Is That an Anolis porcatus in Miami?

Photo by Jake Scott

Some people think so, such as this posting on the Association of South Eastern Herpetogists website. I have my doubts about the presence of porcatus in Florida. Anolis carolinensis, after all, is derived from A. porcatus. In reality, it is simply a population of A. porcatus, perhaps smaller than most of their Cuban comrades. Suppose for some reason A. carolinensis started growing larger–wouldn’t they look like the green anoles on Cuba? Anyone have thoughts on whether Cuban porcatus are really in Florida and, if so, how easy it is to identify them?

Photo by Christopher Kirby

Here’s another putative porcatus, this one photographed by Christopher Kirby. Those heads are pretty mean looking, I’ll grant that. Several other photos are also on the ASEH website.

About Jonathan Losos

Professor and Curator of Herpetology at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University. I've spent my entire professional career studying anoles and have discovered that the more I learn about anoles, the more I realize I don't know.

15 thoughts on “Is That an Anolis porcatus in Miami?

  1. I will only speak to head shape as this is what I know best. The shape spaces of A. carolinensis and A. porcatus overlap immensely. People have said that A. porcatus has: 1) a longer face, 2) wider head, and 3) a more rugose facial skeleton (the little bumps on the top of their snout). When I examined the largest sample I could, ~30 males of A. carolinensis and ~ 10 of A. porcatus, I didn’t find support for differences in any of the suggested variables. I am pretty sure that the differences all allometric, correlated with differences in size, like you suggest.

    For purely selfish reasons I would be happy to have someone show me data to the contrary.

  2. I agree with Jonathan that the reports of porcatus making inroads across southern Florida are overblown, however we do have strong evidence that they live in Miami. We sampled a lot of green anoles across an east-west transect of southern Florida, and the mitochondrial and nuclear genetic data we’ve gathered are unequivocally carolinensis, with the exception of some interesting samples from Miami. Tonia Hsieh caught these in a public park and actually labelled them as “porcatus?” … turns out her taxonomy was spot on, because they have a porcatus mtDNA haplotype (BLASTs right to Western Cuban porcatus – the Linnaeus BLAST in the program Geneious made this very obvious). Interestingly, some of these have novel nuclear haplotypes (meaning when you map them back to the carolinensis genome, you see SNPs and indels that don’t exist in any carolinensis population), which strongly suggests that these individuals are pure porcatus. There were some that had the porcatus mtDNA haplotype and were heterozygous for porcatus/carolinensis nDNA haplotypes, suggesting hybridization. There were also some that had a porcatus mtDNA haplotype and a complete carolinensis nDNA genotype, suggesting multiple generations of back-crossing. I couldn’t find any genetic evidence of porcatus-carolinensis hybridization in the literature, and the small amount of data relegated these findings to a epilogue of a chapter in my dissertation. Perhaps I can publish a short report one day when I get around to it (add it to the list). Anyway, it is my contention that while the existence of porcatus in Florida right now is a purely urban phenomenon, and the species hasn’t made any progress into the Everglades.

    1. correction: Kolbe et al. (2007) indicated that they found porcatus/carolinensis hybrids but that was based on morphological and mtDNA only. So I meant to say above that our observations were the first hybrids characterized by mito-nuclear genetic patterns.

  3. Marc Tollis told reasonable things, thanks.
    I first thought of the occurrence of “giant males” – just as they are observed in many caribbean anoles. But this seems obsolete with the genetic results.

  4. Anolis porcatus has spread, and I collected a mature male from a population I am watching in Boca Raton, FLA, where I have seen several others (one image here December 2014). Now granted, I will say I will leave the determination of “definitely” spread, to molecualr work. But I have seen this lizard for many years in the wild, and true A. porcatus really do look different (potential hybrids aside). I believe, the animal pictured here, is a true A. porcatus. :-)

    They live on large palms, usually found flat on the side, and rarely descend very far or near the ground. To me, even their behavior is different from A. carolinesis. Gate, posture, look, pattern- and niche differ to me from A. carolinensis.

    Would others concur that this A. porcatus?

    Best,
    Kenny

  5. While there is great overlap in size of A. c. and A. p. among groups, a mature male A. porcatus is a VERY different animal in my eyes (IMHO). Overall beefier animal, with a larger tail base, stronger hind legs, different head shape, and a very different base pattern on green- when at rest. 3 miles form this putative A. porcatus location, are two A. carolinensis populations. The mature males again, IMHO, would never be confused with A. porcatus- unless- someone did run into a true hybrid intergrade location. And, the niches that A. carolinensis now holds in Palm Beach and Broward Counties (again in IMHO) is so drastically different than what A. porcatus enjoys, it might rule out sympatry so that any hybridization would occur. But I’m sure it does somewhere. :-)
    Best,
    K

  6. Are scapular ocellus a phenotype characteristic that can be accurately used for identification? See the attached photograph (from a field observation article I submitted to AA in March of last year). Take a close look at the animal on the bottom left.

  7. Dear Armando Pou,

    YES, reliably at least in most males A. porcatus I have seen- especially at display- is a singular ocelli on the scapular region as is apparent in your image. Also, the small row of blue spots on the neck area that are almost evenly spaced, as well as the blue line running from the rostrum through the eye, to just before the tympanum. I use all of those as indicators. I personally do not know of a time when I did not seem them on an animal I called A. porcatus.

    If I had to guess, without other angles, and just as a hunch. . ..the image you posted- looks like a male A. porcatus (or hybrid thereof) and a male A. carolinensis.

    Best,
    Kenny

  8. Hi Kenny, thank you for validating that. In southern Dade County I believe that that the degree of hybridization that has taken place between porcatus and carolinensis is substantial with crosses and back crosses over multiple generations now. The resulting animal is vigorous and quite robust in appearance and behavior. As was pointed out earlier by Marc, this has primarily taken place in urban and suburban environments. Just from field observations and the apparent fertility of the offspring, these two species must be very closely related. Best regards, Armando

  9. I took this picture April 2011 in Austin Texas. Upon extension of the dewflap an appendage that looked like a stinger swung forward from under his throat. You can see the thread or stinger in this photo just not extended. I haven’t seen this lizard since. Maybe that’s a good thing….

    1. Hi Paula,
      That is a strange looking appendage. I suppose it could be a genetic anomaly, (maybe the start of a new subspecies :)) , or perhaps just an injury of some sort. Either way, I am sure it is just fleshy skin and perfectly harmless.
      Best regards,
      Armando

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