Update on the Anoles of Singapore

Anolis sagrei displaying in front of a supertree at the Gardens by the Bay

Anolis sagrei displaying in front of a supertree at the Gardens by the Bay

Two years ago, we posted on a paper in Nature in Singapore documenting the occurrence of the festive anole, Anolis sagrei, in Singapore. The ubiquitous colonizers had turned up in the newly created Gardens by the Bay, an enormous new botanical garden built on reclaimed land at the southern end of the island. AA decided to look into the situation further and sent this correspondent to the “Lion City” to report back on the situation.

Reporting for duty at the Gardens at approximately 930 am on the morning of 16 April, we quickly determined that the lizards are common in the lushly planted gardens pretty much wherever we went. The only exception was an open meadow housing a statue, where we did see an introduced agamid lizard (below). This area was only searched for three minutes, however, and it would not be surprising to find the anoles in the shrubbery surrounding the statue (below). The other place the lizards were not seen were in the two spectacular indoor cool houses, the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest. Both are kept at temperatures possibly too low for the lizards, and also likely are fumigated.


Introduced Calotes versicolor at Gardens by the Bay

IMG_7370xOtherwise, however, the anoles seem to be everywhere and it seems unlikely, given the luxuriance of the vegetation, that they can be eradicated (and we know how well such elimination efforts have fared in Taiwan—not).

The question is whether the anole will spread to the rest of Singapore, and from thence to Malaysia. Given the heavy motor traffic bringing visitors to the gardens, it seems inevitable that the anoles will hitch-hike their way across the bridge and colonize the main island of Singapore, which is for the most part one big Anolis sagrei habitat, with plenty of tropical vegetation everywhere. Moreover, the gift shop at the Gardens was selling orchids. I don’t know where they came from, but if on site, that is a great way to distribute brown anoles far and wide.

IMG_2609xIt’s not clear whether the anole is already present on the Singaporean main island. One commenter on our previous post said that it had been seen elsewhere, and I was told that there were unsubstantiated reports that it had been observed in the Singapore Botanical Garden. I spent several hours there myself and saw the anole mimic pictured on the right, but no anoles.

My prediction is that in ten years, Anolis sagrei will be very common in Singapore. But let’s see what the varanids, the Calotes and the birds have to say about that.

New Monograph on the Reptiles and Amphibians of Southern Florida


Meshaka and Layne have just published a masterful review of the native herps of southern Florida in Herpetological Conservation and Biology (freely downloadable). Of most interest to readers of these pages is the treatment of Anolis carolinensis, and it is indicative of the quality of this work: the six pages devoted to the natural history of the green anole is the most authoritative and comprehensive of which I’m aware, covering the literature for this species not only in southern Florida, but throughout its range. This monograph is the starting point for anyone interested in green anole biology. In addition, this section shows how surprisingly little we know about the biology of this species. For example, most of the information on green anole diet comes from Wayne King’s work from 1966.

This volume will be useful to anyone interested in the herpetology of southern Florida.

The Mystery of the Beat Up, Passive Crested Anole

Photo by Janson Jones

Look at this poor fellow. Over on Phostracks, Janson Jones describes him and his demeanor thusly:

“Still, the most compelling characteristic of this anole was its passiveness. It wasn’t dead. Far from it, actually. The anole actively watched me, tracking me with its eyes. Still, when I rolled the lizard on its back, it just laid there like a puppy wanting a belly rub. Except for two or three miserable feeble attempts at escape, this anole was entirely passive (and clearly in need of a good dinner). It was just worn the hell out and in dire need of a vacation.

I placed the anole on the side of an unpopulated tree trunk to see if it could or would hang on (see image bottom left; image is rotated 90 degrees). No problem. It did just fine. It even moved around a bit. Then, when I started creeping back close again, nothing. It just sat there. Passive.

So, to quote Diondre Cole, “What’s up with that?” Any ideas? Any opinions? Any speculations?”

For more photos and entertaining description, check out the full post.

Anolis punctatus Mating and Feeding

Now for another story from the rainforests of eastern Ecuador. While I was passing through camp on my way to lunch at the Tiputini Biodiversity Station, I stumbled across this pair of Anolis punctatus mating only about five and a half feet above the ground on a small tree. I don’t know when they began, but they disbanded about five minutes after I found them. I probably had something to do with this as the male displayed immediately after separating from the female which you can see below.

Interestingly, the male seems to have a piece of debris stuck in his eye, which he eventually flicks out of his eye at the 40 second mark after mating. Another interesting note is that I spotted the same female (identified by dorsal spot patterning) in the same tree one day earlier where it was perched much higher on a thin branch covered with leaves.

