All posts by Jonathan Losos

About Jonathan Losos

Professor and Curator of Herpetology at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University. I've spent my entire professional career studying anoles and have discovered that the more I learn about anoles, the more I realize I don't know.

Cuban Spider Chows on Brown Anole

spider eats anole

More spiders eating anoles (for previous aranean saurivory, see this and that). This time it’s a brown anole, A. sagrei (also, this time), falling prey to a ctenid spider in Cuba. This one’s particularly gruesome–the head’s already digested away and eaten! The authors are Elier Fonseca Hernández and Tomás M. Rodríguez-Cabrera and the paper’s just out in the most recent issue of IRCF Reptiles & Amphibians.

How Many Geckos Can Fit on One Ceiling?

ceiling geckosx

Everyone knows that geckos are anole wannabees, but here in Asia, there are, sadly, no anoles (except introduced brown anoles in Taiwan and Singapore). So, in their absence, an anolologist is forced to count geckos. Fortunately, in some places, they’re not hard to find. Just how many are there on the ceiling of this building near Khao Sok National Park in Thailand?

How to Pronounce “Anole”: the Video

The second most viewed Anole Annals post of all time is “The proper pronunciation of “anole”” which has been viewed 9,938 times (just 121 views behind the all-time leader. *You’ll have to guess what that one is about. Or click here.).

Well, now there’s a video answering the same question and, frankly, I’m not sure everyone will agree with the answer.


*This post was initially drafted several months ago. In the intervening time, the leading post has gone on a tear, and now is ahead by 1,610 views! Go figure.

Brown Anole Colonizes Canada

Let’s hear it for global warming! Ryan Vince Photography’s Facebook page reported that this brown anole was found in Ontario. Probably still too cold there for the festive anoles to survive, but who know’s in a warming world? Here’s what the FB page had to say: “This little hitchhiker is a Brown Anole that has somehow made its way from Florida all the way down to Ontario, Canada (2000km). I found him in a mulch pile at a local aggregate facility. It seems that he had managed to make it through two sets of wood grinders and now resides in a Vivarium here with me.”

And this isn’t the first report of the festive one getting to Canada. Recently, we had a post reporting brown anoles not only in Canada, but Denmark. Next: the World!!!

The Old Lizard by Federico Garcia Lorca

Photo from Imablog

In the parched path

I have seen the good lizard

(one drop of crocodile)


With his green frock-coat

of an abbot of the devil,

his correct bearing

and his stiff collar,

he has the sad air

of an old professor.

Those faded eyes

of a broken artist,

how they watch the afternoon

in dismay!


Is this, my friend,

your twilight constitutional?

Please use your cane,

you are very old, Mr. Lizard,

and the children of the village

may startle you.

What are you seeking in the path,

my near-sighted philosopher,

if the wavering phantasm

of the parched afternoon

has broken the horizon?


Are you seeking the blue alms

of the moribund heaven?

A penny of a star?

Or perhaps

you’ve been reading a volume

of Lamartine, and you relish

the plateresque trills

of the birds?


(You watch the setting sun,

and your eyes shine,

oh, dragon of the frogs,

with a human radiance.

Ideas, gondolas without oars,

cross the shadowy

waters of your

burnt-out eyes.)


Have you come looking

for that lovely lady lizard,

green as the wheatfields

of May,

as the long locks

of sleeping pools,

who scorned you, and then

left you in your field?

Oh, sweet idyll, broken

among the sweet sedges!

But, live! What the devil!

I like you.

The motto “I oppose

the serpent” triumphs

in that grand double chin

of a Christian archbishop.


Now the sun has dissolved

in the cup of the mountains,

and the flocks

cloud the roadway.

It is the hour to depart:

leave the dry path

and your meditations.

You will have time

to look at the stars

when the worms are eating you

at their leisure.


Go home to your house

by the village, of the crickets!

Good night, my friend

Mr. Lizard!


Now the field is empty,

the mountains dim,

the roadway deserted.

Only, now and again,

a cuckoo sings in the darkness

of the poplar trees.

Anolis maynardi Uses that Long Snout for Biting!

maynardi vallee 5

Mike Vallee, a dive instructor on Little Cayman, spends his spare time watching that island’s delightfully long-schnozzed anole. What a great hobby! He says the “anoles are often found in and around the local agave plant. They are the perfect color match and their spiked leaves provide protection from birds and other predators.” He also commented on the photo above, in reference to a previous post on the long snout of this species, that we now know one thing they do with their pointy front end.

Here’s some more lovely pics he took.

little cayman anole

Photo by Mike Vallee

maynardi vallee2

Photo by Mike Vallee

Photo by Mike Vallee

Photo by Mike Vallee

Photo by Mike Vallee

Photo by Mike Vallee

Puerto Rican Giant Green Anole Mating


Anolis cuvieri. Photo by Alejandro Sanchez.

Anolis cuvieri. Photo by Alejandro Sanchez.

Photo by Alejandro Sanchez.

Photo by Alejandro Sanchez.

