JMIH 2014: Early Records of Fossil Anolis from the Oligocene and Miocene of Florida, USA

ChovanecKevin Chovanec of East Tennessee Sate University presented one of the most surprising and important posters at the JMIH conference this summer. In his poster, Kevin provides solid fossil evidence for the oldest crown group anole. Working with samples discovered along the Gulf Coast of Florida, Kevin found abundant and well-preserved fossil remnants from anoles. Apparently this material has been around for a while, but has been neglected as attention at these localities focused on identification of mammalian fossils. Kevin has identified the remains of what appear to be at least two species of anoles in deposits that are dated as 26-28 Ma and at least one species in deposits that are 19 Ma. None of this material possesses the traits that are diagnostic for members of the carolinensis series (the only group of extant anoles that was endemic to the United States prior to a wave of recent introductions). His work suggests the existence of a multi-species anole fauna dating back to the Oligocene. A phylogenetic analysis suggests that Kevin’s fossils are members of the anole crown group, but it is not possible to place them with any more phylogenetic precision. He did note, however, that they also lack the transverse vertebral processes that are diagnostic for the β anoles (a.k.a. Norops). The work Kevin presented was part of his masters project at East Tennessee State. I can’t wait to see what other insights emerge from Kevin’s work!

 

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