Category Archives: Classics from the Literature

Dewlap Displays in Cuban Knight Anoles (A. equestris)

While exploring the grounds of Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens with Janson Jones this past weekend, we extremely fortunately happened upon a large adult male Cuban knight anole (A. equestris) in full displaying swing. Despite the fact that knight anoles have an impressively large dewlap, I have often found this to be a relatively rare event, as large crown-giant species tend to display less than other smaller and more active species. This individual was displaying at a height of ~15 m, just below the fronds of a large Royal Palm (Roystonea regia). We didn’t see any other neighboring knight anoles, so were unsure if this was a directed or passive display series. In all, this lizard performed perhaps 4-5 sets of dewlap displays (each comprising of 4-5 dewlap extensions) before stopping and retreating back into the canopy.

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Anoles typically follow a predictable and repeated pattern of display that gradually increases in intensity. Initially, and rather lethargically, an individual will nonchalantly raise its head and extend its dewlap without much extra effort (stage a); described below from Losos (2009).

Adapted from Losos (2009), which itself is adapted from Losos (1985). Aggressive behavior of A. marconoi showing three stages of increasing display intensity - note stage (c) include full body elevation alongside simultaneous tail and dewlap extensions.

Adapted from Losos (2009), which itself is adapted from Losos (1985). Aggressive behavior of A. marconoi showing three stages of increasing display intensity – note stage (c) include full body elevation alongside simultaneous tail and dewlap extensions.

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This then escalates to include a slight body raise (stage b).

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And ultimately results in a dramatic finale – in full display all limbs will be extended to raise both their body from the substrate (in this case the trunk of a palm tree) and elevate their tail (stage c). In the following picture you can see this final stage of displaying where intensity peaks – albeit in this individual with a regenerated (and rather stubby) tail. Continue reading Dewlap Displays in Cuban Knight Anoles (A. equestris)

Mangrove Twig Anoles

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Anolis angusticeps, South Bimini, Bahamas

One component of our recent field work in Bimini, Bahamas involved gathering data from anoles across various habitat types. We selected four primary habitats for sampling based partly on the notable work by Schoener (1968): blackland forest; incipient blackland; Coccothrinax coastal scrub; and mixed Avicennia, Laguncularia, and Rhizophora mangrove forest.

Mangrove forest nocturnal survey.

Mangrove forest nocturnal survey.

South Bimini is an interesting place to study anoles in that it is a relatively small island harboring four species across at least eight different habitat types.  Schoener’s excellent study of habitat use in these species indicated that mangrove forests were marginal habitat for anoles, supporting only two of the four species (A. sagrei and A. smaragdinus). During nocturnal surveys, we located both of these species roosting on Avicennia and Laguncularia leaves and branches, though in much lower numbers than other forest types. We found no anoles in Rhizophora mangle at our study site. However, we did find a number of A. angusticeps in this forest, mostly perching horizontally on Avicennia branches. We would like to know, how many others have found twig anoles in mangrove forest?

Classics from the Anolis Literature: the Ethoecology of Anolis nebulosus

Image of Anolis nebulosus taken by John Murphy and borrowed from the Reptile Database.

Image of Anolis nebulosus taken by John Murphy and borrowed from the Reptile Database.

Although anoles are one of the top model systems in evolutionary biology today, it took decades of dedicated and inquisitive research to lay the groundwork. The foundation of understanding that we draw upon today to set up hypotheses, build experiments, and infer the process of evolution was slowly built by numerous researchers, including Ernest Williams, Rodolfo Ruibal, Stan Rand, and Ray Huey, to name only a few. Tom Jenssen, Professor Emeritus at Virginia Tech, stands among these giants – his work on the ethoecology of anoles laid the foundation for how we understand anole behavior, particularly display behaviors, and set up the experimental framework for how we conduct behavioral studies in anoles even today.

