Anole March Madness: 1/2 Done with Round 1!

Anole MM16

For those of you following the first ever Anole March Madness, the first eight matches were held on Monday and Tuesday evening live on twitter, taking us halfway through the round of 32!

Just a reminder, no animals were harmed in the making of this production and all matches are entirely fictional. We have done our best to make the battles realistic given what is known about the natural history of the species and their habitat. Of course, we have taken minor creative liberties with some details. We also want to point out that while these matchups are for entertainment, we hope you also learn a little about some of the more obscure anoles. It is also an opportunity for us to point out how little is known about some of these species. Please let us know in the comments if you believe some detail to be inaccurate or you have something to add!

And now, the recaps!

Day 1 was exciting with Anolis insignis versus Anolis nebulosus, Anolis onca versus Anolis macrolepis, Anolis cristatellus versus Anolis pulchellus, and Anolis lividus versus Anolis richardii.

Anolis insignis versus Anolis nebulosus
High in the treetops of Mexico perches the diminutive clouded anole,
Anolis nebulosus. A loud rustling of leaves announces the arrival of the massive crown-giant, Anolis insignis. The lizard, famished from his travel from Panama, spots the tiny A. nebulosus and decides he looks like a tasty snack. He slowly ambles across the canopy towards his meal, pauses, then lunges with mouth agape. The agile A. nebulosus leaps to the side, narrowly avoiding the cavernous mouth. Anolis nebulosus watches with curiosity as the striped giant slowly turns toward him, preparing his next attack. Again, A. insignis lunges towards his hopeful meal and again A. nebulosus narrowly avoids being consumed. Wary of the newcomer, Anolis nebulosus retreats below the canopy, to the lower branches where he spots an attractive female. Foolishly thinking he has escaped the unknown giant in the tree top, he begins to dewlap at the prospective mate. Meanwhile, the hungry Anolis insignis stealthily descends to the lower branches and lunges again at the distracted A. nebulosus. This time he doesn’t miss and consumes the tiny anole in a single gulp. ***Anolis insignis wins***


Anolis onca versus Anolis macrolepis
At the terminal end of the babbling brook, the habitats of two Colombian anoles, Anolis onca and Anolis macrolepus, converge. Following an escaped beetle downstream, Anolis macrolepis leaps from rock to rock over the rushing water. On his last leap he finds himself no longer on a rock, but on soft sand. Here his troubles are much bigger than an escaped meal as he meets the larger Anolis onca, basking in the sun on the sand. Charged full of energy, A. onca confronts the intruder. Anolis macrolepis attempts to turn to flee, but his feet are poorly adapted to run on this strange, hot substrate. He moves his legs frantically attempting to run, but only digging himself into a hole. Now half buried in the sand, A. macrolepis realizes he is in a precarious situation. Anolis onca approaches his competitor and flings sand in his face. Temporarily blinded, A. macrolepis panics. He begins to flail out of desperation as A. onca firmly grabs him and flings him back into the stream where he is carried out to sea. Anolis onca resumes basking in his sandy home. ***Anolis onca wins***


Anolis pulchellus versus Anolis cristatellus
In a patch of secondary tropical forest on the north coast of Puerto Rico, Anolis cristatellus and Anolis pulchellus both enjoy the afternoon, each happily unaware of the other as they occupy distinct structural habitats. The afternoon sunshine begins to wane and A. pulchellus climbs up the side of a tree trunk towards one of the remaining patches of sunlight. Anolis cristatellus suddenly darts around from the other side of the trunk to confront the trespasser. Anolis cristatellus  raises his dorsal crest and stands strong and proud, seeming to grow by almost 2 cm. Anolis pulchellus, with his eye on the prized sunlight, accepts the challenge. He too raises a dorsal crest, dark spots suddenly appear behind his eyes, he sticks his tongue out, and he flashes his large crimson dewlap with confidence. Unfazed, A. cristatellus in turn flashes his bright orange and yellow dewlap and does several pushups as a last warning. Anolis pulchellus does not heed the warning and darts toward A. cristatellus, delivering a sharp blow to his midsection with his pointy snout. Despite the sting of the assault, A. cristatellus manages to bite onto the tail of A. pulchellus. Unable to autotomize his tail, A. pulchellus is swiftly flung from the tree trunk, flying several meters back to his rightful place among the reeds of grass where he decides it prudent to remain, defeated. ***Anolis cristatellus wins***


Anolis lividus versus Anolis richardii
On the tiny isle of Montserrat, Anolis richardii has arrived on a piece of driftwood to make its stand against Anolis lividus. There are perches and food for the taking, and only a puny mid-sized anole to defend them. Anolis lividus has spotted this unwelcome intruder and rushes up the tree to evict him. Unaware of their shared evolutionary history, they are briefly confused when they flash their orange dewlaps and, for a moment, wonder whether they’re the same species. Anolis richardii, massive to begin with, cuts an even more impressive figure with an erected nuchal crest, but A. lividus does not back down. However, the Montserratian anole is no match for the massive A. richardii. Its lunges and parries are met with vicious attacks. Anolis richardii delivers a strong bite to A. lividus’ flank. At that moment, the Souffriere Hills volcanic dome collapses, launching a column of ash and pyroclastic material into the air. Anolis lividus is unfazed by the volcano, but A. richardii is terrified by this ominous neighbor and decides to find fertile ground elsewhere. It abandons the perch and the island, leaving A. lividus in disbelief at his luck and the unexpected victor of this encounter. ***Anolis lividus wins***


Day 2 was equally exciting with Anolis limifrons versus Anolis humilis, Anolis frenatus versus Anolis transversalis, Anolis placidus versus Anolis distichus, and Anolis trinitatis versus Anolis pogus.