Father Alejandro Sanchez has done it again! Previously, he posted some wonderful photos of Anolis cuvieri moving around, now he’s caught them in flagrante delicto. Here’s the backstory: “The pics were taken around 10:30 AM. The lizards were about 10 meters above ground. I cannot take credit for the initial sighting. The group of students of UPR-Humacao saw the male jump to the tree where the female was and almost immediately copulation started. In all it lasted about 15 minutes. The separation was very abrupt (possibly caused by the group of people under the tree, taking pictures). At that point the male jumped to another branch and ran down low enough for me to be able to shake it down and capture it. At that time, the male still had his hemipenis everted.”

Monkeys Eat Anoles

Capuchin monkey eating a basilisk. Photo by Andrew G.

Capuchin monkeys may look cute, but in reality they’re cold-blooded killers. A recent paper in Herpetology Notes reports on a golden-bellied capuchin (different species than the one pictured above and below) that ate a Polychrus marmoratus, an Anolis ortonii, and an Enyalius catenatus.

Monkey predation on anoles has been documented previously. This paper cites a case of a capuchin eating an A. cupreus, and primatologist Betsy Mitchell recorded one eating an anole–perhaps A. frenatus–in her thesis (which I don’t have in front of me). We also reported on another capuchin species eating a Polychrus in a previous post. A quick google found an undocumented report of rhesus macaques eating A. carolinensis in Florida. Anyone know of any other reports?

And, finally, for your delectation, a video of a capuchin eating an iguana:

Knight Anoles Spreading through Florida

An iguanito. Photo from the Coastal Star.

A nice article in the Coastal Star just reported on the spread of knight anoles through Florida. The article contains numerous nuggets, such as quotes from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission stating that they’re worried about bigger things (e.g., pythons, tegus), that they’re locally called “iguanitos,” and that iguanas are rebounding from freeze-caused mortality in the recent past and are mainly a problem for pooping by people’s pools.

Battle of the Lilliputian Brown Anoles

Championship round, lightweight division. Photo from Daffodil’s Photo Blog.

We periodically post pictures, videos and stories of male anoles duking it out with each other [e.g., 1,2], but over on Daffodil’s Photo Blog is evidence that such squabbling starts at a young age. Check out how the little fellas, with barely a dewlap to speak of, nonetheless behave just the same as their elders.

Creationists on Lizard Evolution Study: “What’s the Big Deal?”

discovery institute

Last week, Yoel Stuart and colleagues (including me) published a paper demonstrating that green anoles had rapidly (ca. 20 years) evolved an increase in toepad size as a result of upward shifts in habitat use caused the presence of brown anoles.

The Discovery Institute, an organization devoted to the advocacy of creationist views, posted a blog yesterday saying, basically, “this is not news?” After summarizing the study, here’s what they have to say:

“….these scientists found that when a new species of lizards invaded another’s territory (in fact the new species was placed there intentionally by the researchers, meaning they weren’t quite studying “natural” selection), the old one sought higher ground. That seems like a smart thing to do. To go along with the new territory, they subsequently evolved “larger toepads (see here for a picture).

After reading this, what I really wanted to see was the precise sizes of the toepad and compare the changes. But alas that information is not in the paper. I tried downloading the supplemental materials but it’s not there either. So let’s assume that the toepad size changed a lot. What have we shown?

Not much. We’ve seen that the size of lizard feet can change in response to invaders’ driving a species to perch at higher levels in the trees. No new traits arose. Only the size of a pre-existing trait changed. Again, that’s interesting but such changes in the size of lizard feet do very little to explain the origin of lizards in the first place, even if these changes happen in just a few generations.

If we take seriously the statement from the authors that the modest results from this study can help test “evolutionary hypotheses about phenomena … on time scales too long for direct observation,” then that implies that over long periods you might be able to change the size of an organism or some of its body parts. Since when is that news?”

Where Do Anoles Lay Their Eggs?

Anole eggs found in a tomato pot. Photo by Karen Cusick.

The egg-laying habits of anoles are surprisingly little known. On Daffodil’s Photo Blog, Karen Cusick recently reported on the discovery of eight–count ‘em, eight!–anole eggs in a tomato plant pot. Readers, where else have you found anole eggs?

Also, whose eggs are these? Both green and brown’s occur in Karen’s backyard. In Anolis Newsletter V, Todd Vincent provided tips on how to tell them apart.

Brown and green anole eggs. Photo by Todd Vincent.

Brown and green anole eggs. Photo by Todd Vincent.

And for some delightful footage on baby anoles, let’s not forget this old post.

New Phylogeny for Amazonian Dactyloa Anoles: Multiple Evolution of Horns, Dewlap Color Evolution, New Divergence Time Estimates

Anolis phyllorhinus. Photo by Bret Whitney

Anolis phyllorhinus. Photo by Bret Whitney

Anolis dissimilis. Photo by Paulo Melo Sampaio

Anolis dissimilis. Photo by Paulo Melo Sampaio

In a fascinating new paper, Ivan Prates and colleagues report on a phylogenetic analysis of Amazonian Dactyloa clade anoles with implications for a number of important topics in anole evolution.

