Category Archives: Notes from the Field

Anolis sagrei Survey Continued: Eleuthera, The Bahamas

beach scrub and bay scenic 2

I just got back from a short trip down to Eleuthera in The Bahamas where I was assisting Anthony Geneva (Harvard post-doc) in sampling lizards. Also along for the trip were Sofia Prado-Irwin (Harvard Ph.D. student) and Rich Glor (University of Kansas). We went with the main goal of sampling Anolis sagrei from four habitat types found commonly in the Bahamas as an extension of an ongoing project in the Losos lab (previous posts from: Rum CayConcepcion IslandRagged IslandBiminiMangrove habitat, and Great Isaac Cay). Specifically, we were looking to sample Anolis sagrei in mangrove, secondary coppice forest, closed coppice forest, and beach scrub habitats. These habitats differ in the height of the canopy, density of the understory, and composition of plants.

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We focused entirely on the southern half of the island near Rock Sound and Cape Eleuthera. We were successful in sampling two beach scrub habitats, two mature coppice forest, one secondary coppice forest, and one mangrove habitat. We were able to catch all four of the anole species found on Eleuthera: Anolis angusticeps, Anolis distichus, Anolis sagrei, and Anolis smaragdinus. We also encountered a number of other native herp species: the Bahamian boa (Chilobothrus striatus), Ameiva auberi, Eleutherodactylus rogersi, curly tailed lizards (Leiocephalus carinatus), and the Bahamian racer (Alsophis voodoo), as well as a couple of non-native species: Cuban tree frog (Osteopilus septentrionalis), and Hemidactylus mabouia.

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In my own research I work with Anolis cristatellus, the Puerto Rican crested anole. I am always surprised when I catch A. sagrei by how much smaller they are than A. cristatellus, although very similar in appearance otherwise. On this trip, I was also surprised that the A. sagrei, as well as the A. angusticeps and the A. smaragdinus, appeared to be much smaller than those I had encountered on Bimini last spring.

We also found that the density of lizards was quite low compared to what we expected and what I had experienced in Bimini, both during the day and at night. In all four of the habitat types, we saw an abundance of hatchlings, juveniles, females, and small males, but relatively few full adult male A. sagrei. For A. angusticeps and A. smaragdinus, we encountered only a few individuals total during the week of sampling. This reminded me of an odd experience I had last fall in Puerto Rico with A. cristatellus. It was the same time of year and I had an extremely difficult time locating mature animals in sites where I had previously sampled large numbers during the spring and summer months. Instead, I observed a large number of very young animals and females. I’m curious if this is a coincidence or if perhaps there is a strong seasonal effect on either male behavior (i.e., reduced visibility outside of the mating season) or male abundance (i.e., reduced numbers because of mortality during the mating season). In other words, are the males still there, but hiding, or are they really lower in abundance in the late fall? Or maybe I was coincidentally unlucky on both trips… I am very curious to hear thoughts on this!

Anolis sagrei using coral ground habitat.

Anolis sagrei using coral ground habitat.

Finally, I want to end with a short natural history note on the habitat use of the A. sagrei in the mangrove habitat. In this habitat we observed A. sagrei using perches at drastically different heights: some were 6 feet up, others were on the ground. Interestingly, the ones on the ground did not appear to be in transit, but seemed to be using the pockmarked karst as perches, running into one of the many holes when approached. Has any one else observed this behavior before? It seems so different from the typical trunk-ground anole perch and behavior to me.

That’s all for now. Currently Anthony is sampling additional islands in the Bahamas along with Melissa Kemp (Harvard post-doc) and Colin Donihue (Yale Ph.D. candidate / Harvard visiting student). Best of luck to them, I can’t wait to hear how the rest of the trip went!

Blanchard Cave, a Window into the Late Pleistocene and Holocene Squamates from Marie-Galante Island (Guadeloupe Archipelago, Lesser Antilles)

Over the past few years, two European research programs developed an interest in the ancient fauna and environment of the Guadeloupe islands. The prospection for cave deposits led to the discovery of numerous accumulations of fossil remains documenting the Holocene and Late Pleistocene faunas of the archipelago, especially on the island of Marie-Galante, where three major deposits were discovered.

Blanchard Cave is one of these deposits. This cave contains the oldest fossil-bearing sedimentary layers of the island dated around 40,000 years before present and is an excellent complement to the two others cave documenting the Late Pleistocene fauna of Marie-Galante (Cadet 2 and Cadet 3).