Anolis limifrons versus Anolis humilis
It is early morning in the Costa Rican rainforest. Anolis limifrons has been awake for an hour already, foraging in the leaf litter near the towering buttress roots of a tree. As it plucks a roach into its mouth it freezes. There, not one meter away, is the red and yellow flash of the dewlap of Anolis humilis, a much bigger species. Anolis humilis charges, vying for the insect-rich territory. Anolis limifrons retreats to a crevice in the roots, but then charges back out and and lunges at A. humilis. Anolis humilis is stockier, but slower and less tenacious. Anolis limifrons won’t give up, biting at A. humilis often, displaying, and refusing to back down. Anolis humilis gives one last lunge, but misses, as A. limifrons deftly dodges and swings back around to nip his opponent’s throat. Harangued and weary, A. humilis retreats, leaving A. limifrons to go back to his cockroach feast. ***Anolis limifrons wins***


Anolis frenatus versus Anolis transversalis
It is early morning and Anolis transversalis, wide-eyed and nervous, glances around. There are so many things that can eat him here in Amazonia. From above comes an Anolis frenatus, crashing down from the canopy. The crown-giant, startled by his misstep and fall, barely grasps the tree branch as he falls. Swinging upright, he notices he is not alone. Anolis transversalis, petrified that his worst nightmares have come true, turns to run. Anolis frenatus, still confused from the fall, watches as A. transversalis flees frantically, jumping from the branch to an adjacent tree, then to another and another and another until he is out of sight. Uncertain about what just occurred, A. frenatus unknowingly claims victory. ***Anolis frenatus wins***


Anolis distichus versus Anolis placidus
It’s late evening now on Hispaniola and the placid anole, Anolis placidus, peacefully perches high in the treetop hugging the twig he plans to sleep on tightly with his tiny legs. Anolis distichus, thinking it best to sleep higher up tonight, ascends to what looks like the best sleeping site only to find it occupied by the little twig anole. Anolis distichus, feeling entitled to this perch, strolls up to A. placidus and begins to display his dewlap. Anolis placidus, ever the pacifist, looks at A. distichus with a sidelong glance and decides there is room enough for them both. Anolis placidus sidles to the end of the perch, pressing his body close to the twig. Anolis distichus, upset that his opponent does not accept his challenge, advances and begins to push-up violently, thinking he may shake the twig anole off of the branch. Anolis placidus edges closer to the end, his tiny legs giving him an unshakeable grip. Clearly his friend needs more room to sleep, that’s fine with him, they can share. Anolis distichus, frustrated with his opponent and now struggling to keep balanced on the moving twig decides intimidation is not enough and leaps towards A. placidus, who skillfully moves to the underside of the twig with only two steps. Anolis distichus lands on the edge of the twig but is unable to grip the tiny perch with his longer limbs. As he flails attempting to grab onto the twig and his opponent, A. placidus inches back away from the edge to the top side to avoid contact. Anolis distichus manages to catch the tip of the branch with a single toe, momentarily hanging on before falling to the branch just below. As his toe releases it turns the twig into a catapult and even the powerful grip of A. placidus isn’t strong enough to hold on. Anolis distichus looks up as A. placidus is flung far out of sight. Anolis distichus ascends to his chosen sleep site, pleased with his skillful removal of the competitor. ***Anolis distichus wins***


Anolis pogus versus Anolis trinitatis
Aboard floating vegetation following a hurricane that tore through the Northern Lesser Antilles, Anolis pogus patiently awaits making landfall on St. Vincent island. As the flotsam approaches the shore, the weary castaway spots movement in the trees. Flashes of bright green and blue announce the presence of the resident trunk-crown anole, Anolis trinitatis. Anolis pogus disembarks on the rocky shore and wearily climbs up the nearest trunk, basking in the sunlight and surveying his new home. But there will be no rest for the tired traveller, immediately an A. trinitatis descends and sizes up this newcomer. Anolis trinitatis, a good 2cm larger in body size, decides he does not like new, strange looking anole. He angrily advances and grabs A. pogus by the nape of the neck and flings him. “Welcome to St. Vincent” he thinks, hoping A. pogus will choose somewhere else to call home. Suddenly energized, A. pogus climbs up the adjacent tree and begins to dewlap at his assailant, undeterred by his aggression and larger size. Anolis trinitatis leaps to the tree, accepting the challenge. They trade blows repeatedly – A. trinitatis bites at the face of A. pogus; A. pogus leaps and bites off a sizable portion of A. trinitatis’ tail – both sustain substantial injuries in the battle. Now weary himself and impressed with his opponent’s stamina and scrappiness, Anolis trinitatis attempts one last time to disarm his opponent with intimidation, he dewlaps and pushups but his vigor is gone. The bloodied A. pogus returns the threat by advancing and delivering a calculated blow to the throat, tearing the dewlap of A. trinitatis. Anolis trinitatis has had enough and limps away, defeated, back to the canopy to inform the other native lizards that there is a new lizard on the block and that he’s not one to be messed with. ***Anolis pogus wins***


Tune in tomorrow and friday on Twitter for the next matches, and of course we will bring you the recaps here afterwards. Bracket busted already? Did we miss an important detail? Let us know in the comments!


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:

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