All posts by Shea Lambert

The Dewlap of Cophosaurus texanus


Here at Anole Annals, we can appreciate a good dewlap. In particular, a pair of agamid clades, namely the genera Draco and Sitana + Otocryptis, arguably do extensible throat fans even better than Anolis. But dewlaps are actually found in many other iguanian lizards, covered by AA posts here and here.

Today I thought I’d share a lesser-known dewlap, that of Cophosaurus texanus, known as the greater (greatest?) earless lizard, and a legitimate candidate for best lizard coloration if you ask me. In my experience, these lizards don’t often dewlap, but will occasionally hit you with a few push-ups, and reliably wag their striped tails at you before darting away — though they are upstaged in this latter respect by Callisaurus draconoides. On a recent walk in the Rincon mountains near Tucson, Arizona, I encountered a particularly saucy individual, and thought I would share.

Here’s a series of photos showing a pushup/dewlap combo being delivered. By the way, Cophosaurus texanus are known to display at potential predators (see Dial 1986, American Naturalist 127:1).


Another shot, the dewlap is being retracted here:


As far as dewlaps go, its not the most impressive, but there certainly looks to be some cartilaginous rod action involved, as in Anolis. But wait – notice anything unusual in the above photos? Yes, there looks to be a parasite peeking out through the lizard’s nostril. Here’s a closer look:


Pretty gnarly. I’m not sure what the parasite is, it looks to me like it could be a maggot (hey, speaking of maggots, remember anole throat maggots?). Hope I didn’t just ruin anyone’s lunch!

Anyway, if you’re interested in learning more about Cophosaurus, here is an excellent write-up written by Robert Bezy and provided by the Tucson Herp Society.

Spotlight on Cuban Anoles, IV: Anolis allisoni


Anolis allisoni, close relative of our friendly neighborhood A. carolinensis, is a remarkable lizard. It’s also no stranger to Anole Annals, and the populations found off the coast of Honduras were just featured here. We saw a lot of these lizards in Cuba, and the post is pretty picture heavy, so join us after the jump for blue-headed lizards.

Continue reading Spotlight on Cuban Anoles, IV: Anolis allisoni

Spotlight on Cuban Anoles III: Anolis vermiculatus


I don’t think I’ll run into any disagreements by claiming that Anolis vermiculatus is hands-down one of the coolest anoles in existence. First of all, it’s huge – up to 123mm SVL for males. They have blue eyes. They are capable of eating fish and amphibians. They can run across water, and are “truly aquatic” (Schwartz & Henderson 1991). The males in particular seem more like crested water dragons than anoles. A. vermiculatus is sometimes called “lagarto caiman” in Cuba. Although this might bring to mind Dracaena for some, Anolis vermiculatus is quite a different animal. Nevertheless, the name seems appropriate after meeting the creature.

We got our first chance to see A. vermiculatus while staying in Viñales, a lovely, foggy town surrounded by towering limestone mogotes home to Anolis bartschi. We had originally expected to see them only in Soroa, a legendary locality for Anolis in Cuba and a short drive from Viñales. However, we discovered them in abundance along the densely vegetated banks of the mud-brown stream running between our hotel and the road.

A blue eyed male Anolis vermiculatus

A blue eyed Anolis vermiculatus

I generally found A. vermiculatus to be the hardest lizard to get a decent picture of that we encountered (with nods to A. equestris and A. vanidicus). Their preferred habitat is full of shade, and A. vermiculatus is quick to retreat there, often spotting clumsy humans from long distance. If molested further, they leap into the water and apparently remain submerged for some time.


The next day, we were scheduled to have an hour in Soroa, but a bus breakdown allowed us two entire hours. We found more A. vermiculatus, a bit more light, and much clearer water, but the lizards remained a wary bunch. Below are females and a juvenile rafting in what looks like a coconut husk. Sexual dimorphism in this species is significant for size (123mm max SVL for males, 83mm for females, Schwartz & Henderson 1991), and coloration.




I did get the chance to photograph two large males. This individual appears to have some sort of parasite (notice the swelling on the side of the neck). Anyone have any ideas what it could be? My guess would be a nematode. I’m unsure if the deformity of the jaw is another of these parasites or perhaps a different injury.


Although A. vermiculatus is able to run across the surface of water, we did not observe this behavior in our short time with the species. However, it was quite surprising to learn that these lizards do this without the assistance of toe fringes as in Basiliscus.

Here’s the best shot of the bunch:


Next up: a blue lizard that wears yellow pants!

Spotlight on Cuban Anoles, Part II: Anolis lucius

Find this week’s anole!

Before leaving for Cuba, Martha and I discussed our anole wish-list. Figuring prominently were Cuba’s legendary sister-species, A. bartschi and A. vermiculatus. Also swiftly declared were the beautiful A. allisoni and anything in the erstwhile genus Chamaeleolis (alas, we found none of the snail-eating giants). However, I must admit — I had no idea A. lucius existed until I first laid eyes on it!


After encountering A. lucius in a patch of mature forest along a slow-moving stream, my first impression was that it looked and behaved like a trunk anole, if trunk anoles were 150% bigger and had zebra stripes on their heads. Indeed, at the first locality we encountered them, they seemed to favor perching head-down on trunks 1-3m high (with one individual spotted almost 5m high.)


Although I’m still fond of my initial diagnosis of “giant zebra-headed A. distichus,” we proceeded to encounter A. lucius in a variety of other habitats. For instance, we found them scrambling over limestone karst and taking refuge in sea cliff caves on Cuba’s southern coast, a habit described in Schwartz & Henderson’s Amphibians and Reptiles of the West Indies. Later I would wonder what A. bartschi, were it to occur syntopically, would have to say about that.

~5m up a tree

~5m up a tree

~2m below ground

~2m below ground








We also found A. lucius near human habitation, on the streets of Trinidad and the home of a coffee farmer in Cuba’s Topes de Collantes nature reserve park.


So it seems clear that this anole is jack of at least a few trades. But wait, there’s more!

A. lucius has a bizarre trait, one that’s shared with a close relative already featured on Anole Annals, A. argenteolus. Can you guess what it is? If you guessed translucent scales on the lower eyelid, you win! The function of these “shades” is not entirely clear, with one obvious idea being that they block harsh sunlight. For what it’s worth, we almost never saw A. lucius close its eyes during the day.

Anolis lucius is one cool anole

Anolis lucius: pretty much obligated to wear its sunglasses at night

A. lucius was, dare I say, a dark-horse third-place finisher on the list of coolest species we managed to see. I’ll (probably) finish off the top three next time with A. vermiculatus!



Anoles with sunglasses…just stop, evolution.

Spotlight on Cuban Anoles, Part I: Anolis bartschi

A juvenile Anolis bartschi scampers up a limestone boulder.

A juvenile Anolis bartschi scampers up a limestone boulder.

Recently, frequent Anole Annals contributor Martha Muñoz and I had the opportunity to visit Cuba as part of a licensed trip through the Harvard Museum of Natural History. During our two weeks on the island, we visited many localities and had the opportunity to photograph and observe some of Cuba’s most beautiful anoles. In the coming weeks, I’ll be spotlighting some of our favorites. All images presented are © Shea Lambert 2014.

First up: Cuba’s Western cliff anole, Anolis bartschi.
Continue reading Spotlight on Cuban Anoles, Part I: Anolis bartschi