Anole March Madness: Round 1 Complete!

Anole MM16

If you’ve been following along with our “Anole March Madness” tournament and you didn’t catch the updates on Twitter, you’re in luck. Here are the recaps of the second half of the Round of 32.

And of course, we remind our readers that these battles are fictional and are meant to highlight ecology, distribution, and traits of some well-known and not-so-well-known anoles. All battles are written by myself (K. Winchell), Martha Muñoz, and Pavitra Muralidhar using “complex algorithms” to determine the ultimate champion.

The next round (Sweet 16) kicks off on Twitter March 28 at 8pm. Follow along live and tag your comments #AnoleMM2016! Also next week we will be highlighting the “state of the knowledge” about the anoles featured in our tournament. Any guesses (no cheating) which species has the most citations and which has the least? We’ll give you the run-down of what we know and don’t know about who.

And here’s the recap of the second half of the Round of 32!

Day 3 saw some popular lizards meet face to face in the forest. The other aquatic anole in our tournament, Anolis aquaticus, faced off against Anolis tropidolepis. The oh-so-strange Anolis proboscis challenged the brilliantly blue Anolis gorgonae. The king of the anoles, or Knight of the anoles rather, Anolis equestris, demonstrated why he wears the crown-giant crown when he met Anolis garmani. And in the Lesser Antilles, Anolis marmoratus came to blows with Anolis roquet. 

Anolis aquaticus versus Anolis tropidolepis
Anolis aquaticus basks on a rock next to tropical stream, listening to the peaceful sounds of water running over pebbles. Suddenly, it sits up alert – between green foliage a few meters away, it had observed a red flash. What could it be? It does not have long to consider the question; Anolis tropidolepis comes strolling out of the neighboring trees, its scarlet dewlap unfurled and gloriously illuminated by light streaming through the thin membrane. Anolis aquaticus stiffens in anticipation: this means war. Anolis tropidolepis approaches for battle. Both eye each other for several minutes, and then quickly lunge simultaneously to test the others strength. This was preparation for the main fight which soon commences. Both anoles rush at each other and begin to grapple using their limbs and powerful jaws, tossing each other over but never moving far from their initial position. Evenly matched, there is no clear winner to be seen. But wait! Suddenly, A. tropidolepis, unused to the slippery bank of streams, is unable to regain its footing after a particularly brutal toss by A. aquaticus and tumbles off the rock into the rushing water! It is carried away by the stream, left to contemplate its defeat in depressing, and rather soggy, solitude. Anolis aquaticus assumes its former position to resume basking with an additional glow of victory. ***Anolis aquaticus wins*** 


Anolis proboscis versus Anolis gorgonae
After many long weeks at sea, an Anolis proboscis finds itself on the remote Pacific island of Gorgona. The island is full of snakes, but the weeks on the ocean have made him weary and he’s decided to make his stand on this isle of serpents. He dashes up a tree trunk and comes face to face with a lizard he’s never seen. The sky blue lizard flashes a bright white dewlap and warns the long-nosed lizard to keep its distance. Though weary from travel, Anolis proboscis refuses to back down. He slowly extends his long horn; the bright blue Anolis gorgonae is taken off guard. He’s never seen such a creature and doesn’t know what to make of it. Anolis gorgonae backs off a few steps, as the Pinocchio anole tosses its head up and down. Horn length increases with body size in A. proboscis and this male is quite big – almost 7cm in body size. With the horn, it is positively intimidating to A. gorgonae, which is less than 5cm in body size. But A. gorgonae does not back down – he has defended this tree for almost a year and isn’t about to give it up to this strange intruder. The bright blue lizard attempts a lunge at A. proboscis, but misses. Meanwhile, the horned anole bites at A. gorgonae, and catches a leg in its jaws. The horn gets caught between the blue anole’s legs, and they tumble down the tree. On the forest floor A. proboscis blends in easily, but A. gorgonae stands out like a sore thumb. An opportunistic snake quickly snatches up the unfortunate blue anole, leaving A. proboscis to his new home and the victor of this encounter. ***Anolis proboscis wins***


