X-Ray Oddities in the Bahamas


We’re back in the Bahamas for our yearly trip monitoring evolution of brown anoles on small islands (most recently reported on a year ago).  These populations were hammered by Hurricanes Irene and Sandy in 2011 and 2012, and are just now recovering. Most exciting to us was one population reduced to two individuals, which seemed to disappear during the course of our visit last year. Had the population gone extinct? No–we’ve found 14 lizards there this far. Hooray.

Part of what we do is capture lizards, bring them back to the field lab, and x-ray them to measure their morphology, to see how morphology changes from one year to the next. And while doing so, we see all kinds of interesting anomalies. For example, check out the left hind leg of this female–she’s missing most of the toes on that foot. Turns out that that lizards lacking the full complement of digits is not very unusual (check out this post from several years ago on more severe mutilations).

But this year we’ve had some more unusual sightings. Check out the left knee of the male below. Clearly, he broke his femur and it grew back oddly. Yet, it works–this guy was fat and sassy. It would seem amazing that a lizard could break its femur and survive, but here’s the proof.healed broken leg

And check out the tail on this guy. Looks wacky, right?

beat up lizard

The x-ray, however, doesn’t do it justice. It’s not only wickedly bent to the side, but also upwards!

Photo by Manuel Leal

Photo by Manuel Leal

Who knows what we’ll find tomorrow?

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.

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