Earlier this year ,while conducting crocodile (C. acutus) research in Jamaica, I observed some interesting behavior with the Jamaican Twig Anole (A. valencienni). The croc research is conducted at dusk and into the night, which leaves ample time to watch the anoles (during the day) that share our campsite. All of the Jamaican anole species are present at our camp in the Hellshire Hills except A. garmani. The camp is located just off the beach in a sea grape and buttonwood dominated coastal forest.
While lying in a hammock, I watched a female A. valencienni descend a branch toward a tree hollow. As she approached the hollow, I noticed several other females near the entrance hole. I know that it is documented that this species is a communal nester, but to see it was a real treat. During a quick survey of the immediate area (about 20 meter radius), I observed this same activity at two other tree cavities simultaneously. Up to five females were perched outside the cavities, while one or two inspected the entrance. At one of the tree cavities, the females were very wary and during several hours of observation, I noticed that the gravid females entered and exited (after deposition) freely.
At two other cavities, there seemed to be a backup. Females would enter or partially enter, then quickly exit the hole. It wasn’t hard to deduce that something else was occupying the cavity. Even more interesting was that the females at these cavities were not wary, actually completely aloof to my presence. I was curious as to what was preventing their access, so I peered and blew air into one of the holes. As I did this, the females at the entrance which were looking at my face only inches away shifted their attention into the hole. I still couldn’t see anything, so I utilized a flashlight and after doing so, saw that a Croaking Gecko (Aristelligar praesignis) was “blocking” entry and appeared to defend the cavity from intruders. Additionally, I noticed the walls of the cavity encrusted with eggs. Considering the size and shape of eggs, all appeared to be freshly laid or previously hatched Anolis eggs.
I cannot explain the female anoles’ behavior and complete disregard of my presence; even allowing me to touch them (see video).
I had several hypotheses about this behavior; one is that perhaps females worked cooperatively to intimidate the cavity occupier (gecko) at entrance… even enlisting the observer as an ally?