Wet Prairie Anolis carolinensis in Two Parcels in Broward County, Florida: Historical Populations?

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Hi Anole Folks,

So life transported me to South Florida to beat Cancer, and looks like I have made good progress, thank you in advance. :-)

As a general naturalist, I get out A LOT, each day- up to three hikes in different habitats.

In my area on the border of Broward and Palm Beach Counties, there are several restored Pine-Lands, some from about 1984- most  cordoned off in a way for even longer due to central farm use, cattle grazing, or logging with left over islands near the wetter areas.

I spent a lot of time in the late 70’s in Coral Gables, Florida-  with a two year stint at the U. of M.  At that time, Anolis carolinensis, while not common, could be found on buildings on Ponce de Leon Blvd. and also areas of Bird Road, LeJeune and others behind the U of M arboretum.  I also would find both A. porcatus and A. chlorocyanus at these locations.  Anolis sagrei was always in great numbers no matter what.

Returning NOW, in 2014- with extensive field searching, failed to find Anolis carolinensis. The typical haunts I’d expect–along homes, in bushes, on trees, and in scrub–failed to yield a single animal.  I put in a lot of effort.  I found A. porcatus, A. equestris, what I think is A. cristatellus, and every morph you can think of of A. sagrei.  I also found Curly Tails living sympatrically with A. sagrei in several pockets.  This I found pretty neat and worthy of some work.

Recently, while hiking a Wet Prairie, along a Cypress Marsh near a domed swamp area, I started to see a very thin green lizard perched atop grass stalks–and very often cattail stalks in the center of the wetland, over standing water.  I could not confirm the species–they were far into the swamp and their flushing distance was ASTOUNDING.   They would see me and DROP clear to the grass below.  One time I saw an individual turn brown in seconds, and disappear, not into tree branches, but into the grass on the ground! I watched this behavior 8-9 times before I knew–I had to hike into the swamp.  So I did.

IMGP0391Eventually I was able to see males and females, of what now I was sure was A. carolinensis hunting and using the grass/cattail stalks for feeding and display.  In the attached image, you will see one on cattail, and this is a typical daily encounter.  I could see five or more in a hike, on the tops of grass stalks near the seed heads.  While bushes and peripheral trees were there, they were not using this substrate. I really was seeing a marshland native Green Anole group.   And to my eyes, this group was rather “gracile” in form.  And they worked the stalks in what seemed to be a new fashion.  I even imagine–since I have not done any morphometrics yet–that their hind legs look longer, tibia/fibula and femur, and toes.  They also have  a posture for most of their time on the stalks that is not something I was used to seeing–legs held way back and tight to the body, as if to reduce their profile.  A thin Green Anole, that can hide on a grass blade :-).   The images here represent two separate anoles from two separate days.

Did the pressures of habitat loss, A. sagrei competition, and A. equestris predatory pressure, isolate this group and/or move them to this grassland habitat over water?  Could this be a recently adapted “ecomorph” which we so timely have read about?

I will be vouchering a male and female for work at the MCZ for others that might be interested.  But in the interim, my favorite interest, watching behavior, will continue.

I know all the BUTS about this- as in- are they even remnants of historical Broward animals at all?  Did they come in with the replanted slash pine and pond cypress?  I’m hoping one day by genetic work, and or even some new Xray work, we might be able to answer some of this.  And of course, in their normal historical lives, they almost certainly used this type of habitat in part.  But what about now?

That there are vigorous groups in these Wet Prairies of Broward attests to the tenacity of the species, and that it is surviving here.  And that  puts a smile on my face!!

If anyone would like additional information for research, and or visit the sites with me, please feel free to contact me at naturalist@gmail.com; I’ll be here for at least a few more months.

Would love any ideas, thoughts regarding this as well.  More photos to come as well.

Enjoy the images.

Sincerely,

Kenneth E. Barnett

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5 thoughts on “Wet Prairie Anolis carolinensis in Two Parcels in Broward County, Florida: Historical Populations?

  1. Dear Kenneth,
    Thanks for sharing your obervations! I, too, have wondered what the long term consequences of invasions will be for A. carolinensis, and it seems we’re only just beginning to scratch the surface. I wonder if it’s the presence of A. sagrei alone, or the combined effect of so many invasive competitors that drove them out. Or, perhaps, something different altogether.

    Best of luck in your treatments and I hope you beat this very, very soon.

    All best,
    Martha

  2. Hi Kenny,
    Like you, I am a long time Floridian and have had similar observations to yours. The A. carolinensis you observed were probably always there, just not documented. A. Sagrei does make its way into these remote areas, perhaps through human traffic or “eco landscaping”, but regardless of the source what I have found is that they are at a distinct disadvantage to A. carolinensis and never as numerous. A sagrei are bolder and brash making them more conspicuous and often at first glance appear to be everywhere. A. carolinensis are more “stealth” in their survival strategy which I believe is a more effective approach in the predator rich environment of the everglades and cypress. Just anecdotal observations though, thorough studies would have to be made to confirm this.
    Best regards,
    Armando

  3. Yes, I agree Armando, these were probably always there, and have just “centralized” their “grassland” type habitat a bit more over time. But it is hard to know the exact mechanisms since no one watched :-) – as I think Martha kinda allured to in her comment. But A. sagrei is definitely in larger numbers in this habitat. A. carolinensis may be stealthy here, but the bio-mass of A. sagrei is astounding even in the dense forested areas. While your right, studies will have to show either position, based on what I see around the meadows, it is A. sagrei that rules. The trees up high still hold distichus.

    I’ll be posting a bit about A. equestris here, which has recently moved in- the Broward/Palm Beach border area, and is spreading on trees- that are not “crown-like” nor- what I would consider their typical habitat. In fact, it caught me by surprise to find them living more like a twig anole, despite their size, as a lizard of bushes along the canals!! This adaptabilty, these QUICK changes, are pretty amazing. I’m finding them VERY abundant on fine stalks at night. A. equestris is an amazing example of success.

    Has anyone seen a decline in racerunners in Broward?? I’m wondering if it is just me, or if this lizard might have crashed for some reason here? I used to see them as much as A. sagrei on hikes. Now- I have not seen a single one in many weeks.

    Best,
    Kenny

  4. Kenny, both racerunner and skink numbers have dropped off significantly from years ago, first in Dade, then Broward and now into Palm. I think a lot of that can be attributed to habitat destruction through massive development. Although you can still find population pockets where “green” areas were left alone, these are stranded populations and can easily become extirpated through some simple environmental or man-made change. The racerunner was particularly hard hit because in southeast Florida it was most common in old sandy lots with sparse vegetation. These locations were viewed even by some “environmentalists” as being of insignificant importance, most likely because the lots were habitats for sand spurs, ants, grasshoppers and racerunners….sadly they were quickly replaced by strip malls. I still see skinks in the everglades hardwood hammocks and in Big Cypress, but I only see racerunners on a few isolated sand lots, up near Cape Canaveral and in some areas of the west coast, Fort Myers etc…
    Best regards,
    Armando

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