If you’re familiar with Tom’s research, then you’ll know he’s worked on Anolis carolinensis for more than two decades and, before that, he studied several species of Caribbean anoles. But back when he was a graduate student, Tom’s main focus was on a little-known anole from Mexico, Anolis nebulosus. During this time, he tracked a single population of A. nebulosus for over three years, and examined the behavior of hundreds of lizards. In 1970 he published some of the results from this long-term study in the Journal of Herpetology.

Continue reading Classics from the Anolis Literature: the Ethoecology of Anolis nebulosus

Anole Celebration of Darwin’s Day

Happy Darwin’s day everybody!

Darwin Day

This is the third serial year in which I have remembered Darwin Day in Anole Annals. In the first time, Jonathan Losos made a wise comment in citing the words of Darwin about an anole (read his comment here). That’s why, this year, I have added two pages from ‘The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex’ in which Darwin wrote about the sexual selection of Anolis cristatellus and Sitana.

 

Continue reading Anole Celebration of Darwin’s Day

Historical Perspective On Anole Genera

Anole taxonomists: Richard Etheridge, Jay Savage, Ernest Williams, S. Blair Hedges, Craig Guyer, Steve Poe

Anolis has been recognized as an extraordinarily large genus for decades, but Nicholson et al. (2012) are not the first to propose recognition of multiple anole genera.  Indeed, all of the generic epithets used in Nicholson et al.’s new classification were coined in 1934 or earlier and most are from the early 19th century.  This early proliferation of generic epithets resulted primarily from the fact that a comprehensive systematic treatment of anoles did not appear until the mid-20th century.  My purpose here is to review the history of generic level anole classification in the years following Richard Etheridge’s pioneering PhD thesis of 1959/60.  I believe that this historical perspective provides necessary context for evaluation of Nicholson et al.’s proposed revisions, and helps explain why the genera in their revised classification appear so rarely in the literature relative to Anolis (see Mahler’s recent post on the topic of genus name usage).

To briefly summarize the history of anole genera, the vast majority of work published over the past half century has formally assigned all, or nearly all, anole species to Anolis.  The only noteworthy exceptions to this include (1) assignment of a small number of morphologically unusual species from the mainland, Cuba, or Hispaniola to PhenacosaurusChamaelinorops or Chamaeleolis into the 1990s and (2) assignment of species belonging to Etheridge’s β section of Anolis to Norops by some anole biologists working primarily in Central America during the 1990s through the 2000s.

Etheridge’s dissertation, which was completed in 1959 but not available until 1960.

In 1959, Richard Etheridge, a PhD student with Norman Hartweg at the University of Michigan, submitted a thesis that relied on remarkably thorough analyses of skeletal morphology to revise anole classification.  At the beginning of this study, Etheridge recognized Anolis as a diverse genus containing over 200 species, but also identified ten other anole genera that contained only one or a few species: Chamaeleolis, Phenacosaurus, Chamaelinorops, Tropidodactylus, Audantia, Mariguana, Diaphoranolis, Xiphocercus, Deiroptyx, and Norops.  Etheridge found the first four genera listed above to be “so unusual” morphologically that they warrant continued recognition, but the rest were synonomized with Anolis because his morphological analyses found them “to be not at all separable from Anolis, or to be based on characters so trivial that they are here considered as identical with Anolis.”

Etheridge left the large genus Anolis intact in spite of the fact that, at the beginning of his study, he “thought it very likely that the great number of species in the genus Anolis might be dividied into several groups, and that each of these might reasonably be accorded generic status.”  His reason for leaving Anolis intact was that “the relationships of the various species of Anolis have proven to be far too complex to be treated in so simple a manner as the proposal of formal generic groupings.”  Rather than naming new genera, Etheridge informally characterized sets of species at “several different hierarchical positions between the genus and species” as “groups,” “complexes,” “sections,” or “series.”  The aspect of Etheridge’s classification that drew the most attention was his division of Anolis into α and β sections distinguished primarily on the basis of basis of a striking difference in the morphology of tail vertebrae (see figure above from Etheridge’s disseration). Continue reading Historical Perspective On Anole Genera

Anolis Electrum: The Amber Anole From Mexico

A recent photograph by Emma Sherratt. Amber tends to darken over time, which explains the deep orange color.

