Ragged Island, Bahamas, Lizard Research

Air approach to Great Ragged Island

Air approach to Great Ragged Island

We have been on the move quite a bit for our project on Anolis sagrei. On a recent trip to the Bahamas, Alberto Puente-Rolon (UIPR-Arecibo) and I were able to visit the remote Great Ragged Island, located at the southeastern edge of the Great Bahamas Bank only 115 km from the coast of Cuba. Great Ragged is the only inhabited island in the Ragged Island/Jumentos Cays range, a necklace of islands stretching in a sweeping concave arc from Long Island and the southern Exumas to the range terminus at Little Ragged Island. A mere 70 or so people live on Great Ragged, concentrated in Duncan Town, a small settlement perched atop a surprisingly high hill overlooking the deep ocean to the east and dark green expanses of mangroves to the west. Duncan Town is picturesque in the authentic Bahamian sense–brightly colored houses are dotted between crumbling ruins dating back a century or more. Chickens cover yards, and old stone walls snake from the town out into the bush. An artisanal and on-demand salt raking operation continues here, and small pyramids of bleached salt dot the edges of an expansive salina filled with shallow waters reflecting varying hues of pinks and reds in the morning sunlight.

Duncan Town salina and tropical dry scub habitat

Duncan Town salina and tropical dry scrub habitat shallow waters reflecting varying hues of pinks and reds in the morning sunlight. Photo by Alberto Puente.

Anolis smaragdinus from Ragged Island

Anolis smaragdinus from Ragged Island. Photo by Alberto Puente

The Anolis sagrei here are, as in most locations, abundant. We had great success locating them at night, where they sleep exposed on branches and reflect a pale glow in the beam of a headlamp. We sampled anoles from different habitat types on Great Ragged, including coastal Cocoloba uvifera stands, mangrove forest, stunted closed canopy tropical dry forest (where we had to crawl to make our way through), and highly disturbed goat pasture. We are excited to see how the population here compares to the rest of the range. In particular, we are wondering whether the sagrei on Great Ragged belong to the eastern or western Bahamas genetic lineage, which we have uncovered in previous work. The A. distichus here certainly resemble the populations in the western Bahamas, rather than the eastern Bahamas, to which Great Ragged is connected by the Jumentos Cays. We will follow up on these distichus observations in a later post. I will keep AA updated on what we find as we begin analysis of our data.

About Graham Reynolds

Graham is an Assistant Professor at the University of North Carolina Asheville. His research focuses on Caribbean herpetology- specifically anoles and boas.

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