After a test excavation in 2008 that revealed the potential of the site in term of fossil fauna, Blanchard cave was investigated between 2013 and 2014 in the framework of a European research program interested in the past environment and fauna of the Guadeloupe islands, the BIVAAG project. The three excavation campaigns conducted during this period allowed the precise documentation of the sedimentary filling of the cavities and the recovering of thousands of skeletal remains mainly attributed to frogs, lizards, snakes and bats.

The excavation work in the cave (Picture: A. Lenoble)

The excavation work in the cave (Picture: A. Lenoble)


Welcome gifts from the bats… (Picture: C. Bochaton)

Welcome gifts from the bats… (Picture: C. Bochaton)

But collecting the fossils remains was not that easy and although the perspective of working in the Caribbean a few hundred meters from the sea could seem very attractive, the working conditions in the cave were far from pleasant. Mainly because the cave was inhabited from the ground to the roof by numerous cockroaches, rats, gnats and bats. Bats were extremely noisy, and proved to be extremely rude hosts. Another difficulty was the potential occurrence of histoplasmosis in the cave that led to the necessity of wearing a respirator during the work. Such masks make breathing difficult during the work and combined with the heat, humidity and other disagreements previously mentioned strongly impact your initial enthusiasm.

Once you overlook these difficulties, the sediment was extracted from the site and then washed and sieved in order to retrieve the small bones contained in it (the bones are usually smaller than 5 mm). The remains were then recovered and sorted, partly in the field (unfortunately this activity often kept the paleontologists outside of the cave and away from the bats), before being studied.

Washing and sieving of the sediments (Picture: M. E. Kemp)

Washing and sieving of the sediments (Picture: M. E. Kemp)

Recovering of the fossil bones (Picture: M. E. Kemp)

Recovering of the fossil bones (Picture: M. E. Kemp)







The results of the study of the squamates remains collected in the cave can be found in a very recently published paper. To summarize the main findings, we found evidence of the past occurrence of at least ten species of snakes and lizards: four snakes: Antillotyphlops sp., Boa sp., Alsophis cf. antillensis and an undetermined colubroid; and six lizards: Anolis ferreus, Iguana sp., Leiocephalus sp, Thecadactylus sp., cf. Capitellum mariagalantae and Ameiva sp.. The stratigraphic distribution of these taxa in the site combined with previously existing data show that only two extinctions (Boa sp. and Colubroid ind.) are dated from the Pleistocene/Holocene transition and thus predate the arrival of humans on the islands around 5000 years ago. Then during the pre-Columbian times two new taxa appear in the deposits, Iguana and Thecadactylus. On the other hand, a massive faunal turnover began after the European colonization of the island. Indeed, at least six squamate genera (Leiocephalus, Capitellum, Ameiva, Antillotyphlops, Alsophis and Erythrolamprus), including all the snake genera, were extirpated between 1492 and today. Thus, 55% of the squamate genera present during pre-Columbian times went extinct over the past few centuries.

These results are further evidence of the current sixth mass extinction crisis and of the strong impact of humans on this insular fauna. However, Marie-Galante Island remains an isolated case because the past fauna of most of the Lesser Antillean islands remains poorly known and in most cases totally unknown despite the critical importance that such data may have in many fields to test inferences built on modern data.


Reaching Safety

When somebody talks about roads crossing along natural forest, we could think about the perturbation this may cause to local fauna, especially in the Tropics. At least in Panama, wildlife crossings are not so popular in terms of design, deployment and monitoring. To my knowledge, the few existing ones are aerial and designed keeping in mind the crossing of monkeys or sloths for example. This issue came to my mind on the 3rd of November when I saw a Dactyloa insignis trying to cross an 8 m road traversing Santa Fe National Park, one of the pristine forest in central Panama.

Captured at Santa Fe National Park, Panama

Captured at Santa Fe National Park, Panama

It made three short attempts and looked clumsy when trying to run on the pavement puting him at risk of death, so we caught him and helped him reach the other side of the road.

Conception Island, Bahamas Lizard Survey


A view across Conception Island from the North.