We’ve had previous posts on fossil anoles in amber. Emma Sherratt is currently studying them and has examined some three dozen specimens. All of these are from the Dominican Republic. Except the first one ever discovered, a Mexican piece described by Skip Lazell in 1965. Anolis electrum, as it was named, has had a pretty quiet scientific life. Now middle aged, the species has not been the subject of any subsequent research in the 47 years of its existence. But now it’s in the spotlight, as its phylogenetic position and dating may be pivotal for the recent calculation by Nicholson et al. that anoles originated more than 100 million years ago. In this post, I summarize what is known about A. electrum (examine the short original paper for yourself!). No doubt, we’ll be hearing more soon about the relevance of this species–specifically its phylogenetic placement and age–for dating anole diversification.

As you can see for yourself in the photo above, there are actually two pieces, a front half of a lizard and a back half a lizard. Since they were found together (or at least made it to the Paleontology Museum at UC-Berkeley together) and are matching in size, it seems like too much of a coincidence for them not to come from the same animal. Various aspects of the animal’s scalation are discernible, including some nicely visible toepads. Lazell stated that all that was left was skin, or the impression of skin, the bones having been eaten away, but Emma’s cat scanning has shown that this is not quite correct (see below).

Based on the specimen, what can be said about its phylogenetic placement? All anoles in Mexico today are from the Norops clade. Unfortunately, the primary character for identifying Norops is the shape of the caudal vertebrae, which cannot be discerned in this tailless specimen. Lazell compared the scalation of this specimen (a 26 mm juvenile) to various species, and found that the scalation was unlike most species. He concluded that electrum was most similar in scalation to A. fuscoauratus, A. maculiventris, and A. chloris, and among species found in Mexico, to A. limifrons (full quotations at the bottom of this post).

What should we make of all of this? It’s important to remember that this paper was published in 1965, prior to the description of many extant anole species and a year before Willi Hennig’s classic introduction to cladistic analysis was translated into English. This is a purely phenetic comparison of the amber baby lizard to known species, clearly non-phylogenetic and utilizing characters that now are recognized to generally have little higher level systematic utility in anoles. And the conclusion is that it is either a Norops clade anole (fuscoauratus, limifrons or maculiventris) or a Dactyloa species (chloris).

The other question one might have is: how old is this fossil? Dating amber is notoriously difficult. Solórzano Kraemer reviewed all of the data on Mexican amber bearing deposits in the 2010 volume Biodiversity of Fossils in Amber from the Major World Deposits and concluded: “In summary, it can be said that Mexican amber can be correlated with Dominican amber, with an age of approximately 15-20 million-years-old.” In other words, Mexican and Dominican amber anoles were contemporaneous.

Did anyone notice anything odd on the fossil of the lizard posterior (B, above)? Continue reading Anolis Electrum: The Amber Anole From Mexico

The Gray-Dewlapped Anole: Anolis Carolinensis Seminolus

Head variation in Anolis carolinensis. From T. Vance (1991).

There was some talk a while back about the fabled gray-dewlapped anole of Florida (and, according to the comments, elsewhere). Amidst this discussion, one commenter referred to it as Anolis carolinensis seminolus. Many of us, even experienced anole hands, were unaware that A. carolinensis had subspecies. After a little bit of poking around, we’ve discovered the answer. Indeed, there are described subspecies. Thomas Vance, in a paper in the Bulletin of the Maryland Herpetological Society in 1991 described the gray-dewlapped form as A. c. seminolus, relegating the rest of the species to A. c. carolinensis. The paper, which can be downloaded here, is not as overwhelming as its 47-page length might imply. There’s a nice discussion of the history of the species name A. carolinensis (turns out that it’s quite a confusing trail of names), followed by a detailed comparison of morphological variation, focusing primarily on scale characters and based on the examination of nearly a thousand specimens. There’s a lot of molecular phylogeographic work on carolinensis in the works right now, and it’ll be interesting to see how the genetic data square with Vance’s taxonomy (my guess: not so well). More generally, it’s surprising how little work on variation in this species has been conducted. For anyone interested in this fascinating and underappreciated lizard, this paper is worth a look.

