All posts by Janson Jones

Anolis garmani in South Florida; 11 June 2016

Anolis garmani, the Jamaican giant anole; Miami-Dade county, Florida (11 June 2016, Nikon D7100).

Anolis garmani, the Jamaican giant anole; Miami-Dade county, Florida (11 June 2016, Nikon D7100).

Every year, I try to get down to south Florida at least a couple of times to stomp around for non-native anoles and other lizards. To date, I’ve only managed to find and photograph three Jamaican giant anoles, Anolis garmani, in south Florida — three individuals over two specific visits to the Miami-Dade area. The first two were in June of 2016, and the third (and largest) was in August 2017. The garmani featured here was the second wee giant from that first visit.

I’d been anxious to photograph garmani for quite some time, and we (James Stroud, Eric-Alain Parker, and myself) were more than a little jazzed to get our hands on both of those garmanis.  A. garmani was quite high on my holy-grail list for south Florida non-natives, and, whereas this garmani may have been lacking in the “giant” aspect, it certainly didn’t lack in its color play. The lead image above through the following three profile shots were all taken within the span of two minutes (1:26pm through 1:28pm):

Anolis garmani [B], 11 June 2016 (1)

Anolis garmani [B], 11 June 2016 (2)

Anolis garmani [B], 11 June 2016 (3)

When we first spotted this particular wee giant biding its time in the plenty of existence, it was sporting the familiar bright emerald green:

Anolis garmani [B], 11 June 2016 (5)

Minutes later, in hand and not too thrilled about its potential lifespan outlook, the colors shifted quite dark…

Anolis garmani [B], 11 June 2016 (4)

…and then, more comfortably, back to a more-emerald green base:

Anolis garmani [B], 11 June 2016 (6)

Looking down from above, it had a fairly typical anole head from a central Floridian’s perspective…

Anolis garmani [B], 11 June 2016 (8)

But looking up from below? An extremely awesome speckled circus of contrast and patterning:

Anolis garmani [B], 11 June 2016 (7)

Yeah, this was one hell of a lizard to get to work with. Actually, all three of them were. I’ll save the bulk of photographs for the other two individuals for a future time, but for quick reference, here’s a single shot of each:

This is the first individual we found on June 2016:

Anolis garmani [A], 11 June 2016

And here’s the much-larger male Eric and I tracked down (and almost caught) in August 2017:

Anolis garmani, 06 August 2017

~ janson

Florida Greens and the Suprascapular Spot

Miami-Dade county, Florida; 18 March 2017

Miami-Dade county, Florida; 18 March 2017

After scampering about much of North America the past few decades, I once again live  in my hometown of Ormond Beach, Florida — on the northern edge of Volusia county. When I was a kid, back in the late 70s and early 80s, I spent much of my time tangling with and studying our local anoles. The Carolina greens (A. carolinensis) were dominant back then, covering our walls, windows, trees, and (sometimes by forced measure) our ear lobes. Every now and then I’d find a Cuban brown (A. sagrei) — usually around the shopping centers and strip malls. Nowadays, of course, that coin has flipped. The Carolina greens have moved back up into the higher foliage and the Cuban browns dominate our shrubs, walls, and windows.

I remember actually finding a Cuban brown anole on our property in 1984 or so. I was in 4th grade, drunk on Star Wars and lizards. I managed to catch the little non-native lizard and put it in my anole terrarium (a homemade wood-and-open-screen enclosure my dad and I built). I was in the habit of catching anoles (and the occasional snake), keeping and watching them for a day or two, and then releasing them back into the yard. Needless to say, the Carolina green already in the enclosure wasn’t too thrilled with his new roommate. Though guilt eventually kicked in the following day, I admit I was somewhat delighted by the defensive/discomfort color play of that poor Carolina green. Usually, they’d be cool, smooth emerald green with very little patterning… but distressed or riled up Carolina greens certainly know how to put on a good color and pattern show.

Soon enough, I released the Carolina green back into the yard and kept the Cuban brown for another day or two. This little moment of tension, however, leads me to the point of this post: the distress patterns of our local Carolina green anoles. More specifically, I’m interested in the presence of a supraspacular dark spot that shows up with some individuals. It’s a dark spot with light trim that sometimes appears just above and behind the front shoulder line — as seen in this particularly ornate individual photographed in Miami-Dade county on 18 March 2017:

This Miami-Dade individual really stuck out to me. It’s patterning was distinct. It was quite large. It had that supraspacular spot. Most notably, it was still wielding quite a bit of green. Could this be A. porcatus? Like many naturalist-lizard enthusiasts, I tend to catch myself up in the eternal cycle of porcatus-or-not? when I’m in south Florida. Heh. Nowadays,  my assumptions generally fall on the side of A. carolinensis unless I’m with somebody more in-the-know who can tell me differently with confidence; this hasn’t happened yet. Honestly, I have a hard time seeing a clear difference between the two. I’m glad I’m not alone.

