I just got back from a trip to the Bahamas with Losos lab post-docs Anthony Geneva and Alexis Harrison, accompanied by expert lizard catchers Inbar Maayan and Sofia Prado-Irwin (Harvard graduate student). We parted ways for the first few days of the quick trip, with Anthony and Sofia headed to Bimini and Alexis, Inbar, and myself on Abaco. Read more about the Bimini trip in Sofia’s recent post.
On Abaco, we stayed at the brand new Friends of the Environment Kenyon Center. We were really impressed by the great accommodations of this field station. The station was sustainably built and had all the modern amenities we could wish for. The field lab was large and equipped with microscopes and plenty of counter space. We were equally impressed by the staff and their outreach efforts. The Friends for the Environment does a fantastic job providing nature education to local kids from age 3 through college! Their ambitious organization seeks to provide high-quality and low-cost facilities for visiting scientists and to provide outreach and education to the local community. We spoke with the coordinators of the organization who told us that any time researchers are looking for extra hands in the field they are happy to arrange local students to assist. We strongly encourage others traveling to Abaco to stay here!
“In the end we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught.” – Baba Dioum (posted at the Friends for the Environment)
Our main goal on this trip was to capture Anolis sagrei to continue ongoing research into the amazing diversity among islands in this species. We were immediately struck by how much smaller the Anolis sagrei on Abaco were compared to those on the other islands we have been to. I was also struck by how many A. sagrei used the ground. I normally study Anolis cristatellus, and although they are the same ecomorph, I rarely see A. cristatellus on the ground. I also don’t recall seeing A. sagrei frequently on the ground on Bimini or Eleuthera. So observing these lizards, particularly the females, on the ground at such a high frequency (they literally scattered as I walked!) was very surprising. Is this common on other islands with A. sagrei and I just haven’t noticed before?
As with any good field trip, we also encountered a great diversity of herps. Although the only native anole to Abaco is A. sagrei (according to Powell and Henderson 2012), we also saw plenty of Anolis distichus and a few Anolis smaragdinus. We also saw the invasive Cuban tree frog (Osteopilus septentrionalis), the native Eleutherodactylus planirostris, and plenty of curly-tails (Leiocephalus carinatus). No live snakes to report, although we did come across a couple of roadkill Cubophis.
Although we found no Sphaerodactylus, we did find plenty of non-native Hemidactylus. Interestingly, Hemidactylus is not listed in Powell and Henderson’s (2012) list of West Indian amphibians and reptiles for Abaco. Can anyone ID this species (the photos are of two individuals) and tell me if this has been reported before for Abaco? Obviously Hemidactylus are widespread in the Caribbean, but I was surprised to see it absent from the species list for many of the Bahamas islands.
We also came across a couple of anole oddities. We found a stumpy anole hanging in there despite her lack of hindlimb. At 22mm SVL, she was a small but mature adult female and her amputated limb looked fully healed. We also came across a female with spinal deformity. The hunchback anole of Abaco seemed to be doing just fine despite the severe curve of her spine.
We finished up our trip in Nassau (New Providence Island) where we met back up with Anthony and were joined by Bahamian student Shannan Yates. Shannan has been funding her own field research in the Bahamas and really impressed us with her knowledge and self-motivation. We really look forward to working with her again and seeing what her future research comes up with! Shannan helped us kick off a side project of mine looking at habitat use of other Anole species in urban areas (my research so far has focused on Puerto Rican anoles). We found an abundance of Anolis sagrei at our urban sites, but many fewer Anolis distichus and no other species. This is similar to patterns I have observed with Puerto Rican species: Anolis cristatellus is typically extremely abundant in urban areas with Anolis stratulus also present in much lower abundances and very rarely are additional species present (results from this exciting research are forthcoming!). Interestingly, it seems based off our first sampling that Anolis sagrei and Anolis distichus both preferentially use remnant / cultivated natural substrates in urban areas (trees, shrubs etc.) and use manmade substrates at a lower frequency (although I haven’t finished processing our data yet). My sampling will help tease apart if/how these species are partitioning and utilizing the urban habitat and I look forward to continuing to work in the Bahamas in the future!