Detail of Anolis concolor, San Andres Islas, Colombia; Juan Salvador Mendoza, July 2012.

Observations On Two Colombian Endemic Anoles

Juan Salvador Mendoza

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

Detail of Anolis concolor, San Andres Islas, Colombia; Juan Salvador Mendoza, July 2012.

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 2012

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.

The word “concolor” makes reference to a uniform coloration as the brown color seen on the San Andres individuals. This species possesses a dorsal crest in the tail, a characteristic shared only with A. pentaprion in mainland Colombia (Castro et al. in press). Anolis concolor has been reported to have differences in escape behavior linked with sex; males, for instance, reach the tree crown to escape a predator, while females tend to go downwards and seek refuge in the forest understory (Castro et al. in press). This anole might be considered as a habitat generalist using virtually every forest strata , but seen frequently in low and medium vegetation no greater than five meters.

A. concolor while basking on top of a tree trunk; San Andres Islas, Colombia. Juan Salvador Mendoza 2012.

Habitat of A. concolor, the island of San Andres and its tropical dry forest. Photograph taken from a watch tower located inside the botanical garden.

The second species on which I wanted to write has been previously shown in a note called “Notes on Colombian Arboreal Trunk-Crown anoles.” This species is Anolis huilae (Williams, 1982), a medium-sized arboreal species. I performed observations on individuals in the type locality where this species was described. This species was captured for the first time in a coffee plantation in the municipality of Palestina, Department of Huila. I visited Palestina for the first time in 2004 and later went back in 2005, and thanks to my friend Eugenio Valderrama Escallon, we could photograph a male A. huilae up in the forest canopy.

Anolis huilae, photographed at a height of eight meters at Parque Nacional Cueva de los Guacharos, palestina, Huila, Colombia. Photograph by Eugenio Valderrama Escallon, 2005.

This lizard changes color rapidly from a bright green to a dark background with yellow spots when captured.  This anole  is  a commonly  observed species  in “Parque Nacional, Cueva de los Guacharos,” the first protected area created in Colombia.  Founded in 1960, PNN Guacharos is one of the largest of Colombia´s National Parks with an extension of 9,000 hectares.  Additionally this protected area was declared by the UNESCO as  a reserve for the biosphere in 1980.

PNN Cueva de los Guacharos is one of the most incredible places to visit in Colombia because of its geography and it holds elevated species richness; for example, more than 300 bird species have been recorded. This park has a very difficult access that makes  it virtually isolated from people. Getting to the park involves  a really long walk from a small school called La Mensura through what we in Colombia know as “Camino de herradura,” meaning a small trail fit for mules. This walk really seems eternal, and gets really worse during the rainy season, when mud can really slow you down. This protected area is really harsh for visitors–it virtually never stops raining and wounds may decompose very rapidly, even though it is one of the most spectacular protected area in Colombia.

Located in the Colombian massif, this park holds sub-Andean and Andean biomes that range from 1200 to 3000 m in altitude. Despite its early foundation, no published information exists on this park´s herpetological richness.

Parque Nacional Cueva de los Guacharos; Colombia´s first national park, founded in 1960. Juan Salvador Mendoza 2005.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            This sign reads: Cueva de los Guacharos; architectonic product of the Suaza river, discovered by a hunter in 1876. This cave can hold up to 5,000 individual guacharos in the nesting season (Nov-Jun). This bird was classified in 1799 in the Venezuelan cave of Caripa by the German Baron Alexander Von Humboldt, who gave this bird its universal name (Steatornis caripensis), the only nocturnal fruit eating bird in the world.

With this note, I want to share some photographs of a A. huilae up in a Meliaceae tree. This specimen was observed in the border of the woodland near to the park´s kitchen that used to be my “room” for a whole month. I also show a picture that explains the park´s history in order to contextualize readers on the history of this very interesting place.

Kitchen at PNN Cueva de los Guacharos. This was my home for an entire month. The photographed individual of A. huilae was observed in the forest that can be seen behind this construction. Juan Salvador Mendoza, 2008.

Colombian endemic anoles are very interesting lizards because of their biology and restricted distribution. It is very important to show these species that are unique to our country and that need to be carefully studied in order to know if they may be vulnerable to habitat alteration and other threats. In the case of A. huilae, it is important to determine if this species is affected by glyphosate, a common chemical used in the eradication of illegal crops that takes place in its habitat in Huila and Tolima.

Special thanks to:

Biologist Gladys Ariadna Mondragon for making possible my trip to San Andres to photograph A. concolor. Eugenio Valderrama for his picture of A. huilae, Ana Belen Hurtado and to “Miss guacharos 2005” Catalina Olano Marin, for taking us in to the magical world of the Guacharo. Also thanks to Don Carlos and Rosendo in Palestina (PNN Guacharos) for their hospitality and friendship.

4 thoughts on “Observations On Two Colombian Endemic Anoles

    1. Hello skip sorry for answering one year after your comment the third was reffering to Anolis pinchoti, an endemic of Povidencia island that may share its habitat with A. concolor, but that i have not had the fortune to photograph… thanks , best of luck

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