Anole Classics: Ray Huey (1974) on the Cost of Behavioral Thermoregulation (or, What’s the Deal with Thermoconformity?)

A male Anolis cristatellus from Puerto Rico. Photo by Dave Steinberg.

It is somewhat intuitive to assume that the body temperatures of “cold-blooded” animals like anoles must closely match ambient temperatures. For example, lizards from cold climates should be active at colder body temperatures than those from warm climates, and body temperature should change throughout the day in concert with air temperature. As Martha Muñoz has discussed, Cowles and Bogert laid this expectation to rest in 1944. They demonstrated that lizards can behaviorally thermoregulate, altering the effective thermal environment that they experience to remain within a “preferred” temperature range while active.

The potential benefits of behavioral thermoregulation are pretty obvious. Seek out a little sunlight on a cold day and you can go from freezing your hemi-penes off to enjoying a fulfilling day of doing whatever a lizard might find fulfilling. So for many years after Cowles and Bogert, observing patterns consistent with behavioral thermoregulation became the expectation. Continue reading Anole Classics: Ray Huey (1974) on the Cost of Behavioral Thermoregulation (or, What’s the Deal with Thermoconformity?)

A Changing Climate – The Birth of Biophysical Ecology and Modern Reptile Thermobiology

Anolis armouri basking on a rock.

Our era of human-mediated climate change has brought startling new realities that we must face – ocean acidification, desertification, and receding ice caps, among others. For those of us who study lizards, one message is pervasive and clear – many species are being pushed to their thermal limit, and it is likely that many lizards, especially those that prefer cooler temperatures, won’t be able to take the heat. But, how do we know this? One of the main methods used to determine how reptiles will respond to climate change is to compare their preferred temperature (i.e., where lizards would like to keep their body temperature, given the option) to a random sampling of the thermal environment.

From a lizard’s eye view, though, the thermal environment is more complex than just air temperature. Lizards have volume, shape, and color, all of which affect their core temperature. Essentially, the operative temperature (Te) describes a lizard’s thermal environment as the sum total of many different interactions, such as radiation and convection, among others. Because it describes how temperature is shaped by everything except behavior and physiology, the operative temperature essentially describes how a perfect thermoconformer instantaneously perceives the environment. As such, it has been used as the null hypothesis for behavioral thermoregulation – if we can describe the thermal environment by recording Te, then we can use field-measured body temperature to determine the degree to which animals are thermoregulating. Here on the Anole Annals I’ve considered how devices have evolved to capture the operative temperature. The earliest prototype was a water-filled beer can, and we now have copper models painted to match the organism’s reflectance and HOBO devices.

Copper models of Anolis cybotes in the making.

But just where did these devices come from? I’ve been in Terre Haute, Indiana working with Dr. George Bakken at Indiana State University for the past two weeks making copper models of Anolis cybotes for my field research in the Dominican Republic. Dr. Bakken, along with Dr. David Gates, operationalized the term “operative temperature” for the ecological community in a seminal 1975 paper. I sat down with Dr. Bakken for an interview to learn how the intellectual climate promoted this and other important foundational works for biophysical ecology and reptilian thermobiology.

Continue reading A Changing Climate – The Birth of Biophysical Ecology and Modern Reptile Thermobiology

On Sexual Selection in Anolis

"Fig. 33. Sitana minor. Male, with the gular pouch expanded (from Gunther's 'Reptiles of India')."

In The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex (1871), Darwin laid out his ideas about sexual selection. Darwin believed that sexual selection was distinct from natural selection; while natural selection operates through survival and fecundity, sexual selection operates through differences in mating success among individuals.

