Greetings, Anole Annals readers, from sunny Miami, Florida. For my first post I wanted to share with you an illustration I did of several Venezuelan anoles, which appeared in the latest 2011 issue of Herpetological Review. I thought this illustration would give readers an opportunity to take a peek at the diverse, but often overlooked anole fauna of northern South America.
1.—Anolis tropidogaster (male). This small, little-known anole is somewhat similar in behavior to the species associated with A. chrysolepis. In fact, it is the predominant “not very arboreal” anole in forests west of the Andes in Venezuela, where A. planiceps is not found. Females have a rudimentary dewlap.
2.—Anolis fuscoauratus (male). This anole is a familiar sight for most herpetologist doing fieldwork in South America. Although there is considerable variation in dewlap coloration among populations currently assigned to A. fuscoauratus (e.g., rose, yellow or bicolored dewlaps), only uniformly rose-colored dewlaps are present in Venezuela. Females have a rudimentary dewlap.
3 and 4.—Both examples of Anolis planiceps. Until recently considered just a subspecies of A. chrysolepis, this anole is widely distributed throughout Venezuela, east of the Andes. It reaches even the high tepui plateaus above 2000 m and also the island of Margarita. Habitat-wise, I do not think it has a Caribbean ecomorph counterpart (as is also the case for most mainland anoles). It is most often found on the ground, hopping amidst the leaf litter. There is considerable morphological and color variation among the populations of this conspicuous anole. I am currently working with some colleagues in the taxonomic status of the populations currently assigned to this species in Venezuela.
5.—Anolis auratus (male). This is an abundant grass anole throughout northern South America and Panama. It prefers open habitats. Females have a rudimentary dewlap.
6.—Anolis scypheus. Like A. planiceps, this species was until recently considered a subspecies of A. chrysolepis. It is a common lizard throughout Amazonia. The dewlap is similar in size and coloration in both sexes.
7.—Anolis onca. The huge, reticulated dewlap of this large anole is unmistakable. It is almost as large and similarly colored in females. However, this is not the only interesting characteristic of this conspicuous anole. Anolis onca is predominantly terrestrial, and it is the only member of the genus that does not have expanded smooth subdigital lamellae but instead these scales are sharply keeled. Additionally, the digits are not expanded. It is found along the arid coast of northern Venezuela, adjacent extreme northeastern Colombia, and the Venezuelan islands of Margarita and La Tortuga.
8.—Anolis tigrinus. A prototypical twig-dwarf, this anole inhabits the epiphyte-covered trees of cloud forests along the mountains from northern Venezuela. Until recently, there was confusion as to why some specimens had a large, pale colored dewlap whereas others had a smaller, spotted one. In 2009, I had the opportunity to redescribe this taxon and found that the difference in dewlap coloration obeyed to sexual dimorphism. Males have a large, predominantly pale orange dewlap whereas females have a much smaller, black-blotched throat fan. Similar sexual dimorphism in dewlap coloration has been reported in other apparently closely related anoles like A. solitarius and A. jacare.
9.—Anolis euskalerriari. This anole (originally described in 1996 as a phenacosaur) was until very recently only known from the type series. It is endemic to the Perija Mountains, a mountain range in the border between Venezuela and Colombia. In the original description the dewlap was erroneously reported to be blue. However, recently collected specimens clearly demonstrate that this species has a uniformly rose colored dewlap in both sexes. Habitat-wise, this small anole seems to be a twig-dwarf and is rather similar in overall habitus to the recently described and tongue-twistedly named A. williamsmittermeierorum (I hope I spelled that correctly!).
10.—Anolis anatoloros. Along with several other colleagues, I had the opportunity to describe this beautiful anole in 2007. It is most closely related to A. jacare but differs most conspicuously in having a pale bluish-green dewlap. It appears to replace A. jacare on the eastern slopes of the Venezuelan Andes, from where it is endemic.
11.—Anolis jacare. This anole is relatively common along the western slopes of the Andes in Venezuela. In the same paper describing A. anotoloros, we redescribed this species and extended its distribution into adjacent northeastern Colombia. More recently, it has also been found along the Venezuelan slopes of the Perija Mountains.
12.—Anolis punctatus. Like the one illustrated, all Venezuelan specimens of this species have small black dots on the base of each gular scale. In some specimens the black dots are very inconspicuous whereas in others they are very distinct. This dewlap pattern is not dissimilar to that present in A. philopunctatus from the Brazilian Amazonia. This species is only confidently differentiated from typical A. punctatus by its black-blotched dewlap. The dewlap coloration of Venezuelan punctatus would appear to represent an “intermediate condition” between that of typical punctatus and the blotched philopunctatus. Along with other colleagues, I am currently examining specimens of A. punctatus from Venezuela and comparing them with adjacent populations from Colombia, Brazil and Guyana, as well as with closely related taxa (A. vaupesianus and A. philopunctatus).
13.—Last but certainly no least, Anolis squamulatus (male). This is the largest anole in Venezuela with a maximum SVL of ca. 13 cm. Males, like the one illustrated, have a huge yellow-orange dewlap with a large red blotch on its anterior half. Females have a duller, darker and much smaller dewlap. This species was recently redescribed and we provided a little information about its natural history.