Before I could contemplate what misstep I took in my life that brought me to sit and record the act of two lizards copulating on video, I was preoccupied with watching what this pair would do next. The male split after two hours when he was disturbed by a passing scientist. Prior to disappearing into the canopy he displayed a few times and ate an unidentified insect.

Post-coital "Anolis punctatus" malePost-coital "Anolis punctatus" female

A photoshoot took place after the act. The piece of debris is still visible on the male’s face.

The female stuck around longer and quite low to the ground the entire time. After a few hours she started foraging by perching on Heliconia stems, running into a small patch of leaf litter to retrieve an insect and then returning to another stalk to eat her meal and then stake out the next. I can’t make out what arthropods she was eating, but notice how she gives a few slight head motions throughout (notably at 0:42 and 1:09). This may have been a motion to aid in swallowing food, but I’ve also seen the same female and one other perform this movement outside of the foraging contexts  which leads me to believe it’s a headbob.

Thanks for watching!

The World’s Most Beautiful Anole? Anolis equestris potior

equestris potior

We’ve had posts on this spectacular anole before. Jesus Reina Carvajal reports: “During the last three years, I have been lucky to see them every single time I have visited the area but they are really hard to find. I find them in the wild on Cayo Santa María. They live exclusively on that island. Nowhere else in the world.

They eat insects, other lizards and small birds. They have a powerful bite. This last individual I could follow during hours since I saw it early in the morning and I could make many pictures and films until it left the place. That day I felt very happy!”

More of Jesus’s photos can be seen in the Flickr album he created.

Photo by Jesus Reina Carvajal

Photo by Jesus Reina Carvajal

Photo by Jesus Reina Carvajal

Photo by Jesus Reina Carvajal

Brown Anole Eats a Fish!

This post is by Holly Brown, a grad student at UConn studying the visual ecology of wading birds.

The piscivorous brown anole

The piscivorous brown anole

I spent the day filming herons at the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center, in Key Largo, FL. While changing positions to get a better view of interesting foraging behaviors of a juvenile Little Blue Heron and a Snowy Egret — head-tilting and foot-raking, respectively — I noticed a mad dash on the ground, ahead of the path I walked. I looked down, and a little anole had scrambled from the shoreline over to take cover in some mangrove roots, which were protruding out of the mud. I didn’t think much of this at first. I continued to walk along the shoreline, to follow a foraging white morph Great Blue Heron. I began to walk back toward the territory of the little anole, and noticed, yet again, a mad dash at ground level, from the shoreline into the mangrove roots. Thinking it might be odd to see an anole at the water’s edge I tried to find the well-camouflaged lizard amidst the vegetation. What I found was a lizard the size of an anole, but with a seemingly large, round head. Upon further examination, I realized that it was two heads–one anole head and one fish head! The anole had caught a minnow, and the poor little minnow’s head was sticking out of its mouth…gills still flapping and all.

I study herons because I am interested in how vision-based predators compensate for visual challenges, such as glare or refraction, while hunting across the air-water interface. I may need to start studying anoles as well!

Mangrove Twig Anoles


Anolis angusticeps, South Bimini, Bahamas

One component of our recent field work in Bimini, Bahamas involved gathering data from anoles across various habitat types. We selected four primary habitats for sampling based partly on the notable work by Schoener (1968): blackland forest; incipient blackland; Coccothrinax coastal scrub; and mixed Avicennia, Laguncularia, and Rhizophora mangrove forest.

Mangrove forest nocturnal survey.

Mangrove forest nocturnal survey.

South Bimini is an interesting place to study anoles in that it is a relatively small island harboring four species across at least eight different habitat types.  Schoener’s excellent study of habitat use in these species indicated that mangrove forests were marginal habitat for anoles, supporting only two of the four species (A. sagrei and A. smaragdinus). During nocturnal surveys, we located both of these species roosting on Avicennia and Laguncularia leaves and branches, though in much lower numbers than other forest types. We found no anoles in Rhizophora mangle at our study site. However, we did find a number of A. angusticeps in this forest, mostly perching horizontally on Avicennia branches. We would like to know, how many others have found twig anoles in mangrove forest?

Anolis equestris: Miami’s Favorite Cannibal

Anolis equestris with a smaller Anolis equestris in its jaws.

An Anolis equestris captures a smaller A. equestris in South Miami.