The puzzle that Darwin set out to solve was the existence of traits like the peacock’s tale or the elk’s antlers. These traits differ between sexes but aren’t related directly to mating. And, these traits appear to be quite costly. Darwin reasoned that these costly traits must benefit the bearer in some way related to mating success. Most likely, these benefits accrued during battle with other members of same sex for mates or during the courtship of the opposite sex. In both cases, having the costly trait benefitted an individual’s mating success beyond the incurred survival or fecundity cost.

Now, how does this discussion relate to anoles? Continue reading On Sexual Selection in Anolis

Species Richness Patterns in Caribbean Anolis III

Lineage accumulation curves (Fig. 2, Rabosky and Glor 2010) showing that Hispaniola (blue), Jamaica (purple), and Puerto Rico (orange) have reached speciation-extinction equilibrium. Cuba (red) is still gaining species.


Losos, J.B., and D. Schluter. 2000. Analysis of an evolutionary species-area relationship. Nature 408: 847-850.

Rabosky, D.L, and R.E. Glor. 2010. Equilibrium speciation dynamics in a model adaptive radiation of island lizards. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. 107: 22178-22183.

Losos and Schluter (2000) return to Caribbean anoles to test three hypotheses about the species-area relationship: (1) that there is an area threshold above which speciation surpasses immigration as a source of new species; (2) above the threshold size, speciation events per unit time should increase with island area; and (3) the slope of the species-area relationship should become steeper above the area threshold. Qualitatively similar to Losos (1996), this paper was novel in that a newly available, nearly complete, mt-DNA phylogeny allowed Losos and Schluter to reconstruct immigration and speciation events and to model whether species number has reached speciation-extinction equilibrium. Continue reading Species Richness Patterns in Caribbean Anolis III

Species Richness Patterns in Caribbean Anolis II

Losos, J.B. 1996. Ecological and evolutionary determinants of the species-area relation in Caribbean anoline lizards. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B 351: 847-854.

As alluded to previously,  MacArthur and Wilson (1967) did consider evolutionary processes when they developed their Theory of Island Biogeography. Specifically, in situ evolutionary diversification (i.e. speciation) may contribute substantially to the species diversity of an island and should be considered in any general attempt to model species-area relationships on islands. Building on Rand’s 1969 paper studying the ecological determinants of species richness in Caribbean anoles, Losos (1996) incorporates an evolutionary perspective into the Caribbean Anolis species-area story. Continue reading Species Richness Patterns in Caribbean Anolis II

Species Richness Patterns in Caribbean Anolis I

This is the first of a series of posts that will review a number of papers that examined species richness patterns in anoles, starting with Rand’s 1969 paper described below and moving towards the present day understanding. Read on!

Species richness predictions from the Theory of Island Biogeography

 Rand, A.S. 1969. Competitive exclusion among anoles (Sauria: Iguanidae) on small islands in the West Indies. Breviora 319: 1-16.

The empirically observed species-area relationship (SAR) is one of the closest things to a law that we have in evolutionary ecology. All else equal, the larger the area, the more species will be in it. In a paper in 1963, and a book in 1967, MacArthur and Wilson (M&W) put forward the Theory of Island Biogeography (TIB) to explain the species-area relationship on islands. They observed that the number of species that inhabit an island scales positively with island area and negatively with distance of an island from the mainland species source. M&W argued that the SAR is governed by two ecological processes: colonization and extinction. Colonization probability increases with the size of an island and decreases with island distance from the mainland. Extinction probability increases as island size decreases because small islands support smaller population sizes and leave species are more vulnerable to fluctuations in abiotic and biotic environmental factors. Thus, the TIB predicts that large islands close to the mainland will be species rich, while small islands far from the mainland will be species poor. The TIB inspired thousands of papers: according to Google Scholar, the 1967 book has been cited 11,148 times and the 1963 paper has been cited 1,416 times. Continue reading Species Richness Patterns in Caribbean Anolis I

