A Costa Rican Anole… with Eyespots? (ID Help Please)


My friend, Ricardo Kriebel (post-doc at University of Wisconsin – Madison), asked me for some help identifying an anole he came across in Costa Rica. He took these photos a couple of days ago in Cerros de Escazu, San Jose, Costa Rica in a cloud forest at ~2000m. Can anyone identify this species for him?


Ricardo reports that the lizard was unusually easy to catch (which says a lot since he is a botanist and not accustomed to hand-catching anoles). He came across it on the ground in the leaf litter and it didn’t move when he got close to it. Weather wasn’t likely to blame for it’s sluggishness as it was fairly warm out. Maybe this species relies heavily on crypsis? The body pattern in the photos above certainly looks like it would blend in well in leaf litter.

anolis_7Ricardo also pointed out that on the top of the head the pattern resembled eyes. He noted that eye mimicry is common in this region in insects as a defense against predatory birds (e.g. Janzen et al. 2010). He proposed that perhaps the pattern on the top of this anole’s head was a similar type of mimic meant to resemble the eye or face of something an aerial predator should be wary of, like a snake. In a quick search I was unable to find any papers proposing mimicry of this type in anoles, so I turn to the Anole Annals readers. What do you think? Eyespots or random pattern? Does anyone know of any research on potential mimicry of this type in anoles?



About Kristin Winchell

I'm a Ph.D. candidate at UMass Boston in the Revell lab. I am interested in how animals respond to urbanization from an ecological and evolutionary perspective. My dissertation research has focused on adaptive shifts in the Puerto Rican crested anole, Anolis cristatellus, in response to urbanization. Website:

6 thoughts on “A Costa Rican Anole… with Eyespots? (ID Help Please)

  1. I’m not as stricken by the “eyespots” as how the scalation is different in the area that those darker spots define and the stripes across the eyes. I think these dark areas may actually be defining a head shape to mimic a small pitviper rather than being eyespots. I may just be crazy, though! (And I do not work with anoles enough to know all the different species…this may be well known to the anole people)

  2. This from Dr. Alan Pounds:
    “The anole has a lot of features of Anolis tropidolepis such as the markings on the face, the dewlap, and general body shape, from what I can see in the picture. They can have dark nuchal blotches, though I don’t remember seeing such distinct ones. Of course, there is individual (and undoubtedly geographic) variation in color patterns. I’ve never seen A. pachypus, which also occurs at high elevations, except as museum specimens. It is similar to A. tropidolepis, and they may be a single species (??). They’re supposed to differ in the degree of keeling on ventral scales (none to weak in pachypus) and in dewlap color (more orange-red in pachypus, often with a yellow center).”

    1. Dear Ricardo

      Some time ago , I with some colleagues (Kohler und Lotzkat ) we conducted a research with this group of Anolis, and we include this species of highlands south of Escazu, (nice place by the way) covers the distribution of N. alocomyos sp.nov. (DNA and Hemipenial Morphology analysis ).


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