Cannibalism in Anolis equestris is nothing new, but that doesn’t make it any less surprising to witness! On a morning stroll in South Miami this past weekend, I noticed a flash of green movement on a tree. Upon closer inspection I realized there was a medium-large A. equestris with a smaller A. equestris wedged between its jaws. I hurried to snap a few photos with my wife’s phone, and while they aren’t Neal Losin-caliber (ha ha), I still wanted to share them with my favorite anole community!

Anolis equestris in tree

Anolis distichus dewlapping at Anolis equestris

Once I got too close, the A. equestris decided it was time to take its meal higher up the tree. An unsuspecting A. distichus saw the approaching A. equestris and began to dewlap enthusiastically. You can see the A. distichus near the top of the last photo. Enjoy!

Grey-Dewlapped Crested Anole

grey crested

Stroud and Beckles published this photo of a crested anole with a half-grey dewlap in the December 2014 issue of Herpetological Review. Cresteds dewlaps are usually orange or yellow–this is very unusual.

This is reminiscent of the famous gray-dewlapped A. carolinensis as well as this odd crested anole found by Neil Losin.

What’s up with these wacky anoles?

Great Isaac Cay

Approach to Great Isaac Cay. Note the Casuarina forest. Photo by Kristin Winchell.

Approach to Great Isaac Cay. Note the Casuarina forest. Photo by Kristin Winchell.

Great Isaac Cay, NE of the Bimini group, Bahamas. Image from Google Earth 2015.

Great Isaac Cay, NE of the Bimini group, Bahamas. Image from Google Earth 2015.

As Kristin mentioned in a previous post, we recently visited some of the Bimini islands  in search of data on Anolis sagrei ordinatus. Through a stroke of luck, we were able to visit remote Great Isaac Cay for an afternoon of herping, hoping to find some anoles there.

Great Isaac is a small weathered carbonate formation, rising perhaps 15m above the extreme northwestern corner of the shallow Great Bahama Bank. The island was more or less continuously inhabited for about a century by a lighthouse-keeper staff, and hence the native fauna could have been drastically affected. The island is frequently visited by boaters who come ashore to explore the ruins, as well as Bahamian commercial fisherman (note the boat in the right of the photo) who use the structures for shelter. The island now has a well developed Casuarina forest, with a deep (50-150cm) litter of Casuarina twigs.


The author surveying the Casuarina forest on Great Isaac. Photo by Kristin Winchell.

We spent about six person-hours  around 1500h on Great Isaac- plenty of time to cover the entire island. We surveyed for reptiles by lifting and replacing loose rocks, as well as checking around and under vegetation and within abandoned structures. We failed to turn up a single anole, though we did find two species of reptiles. We encountered quite a few Sphaerodactylus nigropunctatus flavicauda under rocks in the Casuarina forest, and only two Ameiva auberi richmondi in open areas around the abandoned lighthouse.


Surveying the west end of Great Isaac Cay. Photo by Kristin Winchell.


Sphaerodactylus nigropunctatus flavicauda, female. Great Isaac Cay.

As far as we can tell there are no island lists of the herpetofauna for Great Isaac, indeed we did not even include the island in our recent list of Bahamian herpetofauna (available here). The island is at least listed in the original version of this work, yet without any records. So, has anyone else come across herpetofaunal records for Great Isaac Cay?

Bark Anole Battle Scars in Miami, FL

As it starts to heat up here in Miami, anole interactions are at the highest while males try to stake their claim for the most attractive territories in town. Earlier during an afternoon stroll around South Miami I came across this bark anole (Anolis distichus) that looks like it’s had a pretty rough time recently!


I assume this injury to his nape is probably from another lizard, likely another male A. distichus, incurred during a territorial dispute, and not a predation attempt. Either way, it looks like it didn’t dent his confidence too much!


Great Egret Eating a Crested Anole in Miami, FL

Here is a video taken by University of Miami PhD student Joanna Weremijewicz at the Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens in Miami, FL last Friday (20th March 2015). There have been lots of posts talking about the predation potential of egrets (and other wading birds) on anoles here on AA similar to this (1,2,3,4), but I think this could be the first one recording predation of A. cristatellus? Cool video!

Species ID from Bimini – A. sagrei or distichus?

After looking through my photos from my trip last week to Bimini in the Bahamas, I was disappointed when I realized that none of us seemed to have any pictures of Anolis distichus. Or maybe we did? Among all the typical sagrei-looking anole photos was this guy:

Anolis distichus or Anolis sagrei???

Anolis distichus or Anolis sagrei???