Anole Classics: Albert Schwartz (1968) on Geographic Variation in Anolis distichus

I previously characterized Albert Schwartz as one of the five kings of Greater Antillean anole taxonomy for having described eight new species from the region.  Although Schwartz described the fewest species among the five kings, focusing on new species masks Schwartz’s even more important contributions to cataloguing geographic variation within species.  Schwartz’s career-spanning interest in biogeography and geographic variation resulted in a prolific history of describing subspecies in anoles and other taxa.  Anyone who’s looked at Schwartz and Henderson’s classic book on West Indian reptiles and amphibians is familiar with the irregular blobs that designate subspecies boundaries on the range maps for many of the region’s most geographically widespread species.  Many of these blobs were the result of Schwartz’s own efforts.  The pinnacle of Schwartz’s work on geographic variation may be his 1968 monograph on geographic variation in Anolis distichus. Continue reading Anole Classics: Albert Schwartz (1968) on Geographic Variation in Anolis distichus

Kings of Greater Antillean Anole Taxonomy V: Orlando Garrido

The last of the five kings described more new anoles than any of the others: Orlando Garrido.  Garrido is unique among the five in two ways.  First, he’s still alive, still active, and still making contributions to our understanding of anole diversity.  Second, he’s actually a citizen of a Greater Antillean country: Cuba.

Garrido is often recognized as Cuba’s greatest naturalist.  In addition to his impressive body of work with reptiles, he has made many other important contributions to our understanding of Cuban nature, including the spectacular “Field Guide to the Birds of Cuba.”  His successes  are a testament to how far science has come since Barbour’s time, when practicing science in the West Indies required a wealthy North American pedigree.  I’ve credited Garrido with a whopping 24 species, all from his native Cuba. Continue reading Kings of Greater Antillean Anole Taxonomy V: Orlando Garrido

The Kings of West Indian Anole Taxonomy IV: Albert Schwartz

I’ve credited the fourth king of Greater Antillean anole taxonomy – Albert Schwartz – with describing eight Greater Antillean anole species.  The period during which Schwartz’s career overlapped with Williams’s and that of the fifth yet-t0-be-revealed king were the glory years of Greater Antillean anole taxonomy.  Over a little more than a decade in the late 1960s through the 1970s, these three figures described over 10 species, including some of the last new species discovered on Hispaniola and Jamaica.  The activities of these three key figures were highly synergistic; Schwartz and Williams often contributed to one another’s work and divvied up projects to mutual benefit (even though they never described an anole species together) and Schwartz was a junior coauthor with the fifth king on several species descriptions.

After graduating with a PhD from the University of Michigan, Schwartz spent the majority of his academic career at Miami Dade Community College, an institution known more for its massive enrollment than for its faculty’s contributions to systematics.  Early in his career, Schwartz worked primarily in Cuba, resulting in the description of three species, including two locally restricted species related to the Cuban crown-giant anole Anolis equestris (baracoae and smallwoodi) and a widespread trunk-ground species (jubar) that is the xeric forest counterpart to another widespread Cuban trunk-ground anole found primarily in mesic environments (homolechis).  Schwartz would later devote his attention to Hispaniola, ultimately describing five species from both Haiti and the Dominican Republic.  As was the case with Williams, many of the Hispaniola taxa that Schwartz described were unusual montane endemics (rimarum, fowleri, sheplani, and eugenegrahami). Continue reading The Kings of West Indian Anole Taxonomy IV: Albert Schwartz

