Before leaving for Cuba, Martha and I discussed our anole wish-list. Figuring prominently were Cuba’s legendary sister-species, A. bartschi and A. vermiculatus. Also swiftly declared were the beautiful A. allisoni and anything in the erstwhile genus Chamaeleolis (alas, we found none of the snail-eating giants). However, I must admit — I had no idea A. lucius existed until I first laid eyes on it!
After encountering A. lucius in a patch of mature forest along a slow-moving stream, my first impression was that it looked and behaved like a trunk anole, if trunk anoles were 150% bigger and had zebra stripes on their heads. Indeed, at the first locality we encountered them, they seemed to favor perching head-down on trunks 1-3m high (with one individual spotted almost 5m high.)
Although I’m still fond of my initial diagnosis of “giant zebra-headed A. distichus,” we proceeded to encounter A. lucius in a variety of other habitats. For instance, we found them scrambling over limestone karst and taking refuge in sea cliff caves on Cuba’s southern coast, a habit described in Schwartz & Henderson’s Amphibians and Reptiles of the West Indies. Later I would wonder what A. bartschi, were it to occur syntopically, would have to say about that.
We also found A. lucius near human habitation, on the streets of Trinidad and the home of a coffee farmer in Cuba’s Topes de Collantes nature reserve park.
So it seems clear that this anole is jack of at least a few trades. But wait, there’s more!
A. lucius has a bizarre trait, one that’s shared with a close relative already featured on Anole Annals, A. argenteolus. Can you guess what it is? If you guessed translucent scales on the lower eyelid, you win! The function of these “shades” is not entirely clear, with one obvious idea being that they block harsh sunlight. For what it’s worth, we almost never saw A. lucius close its eyes during the day.
A. lucius was, dare I say, a dark-horse third-place finisher on the list of coolest species we managed to see. I’ll (probably) finish off the top three next time with A. vermiculatus!
Anoles with sunglasses…just stop, evolution.