Without telling you why I thought this was a distichus, or why others I have asked are torn between distichus and sagrei, I am curious what people think. What species is this?

Video of a Fight Between Two Female Brown Anoles

Compared with our extensive knowledge of male-male interactions, we know very little about how females interact with one another. Adding to a growing set of observations, here is some video (taken by my field assistant and seasoned anole videographer Jon Suh) of two bead-tagged female brown anoles mid-battle.

Both females are recent arrivals to this particular tree, and the lizard that remains on the tree at the end is marginally bigger than the one who leaves. Though I don’t think we witnessed the full interaction, I think it’s interesting that the females didn’t use their dewlaps in the course of this fight. This seems to match up with Ellee Cook’s description of a fight between two female A. gundlachiThe use of the dewlap by females has been observed during male-female interactions in A. cristatellusA. armouri  and a few other species, but also during female-female interactions in some Central American anoles. Clearly we’ve got a long way to go before we characterize and understand agonistic encounters and display behaviour in female anoles!

Field Trip Recap: Herps of Bimini, The Bahamas


Searching for Anolis sagrei on the beautiful island of Bimini

Anolis sagrei on the beautiful island of Bimini

I just got back from a 10 day research trip to Bimini in the western Bahamas along with Harvard post-doc, Graham Reynolds, Harvard graduate student, Pavitra Muralidhar, and UMass Boston undergraduate, Jason Fredette. We went with the simple goals of kicking off a research project in the Losos lab on Anolis sagrei  and to observe as many other herps as we could.

We spent the majority of our time on South Bimini. We sampled from the well-maintained Nature Trail, where we found all four anole species (Anolis sagreiAnolis smaragdinusAnolis angusticeps, and Anolis distichus) and a Bimini boa among diverse habitat types, including blackland coppice and open Coccothrinax shrub. We also spent a couple of nights searching in some mangrove forest near the airport, which yielded only A. sagrei and A. angusticeps and in low abundance at that. The “Fountain of Youth” ended up being a gold mine for Sphaerodactylus nigropunctatus as well as boas — we caught 3 here.

We also did a fair amount of exploring. Our hosts for our house rental wanted to make sure we had a great time in Bimini and so they insisted on boating us out to a couple of the nearby islands for some snorkeling. Of course, we saw this as the perfect opportunity to catch a few lizards. Our first destination was Gun Cay, a small island a few miles to the south of Bimini. Pavitra and Jason entertained our hosts by collecting shells and feeding stingrays. Meanwhile, despite our hosts’ curiosity that we wanted to go wander in the brush, Graham and I nabbed 10 adult male A. sagrei in less than an hour. We also saw several Ameiva auberiAnolis smaragdinus, and some sort of very large rodent (does anyone know about Hutia reintroductions in the Bahamas?).

The following day, our hosts insisted we come with them to a small island 20+ miles to the north of Bimini (Great Isaac Cay) where they promised us dolphins and hammerhead sharks. On the way to the island we saw several dolphins, tons of flying fish, sea turtles, and several large nurse sharks. As we approached the island, I saw the mature Casuarina forest and yelled down to Graham from the crow’s nest tower, “I want to go explore there!”  Our hosts got us as close as they could to the rocky shore (dangerously close it seemed, the hull almost hit the rocky karst island) and all four of us hopped onto the island. The island had an abandoned lighthouse and buildings from the 1800’s that we explored. We were shocked to not find a single anole on Isaac Island, although we did find Sphaerodactylus nigropunctatus and Ameiva auberi.

The isolated Great Isaac Cay with ruins from the late 1800's.

The isolated Great Isaac Cay with ruins from the late 1800’s.

The trip was a huge success. In total, we came across all but five of the reptiles of Bimini. Surprisingly, we were unable to find any Bahamian racers (Alsophis vudii) other than roadkills, though most of our field time was at night. Unsurprisingly, we did not find either of the blind snakes or the dwarf boa, the latter of which tends to be more common in the rainy season. As expected, A. sagrei was the most abundant anole on Bimini. We came across A. angusticeps and A. smaragdinus with equal frequency and actually encountered only a few A. distichus. We did most of our searching at night, so this may be a reflection on different sleeping behaviors rather than abundance.

