Documentary On Cuban Anoles

In the year 2010, a group of students from the International School of Film and Television from San Antonio de los Baños, Cuba, made a film: “Anolis: Vigilantes of the Day,” an excellent documentary of nine minutes about Cuban anoles. The documentary is narrated in Spanish and has the best aspects of the natural history of these lizards, including some ecomorphs and the use of the dewlap in displays.

Variation In The Hand Structure Of Anoles And Other Lizards: Does Form Follow Function?

Variation in the hand morphology of lizards. The drawings to the right of each foot indicate the arrangement of the tendons. Note that in B (anoles and Polychrus) and C (geckos), the tendons are independent, whereas in the others, they fused into tendenous plates in the palm of the hand.

In a paper in Acta Zoologica, Tulli et al. examine the tendons of the hands of a variety of lizards, including a dozen anole species. Their hypothesis is that differences in tendon struct should reflect ecological adaptation: in arboreal species, the tendons running to each finger (digit) should be independent, allowing great flexibility, whereas in more terrestrial lizards, the tendons should be fused, presumably providing great stability during locomotion at the cost of less agility.

The data show great variation in tendon morphology, with much of the variation falling out along phylogenetic lines. Form B in the figure above corresponds to all anoles and Polychrus. The data provide a suggestion that the authors’ hypothesis is correct, but statistical analyses incorporating phylogenetic information–affected by the similarity of closely-related species–fail to confirm the result.

Marıa J. Tulli, Anthony Herrel, Bieke Vanhooydonck and Virginia Abdala (2012). Is phylogeny driving tendon length in lizards? Acta Zoologica, 93, 319-329 DOI: 10.1111/j.1463-6395.2011.00505.x

How Does An Ant Taste? Apparently Not So Good

Hard to come to any other conclusion after observing this video clip of the Big Kahuna shot by John Rahn, right after the brown anole (BK to his friends) ate an ant, and then the spittle flew. Notice, too, the translucent, glowing tail where the sun strikes it–nice effect!

Observations On Two Colombian Endemic Anoles

Fundación Kamajorú para la conservación y educación ambiental  Barranquilla, Colombia.

Detail of Anolis concolor, San Andres Islas, Colombia; Juan Salvador Mendoza

Anoles (genus Anolis sensu old taxonomy) are one of the most diverse neo-tropical vertebrate groups with more than 200 species. In continental Colombia more than 60 anole species have been registered, including 30 which are endemic (Sanchez et al. 1995).  Three more endemic species are known from the insular portion of San Andres and Providencia in the Atlantic Ocean and Malpelo in the Pacific (Sanchez et al. 1995).  One of this insular species is A. concolor (Cope, 1836) a relatively medium-sized anole (60-80 mm SVL) that inhabits mangroves and dry forests in the islands of San Andres and Providencia; on the latter island, this species is sympatric with a A. pinchoti which is endemic only to the island of Providencia. In the Pacific, the representative species is A. agassizi from Malpelo Island.

A.concolor. Male, Jardin Botanico, Universidad Nacional, sede Caribe;

A.concolor. Male, Jardin Botanico, Universidad Nacional, sede Caribe; San Andres Islas, Colombia. Juan Salvador Mendoza

Anolis concolor is a very agile lizard that may use the ground, tree trunks and branches to forage and display courtship and territorial behavior. I observed and photographed several individuals in the “Jardin Botanico, Universidad Nacional de Colombia;” this garden holds more than two hectares of the natural vegetation of the island, tropical dry forest.  This lizard can be found in the borders of roads on top of secondary vegetation and can be also found in conserved remnants of mangroves and dry forest. In San Andres this species shares its habitat with a gecko species (Aristelliger georgensis) that may be also found even during the day time in the tree trunks. This is the only anole species in San Andres Island and can be very abundant; I counted 35 individuals in a 1 km forest trail. 

Green Anoles Banned In Japan

We’ve had a lot of discussion on AA about invasive anoles. Although some in Hawaii seem hot and bothered about them, only in two places–both in Asia–are governmental entities actually trying to do something about it. And, unfortunately, both such efforts seem to be having a devastating effect on the native fauna. Gerrut Norval has reported on such efforts in Taiwan and how they are leading to the massacre of many native agamid lizards. Now, thanks to sharp-eyed AA reader, anole researcher and—as a fallback career option–ichthyologist, Bruce Collette, we learn of anole control efforts on the Japanese island of Okinawajima.

The current issue of Biological Magazine of Okinawa has just published a paper by Ishikawa et al. on efforts to control introduced A. carolinensis by trapping them in glue traps. Unfortunately, as they note, this trapping has succeeded in capturing–and presumably killing–many times more native geckos than green anoles. The journal is in Japanese and if any of our Japanese readers could provide a synopsis, we’d be very appreciative. However, the abstract is in English and is appended below, along with a photo from the paper of sticky-trapped anoles.

Election Coming Down To The Wire; Vote Now

Anolis capito taken by Gabe Gartner

The Brown Anole

Brown anole eating a curly tail lizard. Photo by Joseph Wasilewski.

We’ve had a number of posts concerning predation by curly tail lizards on brown anoles, in the Bahamas, Florida, Cuba and elsewhere. Now comes a report from near Miami that the brownies aren’t just sitting back and taking it. Rather, they’re rounding up vigilante posses to track down and consume baby curlies, hitting the predator’s population where it’s vulnerable. Ok, perhaps that’s a stretch, but in a recent note in Herpetological Review, Krysko and Wasilewski publish the first report of Anolis sagrei preying on Leiocephalus carinatus, revealing that the ecological interactions between the two species are more complicated than previously thought: we already knew that curlies prey on brown anoles and that the two species also compete for some of the same insect prey (making this an example of the phenomenon of intra-guild predation),  but this study raises the possibility that the interaction–and its likely ecological and evolutionary consequences–could be substantially more complicated. One might think that because of the massive size advantage of the curly-tails, the effects must mostly be one-way; however, the massive population size differential between the two species means that brown anoles, in theory, could greatly affect curly tail populations as well. Although the effects of curly tails on brown anoles have been studied, the opposite experiment has not been done. Of course, previous work on tiny Bahamian islands indicates that curly tails substantially reduce brown anole populations, but maybe dynamics are different in larger and more complicated ecosystems. Personally, I wouldn’t bet on it, but who knows?

More On Anolis Proboscis

Earlier in the year, we reported on a pair of papers describing the enigmatic and little known Ecuadorian horned anole, Anolis proboscis. Now, the Tropical Herping website has put up an information page on this species which comprehensively summarizes what we know and, as a bonus, reports unpublished observations that the species has been located at a number of new localities, bringing to 12 the total sites from which the species has been reported.