The authors generated new mitochondrial and nuclear gene data for many Amazonian Dactyloa and combined those data with existing data from previous studies. Of particular note was inclusion of Anolis dissimilis, until recently known from only a single locality, and the Amazonian horned anole, Anolis phyllorhinus.

The paper had four main results, which I’ll go through seriatim. First, the overall phylogeny is very much in accord with Castañeda and de Queiroz’s previous work. The biggest difference is that A. dissimilis occurs in a distinct clade with A. neblinus and A. calimae. A relationship between the latter two species had been suggested by the previous work; A. dissimilis had not been included in those studies. The three species have quite disjunct geographic distributions (Amazonia, western Colombia, and the tepuis of the Guiana Shield, so finding them to comprise a distinct clade is interesting.

phylogeny dissimilis

Anolis punctatus. You can almost see a horn ready to burst forth from the tip of that snout. Photo by Arthur Georges.

Second, as the figure below illustrates, A. phyllorhinus, as expected, groups with A. punctatus, whereas A. proboscis groups with the phenacosaurs (heterodermus group; though A. proboscis is not actually included in the analysis because genetic samples were not available; however, recent studies clearly indicate that A. proboscis belongs with this clade). Prates et al. note that, other than the horn, A. phyllorhinus and A. punctatus are morphologically very similar. I’ll take that one step further–you can almost imagine the antecedents of the horn as a swelling on the tip of the snout of A. punctatus. And, in addition, note that the horns of the two-horned species are very different-looking. Although Williams placed them in the species group, he did note that they actually didn’t look at that much alike. We now know that he was correct in this observation–hornedness is a convergent trait in anoles (no, I’m not calling it horniness).


Third, Prates et al. calculated divergence times, calibrated with three fossils that can be confidently placed in iguanian phylogeny. Continue reading

Six New Mexican Anoles Described


Gunther Kōhler and colleagues have just published in Zootaxa a new revision of some Mexican anoles, including the description of six new species and the sinking of one species. Rather than describing the work, I think it would be more effective to present the title and abstract:

A revision of the Mexican Anolis (Reptilia, Squamata, Dactyloidae) from the Pacific versant west of the Isthmus de Tehuantepec in the states of Oaxaca, Guerrero, and Puebla, with the description of six new species


We revise the species of anoles occurring along the Pacific versant of Mexico west of the Isthmus de Tehuantepec in the states of Oaxaca, Guerrero, and Puebla. Based on our analyses of morphological and molecular genetic data, we recognize 21 species, six of which we describe as new (i.e., Anolis carlliebi sp. nov., A. immaculogularis sp. nov., A. nietoi sp. nov., A. sacamecatensis sp. nov., A. stevepoei sp. nov., and A. zapotecorum sp. nov.). Furthermore, we synonymize Anolis forbesi Smith & Van Gelder 1955 with Anolis microlepidotus Davis 1954. Of the recognized species, six have smooth ventral scales (i.e., Anolis dunni, A. gadovii, A. liogaster, A. omiltemanus, A. peucephilus, and A. taylori) and 14 have keeled ventral scales (i.e., A. boulengerianus, A. carlliebi, A. immaculogularis, A. megapholidotus, A. microlepidotus, A. nebuloides, A. nebulosus, A. nietoi, A. quercorum, A. sacamecatensis, A. stevepoei, A. subocularis, A. unilobatus, and A. zapotecorum). In one species, A. macrinii, the ventral scales vary from smooth to weakly keeled. For each species we provide color descriptions in life, color photographs in life, descriptions and illustration of hemipenis morphology (if available), descrip-tion of external morphology, distribution maps based on the specimens examined, comments on the conservation status, and natural history notes. Finally, we provide a dichotomous key for the identification of the 21 species of anoles occurring along the Pacific versant of Mexico west of the Isthmus de Tehuantepec in the states of Oaxaca, Guerrero, and Puebla.

Florida Festival Features Green Anole

Karen Cusick, author of  Lizards on the Fence and tender of Daffodil’s Photo Blog, writes:

You may remember that the Wild Amelia Nature Festival (Amelia Island, FL–just north of where I live) chose the green anole as their Critter of the Year for 2015. I was looking at the Wild Amelia website and they are already starting to gear up for the festival, which will be held May 15-17. They’ve designed a new website logo featuring a green anole, and there are going to be tee shirts with the logo. The website button to buy a tee shirt doesn’t work yet, but that should be fixed as the festival gets closer. I’m going to check on that.

There’s only a small size image of the logo so far, but I’m attaching it anyway. It looks like it’ll be a nice shirt.

They’ve scheduled a series of nature-based seminars in the months leading up to the festival, and the last one is May 12, when the director of the Jacksonville Zoo, Tony Vecchio, will give a presentation about the green anole and the Zoo.

I’ll let you know if I hear any more anole-related news about the festival!