Notes from the Field: Predation on Anolis sagrei on Isolated Cays in Abaco, Bahamas

Curly tail with brown anole tail visible from its mouth

Curly tail with brown anole tail visible from its mouth

Kayaking to the cays

Kayaking to cays

I was recently in Abaco, Bahamas with Losos lab post-doc Oriol LaPiedra and Ph.D. candidate Darío Fernández-Bellon from University College Cork, Ireland, to carry out some behavioral studies of Anolis sagrei on the island and its surrounding small cays. We kayaked (a highly recommended transportation mean for its lesser-impact on the marine ecosystem, not having to rely on the tide schedule, while allowing you to see rays and sharks and sea turtles!) our way out to islands that are known to have A. sagrei naturally existing alone, or with one of their natural predators, Leiocephalus carinatus.

Curly-tailed lizards are known to prey on A. sagrei and can have significant impact on anole behavior and adaptation. Twice I observed Leiocephalus capturing and consuming A. sagrei, one of which was an adult male and the other an adult female. We have also noticed that the A. sagrei on these island tend to perch higher and are seldomly seen on rocks or leveled ground compared to those on islands without curly tails, so this behavior could be an effect of Leiocephalus being present.

A female red-winged blackbird with a brown anole in its beak

A female red-winged blackbird with a A. sagrei in its beak

On a different island where Leiocephalus were absent, A. sagrei are still under predation pressure, this time by red-winged blackbirds nesting on the island. We observed a female blackbird with an A. sagrei in its beak waiting for us to leave the island so that it can feed its chicks. This observation suggests that A. sagrei on islands without Leiocephalus might still be under predation pressure by other species that might not be present on the island at all times. Also, predation pressure exerted by an aerial predator differs from that by a terrestrial predator or if both predators are present, so this might be a factor in morphological or behavioral changes in these lizards on these islands.

Anolis sagrei on one of the small cays

Other interesting observations include A. sagrei density on islands seems to be unintuitive. Some small islands with fewer perches hosted many more adult males and females than large islands did. Sizes of individuals also seem to vary greatly between different islands: small cay A. sagrei seem to be, on average, larger than those on mainland Abaco. Personally, I am unable to note major differences between islands which might have resulted in these observations. I’m excited to see if the data we’ve collected will give more insight into these observations as well as other behavioral results that will come from this study!

One thought on “Notes from the Field: Predation on Anolis sagrei on Isolated Cays in Abaco, Bahamas

  1. Great observations, especially the red-winged blackbird predation. Couple of ideas for the greater densities on smaller islands: (1) greater perimeter-to-area ratio for the smaller islands, increasing the island-wide density effects of marine resource inputs (wrack, carrion) and shoreline critters (e.g., amphipods); and (2) less predation pressure on smaller islands, though I suspect possibility #1 would be more likely to cause the observed density effect.

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