Anolis equestris versus Anolis garmani
Anolis equestris rests in a treetop in Cuba. Life is hard for the the largest anole of them all, yet A. equestris struggles on. Heavy is the head that wears the crown, or in this case, heavy is the crown-giant head. But on the distant forest floor, an intruder approaches. Large and crested, this isolated invader is clearly not from this neighborhood. Anolis equestris shifts on the tree, preparing for the challenge by getting a view of the approach. Anolis garmani, a champion of his species attempting to colonize a new home, approaches the tree and begins to climb. The seconds tick by; neither anole moves quickly, but both follow an inevitable path to confrontation. They pause, separated by only a foot, and gaze at each other intently. Each unfurls their battle-dewlaps for a round of rapid signalling; no conclusion is reached. Suddenly, Anolis garmani makes his lunge; seizing the moment, he opens his large maw to grab the others abdomen. Unluckily, he has underestimated the skill and cunning of his opponent, who pivots and snaps his enormous jaws, catching garmani’s leg. Anolis garmani loses his balance and falls to the forest floor, sadly limping away in search of an unoccupied niche. Anolis equestris, after successfully defending his crown-giant dominance, moves back up to his leafy kingdom. ***Anolis equestris wins***


Anolis marmoratus versus Anolis roquet
A palm tree sways in the breeze on the quiet island of Basse-Terre in the Guadeloupean archipelago. It is business as usual for Anolis marmoratus marmoratus, who is resplendent in the early morning sun. It is bright green with a bright blue tail and crowned with bright orange spots. This king of his realm spots an unexpected intruder from the south, a large male Anolis roquet roquet with blue blotches and white spots on its bright green body. In what seems only the briefest flash, nuchal crests are raised and yellow-orange dewlaps are out. Displays escalate to violence quickly as Anolis roquet runs up the trunk to face the incumbent head on. They grapple, with A. roquet grabbing A. marmoratus around the throat and the other gripping his opponent’s left thigh. The efforts spend A. roquet, who lets go briefly enough for A. marmoratus to rear and grab the intruder by his throat, lifting him off the perch. As A. roquet attempts to pull away, his dewlap catches on his opponent’s teeth, which rip his fan to tatters. Anolis roquet roquet stumbles off limping and defeated. “No matter”, he thinks. “There are 11 other subspecies of A. marmoratus here. Perhaps one of them will make a tamer foe.” Anolis marmoratus marmoratus returns to his perch, faces downward, and performs a display letting all know that he remains king of the palm tree. ***Anolis marmoratus wins***


Day 4 closed out the round of 32: The Costa Rican anoles, Anolis altae and Anolis cupreus met in the forest. South American Anolis ortonii and Anolis fuscoauratus battled high in the canopy. The chameleon-like Anolis porcus  came face-to-face with the resplendent Anolis smaragdinus. And finally, the large Anolis terraealtae met his match in the larger Anolis bimaculatus.

Anolis altae versus Anolis cupreus
Deep in the jungle of Costa Rica, two medium-sized anoles meet on the forest floor. Neither is quite sure if this is a member of his species or some other species. Anolis cupreus slightly extends his dewlap with uncertainty, revealing just the pale edge. Anolis altae, mistakenly thinks this is a female of his own species showing her off-white dewlap to him. He approaches, excited at the prospect and unfurls his reddish-orange dewlap. Suddenly, A. cupreus tenses up and fully extends his own dewlap, revealing that it is in fact a full dewlap with a reddish portion behind the pale edge. Now only a centimeter away, it is too late for Anolis altae to recover from his mistake and has no choice but to engage in battle. Anolis cupreus delivers the first blow, a forceful bite to the shoulder, ripping the still unfurled dewlap. Anolis altae instantly returns the blow, nipping at the hind leg of A. cupreus. They appear to be evenly matched and so each retreats a few centimeters to size up his opponent. They begin to dewlap aggressively at each other. Push-up, dewlap, head-bob, repeat.  Push-up, dewlap, head-bob, repeat. Push-up, dewlap, head-bob, repeat. Push-up, dewlap, head-bob, repeat. This goes on for nearly 45 minutes with no apparent end in sight. After nearly 1,000 pushups, both are nearing exhaustion. It is a war of attrition at this point. Push-up, dewlap, head-bob, repeat. Push-up, dewlap, head-bob, repeat. Push-up, dewlap, head-bob, repeat. Now another 45 minutes has passed. Anolis altae struggles as he dewlaps once more. He begins to push-up, but his arms fail him and he collapses in exhaustion. ***Anolis cupreus wins***