In summary, we were able to observe:

  • 140+ Anolis sagrei males and females
  • Sphaerodactylus nigropunctatus (black-dotted dwarf gecko)
  • Sphaerodactylus argus (ocellated dwarf gecko)
  • Dozens of Leiocephalus carinatus (curly-tail lizard)
  • Chilabothrus strigilatus fosteri (Bimini boa)
  • a handful of Anolis distichusAnolis smaragdinusAnolis angusticeps

We also saw a number of other herps that we were not able to catch or didn’t need data from:

  • Ameiva auberi (Bimini ameiva)
  • Eleutherodactylus planirostris (greenhouse frog)
  • Osteopilus septentrionalis (Cuban tree frog)
  • Hemidactylus mabouia (invasive house gecko)


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Placing Extinct Species in a Molecular Phylogeny Using Quantitative Characters: A Case Study Using Anolis roosevelti

Liam Revell writes:

My co-authors (Luke Mahler, Graham Reynolds, & Graham Slater) and I recently presented a ‘new’ method for placing recently extinct taxa into a backbone molecular phylogeny on the basis of quantitative trait data. I say ‘new’ with quotes, because our methods derives closely, with full credit given where due, from a Maximum Likelihood phylogeny inference approach presented originally by Felsenstein (1981, 2002).

The idea is basically as follows. We start with a time-calibrated molecular phylogeny containing N – 1 species, and a single taxon of interest (the Nth taxon) whose placement in the tree is of interest, but for which molecular characters are missing. If we have quantitative trait data from one or more characters for all N species in the tree, we can use an approach based on Felsenstein (1981) to add this taxon to our base phylogeny using the statistical criterion of Maximum Likelihood.Revell_etal.Figure3_1In our article (Revell et al. 2015), we demonstrate that the method works pretty well in theory. In fact, for more than a few quantitative characters & particularly for trees of large size, the method often places the missing taxon in our dataset in a topological position that is identical to its true position. (See figure below, reproduced from our article.) In the figure, white bars show the performance of our method (compared to grey bars which represent placement at random). In all cases, lower values indicate that the estimated tree is closer to the generating tree.

The question you’re probably asking yourself (and quite rightly so) is: what could this possibly have to do with anoles? The answer is that we applied the method to the unusual case of Anolis roosevelti. Anolis roosevelti, as many readers of this blog likely already know, is a mysterious crown-giant anole from Culebra and (probably) the Spanish, U.S., and British Virgin Islands, excluding St. Croix. It is only known from a few specimens and was last collected in 1932. Aside from some unconfirmed reports, it has neither been seen nor heard from since. Unfortunately – and tragically given the impressive nature of this creature – all but the most optimistic anole biologists agree that this species is most likely extinct. (Many of us, the author included, still holds out hope, of course.) The figure below shows the type specimen of this impressive creature. (Figure from our article and image courtesy of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard.)

figure2Since no prior investigator has collected molecular characters from this species, and the prospects for so doing in the future are somewhat mixed (for reasons that we explain in the article), we thought Anolis roosevelti would represent an interesting test case for our method. Would A. roosevelti, we asked ourselves, fall out as sister to the Puerto Rican crown-giant, Anolis cuvieri, as sister-to or nested-within the rest of Puerto Rican anoles, or in another part of the tree entirely? Continue reading

Amazonian Anole Displays

The last time I was on Anole Annals, I posted about the peculiar display of Anolis ortonii from the Tiputini Biodiversity Station in eastern Ecuador. Nearly two years later, I was lucky enough to return to the area for another month and bring back some more videos of Amazonian anoles. Unfortunately I never saw Anolis trachyderma or A.chrysolepis show off their dewlaps, but here are three other species.

First up is Anolis fuscoauratus. I didn’t encounter many individuals of this species compared to my first trip, perhaps the differences in seasonality are to blame. I luckily shot this footage only a few days before leaving.

Next is Anolis punctatus, which was surprisingly abundant. I’ll be posting more videos of A. punctatus later as I was lucky enough to observe many other behaviors, but here is the display of at least three different individuals. All of these lizards were found high up in the canopy except for the second to last clip.

Finally, while not as visibly abundant as its cousin, I was fortunate to come across Anolis transversalis. I was photographing some Plica plica on a large ficus, when this lizard descended and scampered across the buttress roots. Eventually it jumped onto an adjacent thin tree and displayed a few times before climbing higher into the canopy.

But this story ends on a sad note. Four days later I was around the same tree when an anole ran down the trunk with an insect in its mouth.

I assume it was the same individual from the other day given the same location, but I can’t be sure. This time he was displaying more vigorously before his arrogance got the best of him. While I was adjusting my camera to get closer a bird swooped in and when I looked up there was no lizard. I never saw A. transversalis on that tree again.

(Anolis transversalis)

Rest In Peace