Female A. sagrei

As part of our saga chasing Anolis sagrei around the Caribbean, we had the incredible fortune to visit the remote Conception Island Bank in the Bahamas. Conception Island and its associated small satellites are situated on their own bank, adjacent to Long Island which occupies a southeastern edge of the Great Bahamas Bank. Conception Bank and all its satellite islets are protected by the Bahamas National Trust as a National Park, and the bank is presently uninhabited though there is some history of human habitation in the past. Conception Island is quite small, totaling only 9 km by 2 km and has never been connected to any other island banks, meaning that the plants and animals here have almost certainly arrived via dispersal. Though located only 25 km ENE from the northern tip of Long Island, the 2400 m deep water and strong NW currents mean that the Conception Bank has a relatively depauperate terrestrial fauna owing to the vicissitudes of over-water dispersal. For example, in the latest comprehensive list of island herpetofaunal records, Long Island boasts 16 native extant species of reptiles and amphibians, relative to just five on the Conception Bank. Granted, this is potentially owing to lower sampling effort on Conception, as it is a remote, difficult, and expensive place to conduct extensive surveys. Indeed at least one record, that of the Bahamas Boa Chilabothrus strigilatus, is poorly documented and probably spurious.



An unusual dewlap color for A. sagrei

Alberto Puente-Rolon (UIPR-Arecibo), Anthony Geneva (Glor/Losos labs), Nick Herrmann (Losos Lab), and Kevin Aviles-Rodriguez (Kolbe/Revell labs) traveled with me to the Conception Bank aboard the Golden Bear out of Stella Maris, Long Island for two days in July 2015. Our goal was to sample Anolis sagrei from the bank, as well as generally conduct herpetofaunal surveys. We were particularly interested in verifying and attempting to build upon the last report of a herpetofaunal survey there (Franz and

Male Anolis sagrei displaying a light orange/ yellow dewlap in coastal palm scrub habitat.

Male Anolis sagrei displaying a light orange/ yellow dewlap in coastal palm scrub habitat.

Buckner 1998). While we expected Anolis sagrei to be present (it was), we also thought that the lack of a record for Anolis distichus might not stand up to our surveys. Alas, we checked multiple habitat types both day and night, from beach scrub to mature forests to mangroves and failed to turn up A. distichus. Though present on nearby Rum and San Salvador Banks (as well as Long Island), this species is curiously apparently absent from Conception.

Happily, we did find Anolis sagrei in abundance, and with some unusual features to boot. For one, the largest males are really quite large, tipping the scales at over 7 grams. Many males sported tall tail crests, and in the coastal scrub habitat, their yellowish dewlaps, combined with large size and tail crests, gave them an overall appearance very similar to Puerto Rican Crested Anoles (A. cristatellus). Interestingly, dewlaps in the forest appeared more traditionally sagrei-red, so we will see what our spectrometer and photographic data tell us about dewlap color variation on the bank. We will continue to update AA on our work with A. sagrei in the Bahamas.

Male Anolis sagrei with a large tail crest

Male Anolis sagrei with a large tail crest.


Kevin and Nick at work

Ragged Island, Bahamas, Lizard Research

Air approach to Great Ragged Island

Air approach to Great Ragged Island

We have been on the move quite a bit for our project on Anolis sagrei. On a recent trip to the Bahamas, Alberto Puente-Rolon (UIPR-Arecibo) and I were able to visit the remote Great Ragged Island, located at the southeastern edge of the Great Bahamas Bank only 115 km from the coast of Cuba. Great Ragged is the only inhabited island in the Ragged Island/Jumentos Cays range, a necklace of islands stretching in a sweeping concave arc from Long Island and the southern Exumas to the range terminus at Little Ragged Island. A mere 70 or so people live on Great Ragged, concentrated in Duncan Town, a small settlement perched atop a surprisingly high hill overlooking the deep ocean to the east and dark green expanses of mangroves to the west. Duncan Town is picturesque in the authentic Bahamian sense–brightly colored houses are dotted between crumbling ruins dating back a century or more. Chickens cover yards, and old stone walls snake from the town out into the bush. An artisanal and on-demand salt raking operation continues here, and small pyramids of bleached salt dot the edges of an expansive salina filled with shallow waters reflecting varying hues of pinks and reds in the morning sunlight.

Duncan Town salina and tropical dry scub habitat

Duncan Town salina and tropical dry scrub habitat shallow waters reflecting varying hues of pinks and reds in the morning sunlight. Photo by Alberto Puente.