Though distinct, this fabulously mottled Green wasn’t the only Green I’ve photographed with that supraspacular spot. Here’s an impressive male tangling with a Cuban brown anole in the Lower Keys of Monroe county, Florida, on 08 June 2007:

Further north, in my home territory, I’ve only noticed and photographed two individuals with that spot, albeit with less figure-ground contrast between the spot and the trim.

Orange county, Florida (05 September 2011):

Anolis carolinensis, 05 September 2011

Alachua county, Florida (05 December 2011):

Anolis carolinensis, 05 December 2011

Both were in WTF-dark-mode (as I call it).

Of note, I spent a few years in Valdosta, Georgia, intensely watching anoles. Continue reading Florida Greens and the Suprascapular Spot

Basking in the Florida Sunshine…

2013-03-31 at 10-52-17

March 2013 was a strange March in my neck of the woods: the American southeast. Down south, we had a number of remarkable cold waves pass through the early-spring season. Though these cold fronts weren’t quite as dramatic as those entirely-scientifically-accurate and precisely-represented megastorms-of-doom depicted in the hit motion picture The Day After Tomorrow, they were still quite impressive in their own right. Definitely more freeze warnings than I’m used to in March… at least in Florida and Georgia. Not so much in Alaska. Up there, it’s frigid mayhem as usual.

Anyhow, at the end of March, my family headed down from Valdosta, Georgia to Mt. Dora, Florida (a bit north/northwest of Orlando in Lake county) to visit with Kid A’s grandparents. There wasn’t too much hiking / outdoor-activity scheduled for that weekend. Easter was the name of the game. Wabbits. Well, Easter wabbits and the season finale of The Walking Dead. Still, as is often the case in central Florida, sometimes you don’t really have to look very far to find some cool stuff, particularly when the weather finally warms up after a delayed and tedious late-winter departure…

Continue reading Basking in the Florida Sunshine…

Anolis carolinensis in South Georgia

Anolis carolinensis, 15 September 2011. Residential Valdosta, Georgia

After living much of my life in the anole-saturated forests and neighborhoods of central Florida, somewhere beneath the Spanish Moss, I lived and worked in Anchorage, Alaska for four years. Other than the occasional wood frog, Rana sylvatica, my interactions with reptiles and amphibians were, of course, somewhat diminished… (Plenty of moose, though. Oh yes, plenty of moose. And dogs. Lots and lots of dogs.)

Anolis carolinensis, 02 August 2011. Residential Valdosta, Georgia.

This past summer I returned to the American southeast with my family — specifically to Valdosta, Georgia. Since returning, I’ve been struck by the density of Carolina green anoles and the lack of Cuban brown anoles, Anolis sagrei. In central Florida A. sagrei is ubiquitous these days. It’s hard to find a yard where they don’t dominate the trunk-ground area. In Valdosta, however, I have yet to positively identify a single Anolis sagrei (I’ve been told by locals they are here, but in isolated pockets). My little corner of south Georgia seems to be A. carolinensis territory in most every way, every day.

Indeed, I am seeing a strong and robust number of Carolina greens hanging out low to the ground, not just in the trunks and trunk-crowns. They’re on the bushes, they’re on the screens, they’re on the grass, and they’re even on the sidewalks and driveways. Low-riders, I call them — the Carolina greens riding the ground-level, juveniles and adults.

In a way, moving to Valdosta, Georgia feels a bit like time travel. It feels like central Florida circa the mid-1980s, minus the NASCAR fetish, back when I was a hairy little rugrat chasing green anoles through my Volusia county backyard while jamming Devo on my twelve-pound Sony cassette walkman. I’d nearly forgotten what Carolina greens are like without the presence of Cuban brown anoles and scattered Star Wars action figures in the grass… but what’s been most startling is the number of green anoles I’ve seen low-riding — basking on pavement, hanging out on concrete, scampering around fallen pine needles and leaves. Given their trunk-crown ecomorphology and the dominance of Cuban brown anoles in Florida, I wasn’t prepared to see so many Carolina greens surfing the ground. Is it a seasonal climate (heat) pattern? Not sure. Time will tell and I’ll keep watching.

It’s unlikely I’ll try to get these green anoles to bite my earlobes and wear them as jewelry like I did circa 1982 (the shame!), but I am enjoying this relative sense of time-travel. I also wonder when A. sagrei will make it up here in force — and push these greens back up into the trunk-crown, if ever.

~ janson

Anolis carolinensis, 31 August 2011. Grand Bay WMA; Valdosta, Georgia