Firstly, let me start by offering my sincere apologies for the standard of photography you are about to view. As you AA readers have become accustomed to Jonathan’s flowing prose, and other members’ excellent use of modern photographic equipment, I must warn you not to expect either here!
As has been mentioned previously, the IBS Conference was a tremendous success, and firstly huge congratulations must be passed on to (a potential anologist in the making?) Ken Feeley for all the hard work and effort. The lack of talks concerning arguably one of the world’s most studied vertebrate biogeographic systems did not detract from the high levels of anole hunting that ensued over the course of the conference!
After a wonderful afternoon visiting Miami’s most bizarre lizard community, the following day provided an opportunity for conversations to be followed up from the previous night’s conference dinner (as some graduate students’ memories may have appeared a little hazy on Saturday morning). Much of the day was spent wandering around FIU’s Biscayne Bay Campus eagerly trying to find the dozen knight anoles that were promised to us the previous night by resident expert, and thoroughly nice guy, Sean Giery.
Sean has spent the past 3 years observing the A. equestris community on this campus, and has assured me that he will bless AA readers with a synopsis of his eagerly awaited dietary analysis paper in the near future. The day started brightly, with two juveniles being found in close proximity to each other; however with just he and I as the only observers, it was tough to include these individuals in the promised dozen.
At the start of lunch, and confronting the midday heat with the enthusiasm of schoolboys on a day trip, we regrouped with some extra eyes and headed back out to continue on our quest. Although A. sagrei, A. carolinensis and A. distichus were abundant, these were still not the target species. A loud thump behind us saw us all swivel in synchrony, like a troop of sunburnt and slightly dehydrated Michael Flatley fanatics, to be confronted by a rather startled green iguana that had just plummeted 10 feet after submissively losing a dispute to a larger male. The campus had previously been awash with a healthy population of green iguanas; however the big freeze of 2009 reduced this significantly so that the only survivors were those small enough to retreat underground.
Scouring the margins of one of the many freshwater ponds, we rounded the final corner to see a familiar face who had also taken advantage of the (now) mid-afternoon warmth. With now a small army of anole-focussed eyes we gathered around Sean to listen to him explain his thoughts on the distribution of A. equestris in the far more open matrix of individual trees amongst the vast expanse of perfectly manicured grass. His observations are comprehensive, and it was a pleasure to listen to the enthusiasm with which he conveyed his knowledge of the community system. He then, however, made a fatal faux pas – “So, I have never found any lizards on either of these two trees…” Game on.
Our first tree appeared to confirm Sean’s observations; however whilst discussing the possible reasons as to why certain trees may not have any anoles, we heard the delightful, yet coolly subdued call of, “Found one!” Jason Kolbe had sure enough managed to find a nice looking A. sagrei blending magnificently into the surrounding branches. “Ah, so maybe it’s less a question of absence, more a question of surveyor detection?”, was mentioned jokingly.
By now lunch break was nearly over, so with one last throw of the dice we hurriedly shuffled towards the last ‘no-lizard’ tree. This one, if you will excuse the poor but perfectly place pun, stumped us. That was until we heard Sean stop mid-sentence, and almost with reluctant acceptance, point out a beautifully pristine Anolis equestris.
It was a fitting end to a fulfilling afternoon stroll. Copious amounts of photos were taken, until we took the opportunity to once again thank Sean for educating all of us on the complex dynamics of the local saurian community, and being a fantastic local guide.
So, after a busy weekend we all parted our separate ways content with the various successful faunal accomplishments of the previous few days. However, on Sunday as sunset was approaching, and with the newfound information that I actually (albeit naively) live near somewhere cool, I ventured out on the 4 minute walk that Google Maps had promised it would take from my front door to All America Park – the only known home of Anolis garmani in Miami. As chance would have it, it appeared that Jonathan Losos had also been feeling the strain of our previous misfortune in tracking down these elusive giants just two days earlier. Barely 10 minutes into our search, with me obviously looking on the wrong side of the road, I turned to a beckoning, “Psssttt!” There in all its introduced pseudo-agamid alien glory, was a magnificent example of an adult male A. garmani.
The weekend was now complete. We had recorded 6 species of anoles, 5 of which are non-native. As a recently new addition to south Florida myself, I am really looking forward to having the opportunity to observe these communities for the foreseeable future! If anyone has the opportunity to visit Miami, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.