Anolis smaragdinus from Ragged Island

Anolis smaragdinus from Ragged Island. Photo by Alberto Puente

The Anolis sagrei here are, as in most locations, abundant. We had great success locating them at night, where they sleep exposed on branches and reflect a pale glow in the beam of a headlamp. We sampled anoles from different habitat types on Great Ragged, including coastal Cocoloba uvifera stands, mangrove forest, stunted closed canopy tropical dry forest (where we had to crawl to make our way through), and highly disturbed goat pasture. We are excited to see how the population here compares to the rest of the range. In particular, we are wondering whether the sagrei on Great Ragged belong to the eastern or western Bahamas genetic lineage, which we have uncovered in previous work. The A. distichus here certainly resemble the populations in the western Bahamas, rather than the eastern Bahamas, to which Great Ragged is connected by the Jumentos Cays. We will follow up on these distichus observations in a later post. I will keep AA updated on what we find as we begin analysis of our data.


Shipping Live Lizards via Cargo from the Dominican Republic

Assuming you can’t get your lizards to fly themselves to your lab, you might want to read this information on how to transport them home. Photo from

After years of transporting live anoles from the Caribbean to my lab in the United States in my checked luggage, this summer in the Dominican Republic, a Delta Airlines agent refused to accept our cooler full of lizards as luggage for our plane. After pursuing every avenue we could think of, it became clear that our only remaining option was to ship the lizards as cargo. We spent several days working out this process, and after making a number of mistakes, we finally arrived at a relatively smooth procedure. To prevent others from having to learn these steps on their own, if such a situation arises for other researchers, we’ve written out the steps that worked for us below. The details provided are for the airport in Santo Domingo, but this general approach may be helpful in other locations as well. (And, if you find yourself in the Dominican Republic in the near future, I’d be happy to give you the contact information for all of the folks listed below.)

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It’s Hard Out Here for an Anole

I moved to Florida almost a year ago but am just now gearing up for my first, full-fledged anole deluge, typical of Florida in the spring. As the temperature rises, more and more anoles can be seen basking, mating, or, most frequently, scattering to get out from under your feet as you walk down the sidewalk! Life as an anole can be challenging, as has been documented here on AA by the likes of James Stroud and Ambika Kamath, but now that I am in the thick of anole season here in Gainesville, seeing first hand the tribulations that arise from amazingly dense populations of lizards navigating an ever-challenging urban environment, I have come to realize (and in a few cases document!) the brutal realities of life as an anole in central Florida. Below are a few of the more incredible maladies I’ve seen since moving to Florida:

  • A lizard who just couldn’t quite fit through the stem of a Heliconia, a fatal miscalculation.

AA Size Palmetto Head

  • An A. carolinensis missing his entire dewlap, possibly from a bite injury? As he ran up the tree on which I released him, I could see the lizard extending what was left of his second ceratobranchials (just under his chin), a fruitless attempt to warn me to bug off.

AA Size Dewlapless

  • A brutally battered A. sagrei. This lizard was missing both eyes and his tail, two of the three injuries still bleeding when I found him, while also sporting a completely broken upper left jaw. Looks like these nasty wounds may have been sustained from a larger predator, such as a bird or pedestrian, as it seems unlikely that a lock-jaw fight between two male lizards would lead to such deadly consequences for the loser.


Mangrove Twig Anoles


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?

Bark Anole Battle Scars in Miami, FL

As it starts to heat up here in Miami, anole interactions are at the highest while males try to stake their claim for the most attractive territories in town. Earlier during an afternoon stroll around South Miami I came across this bark anole (Anolis distichus) that looks like it’s had a pretty rough time recently!


I assume this injury to his nape is probably from another lizard, likely another male A. distichus, incurred during a territorial dispute, and not a predation attempt. Either way, it looks like it didn’t dent his confidence too much!


Great Egret Eating a Crested Anole in Miami, FL

Here is a video taken by University of Miami PhD student Joanna Weremijewicz at the Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens in Miami, FL last Friday (20th March 2015). There have been lots of posts talking about the predation potential of egrets (and other wading birds) on anoles here on AA similar to this (1,2,3,4), but I think this could be the first one recording predation of A. cristatellus? Cool video!