Anolis ortonii versus Anolis fuscoauratus
In the jungle, the South American jungle, Anolis fuscoaurutus sleeps tonight. The slender anole is gracefully wrapped around a vine a few meters up from the ground. Daylight breaks and another slender lizard, Anolis ortonii, bounds halfway down the vine to where A. fuscoauratus is perched. Anolis fuscoauratus chose a sleeping spot in the territory of a large male A. ortonii. Anolis ortonii sways a bit and flashes a large red dewlap, telling the intruder he is officially evicted. Anolis fuscoauratus decides he won’t be so easily defeated, turns around and flashes the resident his own dewlap, which is also enormous, and colored peach and pink. The lizards size each other up and Anolis fuscoauratus makes his move, charging after A. ortonii, which turns around and tries to retreat up the vine. The lizards break out onto a branch 150 feet above the forest floor, where they dance around each other, darting across all sides of the branches. Anolis ortonii lunges at A. fuscoauratus, and attempts to bite at his opponent’s flank. A. fuscoauratus twists and turns its slender body, easily weaving in and out of A. ortonii’s frenzied parries. Anolis fuscoauratus charges and A. ortonii, sensing impending defeat, tries to run away. He knows every twig in his territory and makes a break for a nearby branch. Anolis ortonii jumps and latches on to the branch, but when Anolis fuscoauratus tries to pursue he miscalculates the jump and falls a long way down to the forest floor. Anolis ortonii, who had just been up against the ropes, is the victor of this encounter! ***Anolis ortonii wins***


Anolis porcus versus Anolis smaragdinus
Perched on a branch in the forests of Cuba, the casque-headed Anolis porcus sits, a reject among the anoles because of his odd, chameleon-like features. The vibrant, emerald green Anolis smaragdinus suddenly appears. “Here is a true anole”, Anolis porcus dejectedly thinks to himself. Anolis smaragdinus in all his emerald green glory proudly perches next to A. porcus. Overcome with envy, Anolis porcus lashes out at this newcomer. “How dare he come to my island” he thinks as he promptly chomps off the latter half of A. smaragdinus’ tail without warning. Startled, Anolis smaragdinus turns and attempts to make peace. He shows his pretty pink dewlap, after all, his good looks make him many friends back home in the Bahamas. Anolis porcus, unimpressed and further enraged by this arrogance, delivers a second blow, this time narrowly missing. Anolis smaragdinus, now aware that there are no friends to be made here, runs away in search of more aesthetically pleasing companions. Anolis porcus, his self-esteem slightly boosted by the win, retires to his branch in solitude. ***Anolis porcus wins***


Anolis terraealtae versus Anolis bimaculatus
Anolis bimaculatus, the panther anole, is preening himself in the afternoon sun on the Caribbean island of Nevis. This large male dewlaps casually from his perch, hoping to gain an extra mating from his optimal position. He notices a smaller lizard coming up to meet him and assumes that he succeeded! Unfortunately, after displaying an excited dewlap and receiving a return signal, he realizes he was deceived. This anole was no female A. bimaculatus, but a male Anolis terraealtae who had wandered a bit off the beaten track. Even more unfortunate was the fact that this Les Saintes anole, unfamiliar with the mating signals of the native species, had taken the welcoming dewlap of A. bimaculatus as an invitation to fight. He promptly head-bobs and charges at the slightly surprised Anolis bimaculatus; however, given the size difference between the two species, there is really no danger to A. bimaculatus from this encounter. Anolis terraeltae charges headlong into A. bimaculatus, loses his balance, and falls off the tree. Anolis bimaculatus is left in victory to ponder the dual importance of the dewlap in both mating and species recognition. ***Anolis bimaculatus wins***


That’s all for this round! Disagree with the results? Bracket busted? Have a picture for one of the no-photo lizards or an insider tip for one of the lesser-known anoles that are advancing? Let us know!

If you are keeping track: these are the Sweet 16 matches: A. insignis v. A. aquaticusA. limifrons v. A. cupreusA. proboscis v. A. onca, A. frenatus v. A. ortoniiA. cristatellus v. A. equestrisA. distichus v. A. porcusA. lividus v. A. marmoratus, and A. pogus v. A. bimaculatus.

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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