I don’t think I’ll run into any disagreements by claiming that Anolis vermiculatus is hands-down one of the coolest anoles in existence. First of all, it’s huge – up to 123mm SVL for males. They have blue eyes. They are capable of eating fish and amphibians. They can run across water, and are “truly aquatic” (Schwartz & Henderson 1991). The males in particular seem more like crested water dragons than anoles. A. vermiculatus is sometimes called “lagarto caiman” in Cuba. Although this might bring to mind Dracaena for some, Anolis vermiculatus is quite a different animal. Nevertheless, the name seems appropriate after meeting the creature.
We got our first chance to see A. vermiculatus while staying in Viñales, a lovely, foggy town surrounded by towering limestone mogotes home to Anolis bartschi. We had originally expected to see them only in Soroa, a legendary locality for Anolis in Cuba and a short drive from Viñales. However, we discovered them in abundance along the densely vegetated banks of the mud-brown stream running between our hotel and the road.
I generally found A. vermiculatus to be the hardest lizard to get a decent picture of that we encountered (with nods to A. equestris and A. vanidicus). Their preferred habitat is full of shade, and A. vermiculatus is quick to retreat there, often spotting clumsy humans from long distance. If molested further, they leap into the water and apparently remain submerged for some time.
The next day, we were scheduled to have an hour in Soroa, but a bus breakdown allowed us two entire hours. We found more A. vermiculatus, a bit more light, and much clearer water, but the lizards remained a wary bunch. Below are females and a juvenile rafting in what looks like a coconut husk. Sexual dimorphism in this species is significant for size (123mm max SVL for males, 83mm for females, Schwartz & Henderson 1991), and coloration.
I did get the chance to photograph two large males. This individual appears to have some sort of parasite (notice the swelling on the side of the neck). Anyone have any ideas what it could be? My guess would be a nematode. I’m unsure if the deformity of the jaw is another of these parasites or perhaps a different injury.
Although A. vermiculatus is able to run across the surface of water, we did not observe this behavior in our short time with the species. However, it was quite surprising to learn that these lizards do this without the assistance of toe fringes as in Basiliscus.
Here’s the best shot of the bunch:
Next up: a blue lizard that wears yellow pants!