Field Trip Recap: Herps of Bimini, The Bahamas


Searching for Anolis sagrei on the beautiful island of Bimini

Anolis sagrei on the beautiful island of Bimini

I just got back from a 10 day research trip to Bimini in the western Bahamas along with Harvard post-doc, Graham Reynolds, Harvard graduate student, Pavitra Muralidhar, and UMass Boston undergraduate, Jason Fredette. We went with the simple goals of kicking off a research project in the Losos lab on Anolis sagrei  and to observe as many other herps as we could.

We spent the majority of our time on South Bimini. We sampled from the well-maintained Nature Trail, where we found all four anole species (Anolis sagreiAnolis smaragdinusAnolis angusticeps, and Anolis distichus) and a Bimini boa among diverse habitat types, including blackland coppice and open Coccothrinax shrub. We also spent a couple of nights searching in some mangrove forest near the airport, which yielded only A. sagrei and A. angusticeps and in low abundance at that. The “Fountain of Youth” ended up being a gold mine for Sphaerodactylus nigropunctatus as well as boas — we caught 3 here.

We also did a fair amount of exploring. Our hosts for our house rental wanted to make sure we had a great time in Bimini and so they insisted on boating us out to a couple of the nearby islands for some snorkeling. Of course, we saw this as the perfect opportunity to catch a few lizards. Our first destination was Gun Cay, a small island a few miles to the south of Bimini. Pavitra and Jason entertained our hosts by collecting shells and feeding stingrays. Meanwhile, despite our hosts’ curiosity that we wanted to go wander in the brush, Graham and I nabbed 10 adult male A. sagrei in less than an hour. We also saw several Ameiva auberiAnolis smaragdinus, and some sort of very large rodent (does anyone know about Hutia reintroductions in the Bahamas?).

The following day, our hosts insisted we come with them to a small island 20+ miles to the north of Bimini (Great Isaac Cay) where they promised us dolphins and hammerhead sharks. On the way to the island we saw several dolphins, tons of flying fish, sea turtles, and several large nurse sharks. As we approached the island, I saw the mature Casuarina forest and yelled down to Graham from the crow’s nest tower, “I want to go explore there!”  Our hosts got us as close as they could to the rocky shore (dangerously close it seemed, the hull almost hit the rocky karst island) and all four of us hopped onto the island. The island had an abandoned lighthouse and buildings from the 1800’s that we explored. We were shocked to not find a single anole on Isaac Island, although we did find Sphaerodactylus nigropunctatus and Ameiva auberi.

The isolated Great Isaac Cay with ruins from the late 1800's.

The isolated Great Isaac Cay with ruins from the late 1800’s.

The trip was a huge success. In total, we came across all but five of the reptiles of Bimini. Surprisingly, we were unable to find any Bahamian racers (Alsophis vudii) other than roadkills, though most of our field time was at night. Unsurprisingly, we did not find either of the blind snakes or the dwarf boa, the latter of which tends to be more common in the rainy season. As expected, A. sagrei was the most abundant anole on Bimini. We came across A. angusticeps and A. smaragdinus with equal frequency and actually encountered only a few A. distichus. We did most of our searching at night, so this may be a reflection on different sleeping behaviors rather than abundance.

In summary, we were able to observe:

  • 140+ Anolis sagrei males and females
  • Sphaerodactylus nigropunctatus (black-dotted dwarf gecko)
  • Sphaerodactylus argus (ocellated dwarf gecko)
  • Dozens of Leiocephalus carinatus (curly-tail lizard)
  • Chilabothrus strigilatus fosteri (Bimini boa)
  • a handful of Anolis distichusAnolis smaragdinusAnolis angusticeps

We also saw a number of other herps that we were not able to catch or didn’t need data from:

  • Ameiva auberi (Bimini ameiva)
  • Eleutherodactylus planirostris (greenhouse frog)
  • Osteopilus septentrionalis (Cuban tree frog)
  • Hemidactylus mabouia (invasive house gecko)


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Some Sleepy Anoles from Costa Rica

I’m in southern Costa Rica doing field work with bats, but once an anole lover, always an anole lover so when I get a night off I like to go herping. Since everyone loves a sleeping anole (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, among others), I thought I’d share some photos that a friend and I took while wandering around at night. I’m not sure what the last one is; I’m guessing Anolis polylepis (we’re at 1100m at the Las Cruces Biological Station and it was sleeping about 1m above the ground).