The Kings of Greater Antillean Anole Taxonomy III: Ernest Williams

Following Barbour’s work, nearly a quarter century would pass before another Harvard man picked up the mantle of describing new anoles.  Among his many other contributions, Ernest Williams named 12 species of anoles from Jamaica, Cuba, and Hispaniola between 1959 and 1975.  By the time Williams came along, most of the abundant and widely-distributed anoles had already been described.  Many of the species Williams described are montane endemics (A. reconditusA. christopheiA. etheridgeiA. dolicocephalusA. occultusA. singularisA. insolitus) that might have been more difficult to access during previous generations of herpetological exploration in the West Indies.  The last Greater Antillean species he described – Anolis marcanoi – was among the first “cryptic” anole species to be recognized with the aid of molecular markers.  Even after his work describing new Greater Antillean anoles came to an end, Williams continued to describe new species of anoles from the mainland through the 1980s.  In his last publication in 1999 (published after his death in 1998), Williams called an end to the era of discovery in anoles.  For more on Williams, you can read the memorial published in the Harvard Gazette in 2009 by A. W. Crompton, Karel Liem and Jonathan Losos.

The Kings of Greater Antillean Anole Taxonomy II: Thomas Barbour

I previously introduced my mission to recognize the five anole systematists responsible for describing the majority of the anole species found in the Greater Antilles.  The first king of Greater Antillean anole taxonomy was the prolific E. D. Cope.  Cope was the last in a line of authors who described anole species that he’d never actually spent time with in the field (see also Duméril and Bibron).  The next king on my list, by contrast, was an avid field biologist and conducted field work in the West Indies throughout his career. Continue reading The Kings of Greater Antillean Anole Taxonomy II: Thomas Barbour

One Night in Antigua – Photos from a Layover with the Colossus Anolis leachii

Early morning sighting of a female Anolis leachii on a leaf covered in raindrops.

Sometimes, they say, it’s about the journey, not the destination. This makes me think of exciting layovers I’ve had in Anolis country. At any place where the layover is long enough to permit stepping outside of the airport, I like to pop out and see what kind of anoles I can find lurking around the terminals. On a few occasions, travel requires an overnight stay in an exciting place. One of the benefits of working in remote Lesser Antillean islands is that infrequent (and unpredictable) airline schedules typically mean spending a night or two in tiny islands to and from the actual destination. For years I’ve been working in Montserrat, a small island with an active volcano, where I try to follow the flighty bugger Anolis lividus as close to the volcano as I can get. On our way home from Montserrat, we usually spend a night in Antigua, where the charming giant, Anolis leachii can be found.

View of a raincloud and rainbow as we descended into Antigua in January 2009.

Like most anoles from the Lesser Antilles, this species is abundant. However, few species from the Lesser Antilles are as large as A. leachii. It is a member of the bimaculatus clade of large anoles from the Northern Lesser Antilles. According to Scwhartz and Henderson (1991), it can reach a snout-vent length of 123 mm. For anyone who works with crown-giants, this may not seem so large, but for an aficionado of the Lesser Antillean anoles, Anolis leachii is a relative behemoth! Its body ranges from yellow to blue and green, and it’s covered in a purplish vermiculation. The large eyering ranges from a sulfurous yellow to a deep orange. Hands down, this is one of the world’s most beautiful anoles. Imagine my excitement when I got to spend a night chasing these lizards through the wilds of Antigua Village, a cushy beach resort teeming with Anolis leachii and the smaller congener, A. wattsii. Here I offer some photos of this dazzling species, and a bit of its taxonomic history.

Continue reading One Night in Antigua — Photos from a Layover with the Colossus Anolis leachii

The Kings of Greater Antillean Anole Taxonomy I: E. D. Cope

Greater Antillean anoles would not be a model system for studies in ecology and evolutionary biology without the foundation provided by a century and a half of careful work by anole systematists.  Because their contributions often go unrecognized, I thought I’d use this post to call attention to the work of some of the most important figures in Greater Antillean anole systematics.  I’m going to focus here on alpha-taxonomy, and specifically on description of new species (we’ll do later posts on the history of anole phylogenetic systematics and descriptions of subspecies).  The majority of the nearly 120 species of anoles found on Cuba, Hispaniola, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico were described by  five key figures and their colleagues. Continue reading The Kings of Greater Antillean Anole Taxonomy I: E. D. Cope