Field Work in Puerto Rico and a First Lizard Bite

Anolis evermanni in Bosque San Patricio, San Juan.

I’m presently in the field in Puerto Rico working with my (first, brave) doctoral student, Kristin Winchell, along with two undergraduate assistants (Zack & Sofia). Although Kristin has been with me to Puerto Rico once previously (in January), this expedition is the first trip of Kristin’s doctoral research, which will focus on urban ecology and adaptation in anoles. In this trip she is collecting phenotypic, habitat use, and activity temperature (ambient and internal) data for Anolis cristatellus in urban and forested sites in the three major municipalities of Puerto Rico: San Juan, Mayagüez, and Ponce. For example, our forested field locality in San Juan is the diminutive but verdant state forest Bosque San Patricio. San Patricio is a small forest of no more than about 70 acres nestled well within the sprawling San Juan metropolitan area. In spite of this status as an island of green amidst concrete, at least three species of anoles can be found there (including Anolis evermanni, pictured above), along with Ameiva, the Puerto Rican racer (I found two), and (according to accounts) the endangered Puerto Rican boa.

My role in this expedition is mostly in a supporting capacity. In addition, I am visiting colleagues, scouting sites, looking for boas, and preparing for the tropical biology field course that I will be co-instructing with herpetologist Alberto Puente here in January. In fact, while Kristin & her crew finish up in San Juan, I have proceeded ahead to Mayagüez with my wife, Emily, and our two year old daughter, Cecilia, both of whom joined us on the island a couple of days ago. This leads me to the the second part of my post title. No doubt Zack & Sofia, who have never worked on anoles before, suffered their first anole bites (and perhaps inumerable additional bites) on this trip. It’s part of the job! However, it was to my considerable surprise when Cecilia suffered her first Anolis bite as well. Before you call Child & Family Services, this was a total accident, not some cruel rite of passage.

What happened was as follows. Just a little while earlier I had caught a female Anolis cristatellus from the side of our rental cottage. Cecilia, the kind soul that she is, wanted to “pet” this animal, asked to do so, and after making sure that the animal wouldn’t bite, I allowed it (see picture below).

Cecilia & a female Puerto Rican crested anole.

Unfortunately, after capturing a larger male A. cristatellus from our porch, Cecilia proceeded to try and “pet” this animal as well when I wasn’t watching, and I was not quick enough to stop it! Predictably, it snapped. Just as any two year old would, Cecilia freaked, but she quickly recovered and seems to have lost none of her earlier interest. Hopefully the experience will spawn a new generation of herpetologists in the Revell clan (and not a child that is terrified of the outdoors)!

The territory of this offending animal is the left side of the porch, so I’ve had some opportunity to snap a couple of additional photos of him, including the picture below:

Don't ask me why she's having dinner in her car seat. She does what she wants!

3 thoughts on “Field Work in Puerto Rico and a First Lizard Bite

  1. A two-year-old captured an adult male cristatellus? That may be a record! She’s clearly destined to work on crown giants.

  2. Oops – I now see that part of the story wasn’t clear. To set the record straight: I captured it, but I was holding it within reach and Cecilia tried to pet it. A. cristatellus males are about the easiest anoles to catch out there (at least on this island), but they’re not that easy.

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