The International Biogeography Society meeting over, I had part of a day on my hands before leaving Miami. Many opportunities presented themself in the herpetological magnificence that is South Florida, but I couldn’t escape the disappointment in failing to find the Jamaican crown-giant at All-America Park in South Miami two days previous. So into the rental ‘mobile I hopped and quickly traversed the Magic City.
Arriving at the postage-sized park, I immediately ran into South Miami mayor and renowned neuroethologist Philip Stoddard, who happens to live next to the park and keeps an eagle eye on all of its inhabitants. His Honor confirmed that extreme cold of the last several winters had dealt the Jamaican greens a heavy blow, but nonetheless said that he had recently seen several small individuals, indicating that the population was still extant.
After accepting a glass of water, I headed into the park on what was a sunny and beautiful day. Anoles (and also peacocks) were extraordinarily abundant, but what caught my attention was the enormous number of green anoles. Those who are concerned that A. carolinensis is disappearing as a result of the introduction of A. sagrei and others need not worry, they’re doing just fine.
Bark and brown anoles were also quite abundant (word has it that Puerto Rican crested anoles are on the move and now are only a few blocks away), and I made several interesting observations, including a small A. distichus (bark anole) chasing a small A. carolinensis and a small knight anole (A. equestris) running toward a female A. carolinensis, seemingly in an attempt to catch it, though it started from so far away (at least a meter) and was so obvious that it had no hope of succeeding (and so, perhaps, it was just running for the sheer joy of it, or to get away from me, though I was standing very still).
Still, no A. garmani, but then turning a corner, just in the part of the park to which the mayor had pointed, there was a mid-sized female green guana (as they call them in Jamaica), sitting on a branch, taking in the sun. Hooray! They do survive, and what a beauty!
Oddly enough, although the Jamaicans have been in the miniscule All-America Park for at least 40 years, they have barely spread beyond its tiny borders. Why this is so is not known, though one has to wonder whether the larger, earlier introduced, and more widespread knight anoles (A. equestris) have something to do with it. In any case, in years past, I have found A. garmani as far as a block away from the park (or perhaps two–my memory is a little cloudy), so I ventured away to look for more. My first find was not a lizard, but James Stroud, who had independently decided to come on a garmani quest, having just learned two days previous that he lived within a quarter of a mile of their redoubt.
After just a few more minutes of joint searching, we were rewarded with the discovery of this magnificent male perched vertically on a tree in a park neighbor’s front yard.
All-in-all, a fantastic visit: five anoles in an area scarcely larger than a baseball field! And a sixth–cristatellus–probably on the way. Definitely worth a visit next time you’re in South Miami. But be forewarned–the locals love their green anoles! But who wouldn’t? Many consider A. garmani the most beautiful of the beautiful, and it’s hard to argue with that assessment.