Detailed Island Lists For The Herpetofauna Of 700 Caribbean Islands

In an epic undertaking, Powell and Henderson have edited a monograph compiling the species occurrence of reptiles and amphibians on more than 700 Caribbean islands. In addition to the species lists, information on island size and location is provided, and introduced and extinct species are noted.

This work, an update on several previous such lists, will be enormously useful for biogeographers, ecologists, evolutionary biologists, and conservationists, among others, and the editors and authors are to be heartily thanked and congratulated for their efforts.

Now, an anole bone to pick. We anolologists have done a good job at resisting the temptation to name every slightly deviant or mildly genetically differentiated population as a new species, in opposition to the massive wave of species-splitting going on in the systematics community. For the most part, this monograph upholds this viewpoint, even when some splitting is justified, as the authors note for A. distichus. Still, there are a few cases that seem premature. For example, A. sagrei may perhaps be a complex of many species, but why pick out only the populations on Swan Island and Cayman Brac to elevate to species status? True, A. sagrei nelsoni is quite large by sagrei standards, but there are big populations of sagrei elsewhere, and A. sagrei luteosignifer on the Brac seems even less phenotypically distinct (and is well-nested within the sagrei phylogeny–no genetic data exist for the hard to reach Swan Island nelsoni).

The treatment of the marmoratus group anoles on islands near Guadeloupe is also uncertain. Why are the populations on Îlet à Kahouanne and Tête à l’Anglais (kahouannensis) and Les Saintes (terraealtae) accorded species status, but not those on the Îles de la Petite Terre (chrysops) or La Desirade (desiradei)? And what about A. wattsi forresti on Barbuda, sometimes considered its own species?

These, of course, are minor quibbles. Overall, this is an extraordinarily useful volume, and we are much in debt.

Robert Powell and Robert W. Henderson (2012). ISLAND LISTS OF WEST INDIAN AMPHIBIANS AND REPTILES Bulletin of the Florida Museum of Natural History, 51, 85-166

About Jonathan Losos

Professor and Curator of Herpetology at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University. I've spent my entire professional career studying anoles and have discovered that the more I learn about anoles, the more I realize I don't know.

3 thoughts on “Detailed Island Lists For The Herpetofauna Of 700 Caribbean Islands

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Optionally add an image (JPEG only)