For many of us, the academic summer has finished or is ending imminently. In Boston, the temperature is falling, and most in the Boston area woke up to temperatures in the low 50s this morning. At this point, I thought the timing would be good to revisit (with some nostalgia) the manner in which I started the summer – with a three week field trip to Puerto Rico.
In June I was in Puerto Rico primarily to help my first Ph.D. student, Kristin, start her thesis project on urban ecology and adaptation in anoles. The focal species of Kristin’s research is the ubiquitous Anolis cristatellus, which, as anyone who has visited Puerto Rico will know, is equally common (if not more abundant) in heavily urbanized habitats as it is in natural forests. One species that is not found in urban areas, and, in fact, is fairly difficult to find in most habitats, is the Puerto Rican crown giant anole, Anolis cuvieri. We were lucky enough to see a few of these anyway, including one that I happen upon entirely by accident on the 60 acre finca where we stayed in a rental cottage for a little more than a week.
At night I was searching for invasive boa constrictors which are known from this part of the island, so as dusk approached I thought I’d try and take some photos of the sunset over the island’s western coast. Always on the lookout for A. cuvieri, I nonetheless somehow missed this individual in this pre-dusk shot (highlighted here by the red arrow). A perfect “find the anole” photo, but one in which I had initially “missed the anole” in spite of seeing it in person!
I initially missed this Puerto Rican crown giant, perched 20+ feet up a palm tree.
When I did spot him, he was far too high to capture with my meager 14 foot noose pole, so we just kept an eye on him. As the sun continued to set he did something interesting – he started to descend the trunk. Continue reading Anolis Cuvieri Adventure
Anolis evermanni in Bosque San Patricio, San Juan.
I’m presently in the field in Puerto Rico working with my (first, brave) doctoral student, Kristin Winchell, along with two undergraduate assistants (Zack & Sofia). Although Kristin has been with me to Puerto Rico once previously (in January), this expedition is the first trip of Kristin’s doctoral research, which will focus on urban ecology and adaptation in anoles. In this trip she is collecting phenotypic, habitat use, and activity temperature (ambient and internal) data for Anolis cristatellus in urban and forested sites in the three major municipalities of Puerto Rico: San Juan, Mayagüez, and Ponce. For example, our forested field locality in San Juan is the diminutive but verdant state forest Bosque San Patricio. San Patricio is a small forest of no more than about 70 acres nestled well within the sprawling San Juan metropolitan area. In spite of this status as an island of green amidst concrete, at least three species of anoles can be found there (including Anolis evermanni, pictured above), along with Ameiva, the Puerto Rican racer (I found two), and (according to accounts) the endangered Puerto Rican boa.
My role in this expedition is mostly in a supporting capacity. In addition, I am visiting colleagues, scouting sites, looking for boas, and preparing for the tropical biology field course that I will be co-instructing with herpetologist Alberto Puente here in January. In fact, while Kristin & her crew finish up in San Juan, I have proceeded ahead to Mayagüez with my wife, Emily, and our two year old daughter, Cecilia, both of whom joined us on the island a couple of days ago. This leads me to the the second part of my post title. No doubt Zack & Sofia, who have never worked on anoles before, suffered their first anole bites (and perhaps inumerable additional bites) on this trip. It’s part of the job! However, it was to my considerable surprise when Cecilia suffered her first Anolis bite as well. Before you call Child & Family Services, this was a total accident, not some cruel rite of passage.
What happened was as follows. Continue reading Field Work in Puerto Rico and a First Lizard Bite