Anolis capito. Photo by Jon Flanders

Anolis capito. Photo by Jon Flanders

Anolis aquaticus. Photo by Jon Flanders

Anolis aquaticus. Photo by Jon Flanders

Anolis polylepis? Photo by Jon Flanders

Anolis polylepis? Photo by Jon Flanders

Postura de Anolis huilae: Communal Nesting!

En el marco de mi investigación sobre la Eco-fisiología térmica de Anolis huilae, me encontré (en mi finca) con un par de posturas, una con cuatro huevos y otra con 22 huevos. Este hallazgo me sorprendió, al encontrar diferentes tamaños en los huevos.

Postura de Anolis huilae, Juntas (Ibagué-Tolima-Colombia)

Postura de Anolis huilae, Juntas (Ibagué-Tolima-Colombia)

En mi curiosidad por determinar si efectivamente se trataba de huevos de la especie en mención, me di a la tarea de abrir uno para corroborar, encontrando un individuo en un estadío de su formación (el ejemplar fue donado al Laboratorio de Herpetología de la Universida del Tolima).

Embrión de Anolis huilae.

Embrión de Anolis huilae.

He comenzado hacerle el seguimiento a esa postura, in situ, midiendo y pesando cada uno de los huevos.

Considero que este hallazgo aportará detalles acerca de la historia de vida de Anolis huilae, aún desconocida.

Updates on Anolis lividus from Montserrat’s Volcanic Exclusion Zone

Image of the 1995 eruption of the Soufrière Hills volcano on Montserrat.

Image of the 1995 eruption of the Soufrière Hills volcano on Montserrat. Photo from Wikipedia.

On July 18, 1995 something big happened on a tiny little island in the Lesser Antilles. The Soufrière Hills volcano erupted on Montserrat, an island only about 40 square miles in size that is nestled between Nevis, Antigua, and Guadeloupe. The eruption buried the (then) capital city of Plymouth under several meters of ash and pyroclastic flow. More than a dozen nearby towns were also destroyed. Residents in the south of the island had to evacuate, leaving their homes and land behind. Since then, Montserrat has experienced considerable volcanic activity. In fact, when I was on the island in 2010, I witnessed a major dome collapse, an event that was magnificent to see on the ground, and was even observable from space. I’ve spent some time trying to find Anolis lividus, Montserrat’s endemic anole, across the island, with particular focus on finding it in the south, where volcanic impact has been greatest. Montserrat is basically divided in half by the Belham River Valley, a barren bed of ash that effectively separates the habitable north of the island from the more inhospitable south. I’ve spent many hours in the south of the island searching for A. lividus over a few years. In my experience, the lizards were not abundant (if to be found at all) south of the Belham. Granted, access to this region was very restricted, so I didn’t get to spend a whole lot of time there, but I only ever saw two lizards (a mating pair) on a tree in Richmond Hill, a part of the southern half that’s in Zone C. Towns in Zone C are close to the Belham River Valley and are occasionally opened up for visitors when the volcano has been quiet for a while. Currently, Zone C has ‘unrestricted access’, meaning people can visit day and night without an escort. There is also a relatively unexplored portion of Montserrat southeast of the volcano (the South Soufrière Hills) that has plenty of good habitat and is isolated by the rest of the island by the volcano. There have been a few focused expeditions to that part of the island (for example, to collect individuals of Leptodactylus fallax, the ‘mountain chicken’ frog, for a breeding program), but I haven’t been able to get there.

My interest in A. lividus lay mostly in understanding how recolonization works. Can the lizards cross the Belham River Valley, or is it too hot and inhospitable? As access to inner zones increases, will humans mediate transport into the south of the island? If they get there, will they persist? Although I haven’t been to the island in a few years, I remain very interested in the system. I recently received news on Anolis lividus from Nicolas Tirard, a new resident on the island. He had visited Zone C (which is currently open to daytime visitors) and found an individual of A. lividus. Nicolas informed me that he spotted the lizard (a male) on the terrace of an abandoned home in Richmond Hill, which is the same neighborhood where I found lizards almost six years earlier. Nicolas spent about 30 minutes canvassing this area and only found one lizard. For anyone with experience finding anoles in the Caribbean, particularly in the Lesser Antilles, we know that they are generally much more abundant than that. So I would reckon that lizards in Zone C are probably still pretty scant. I wonder if the lizard Nicolas did find descended from previous inhabitants in that area (for example, from the mating pair I observed earlier), or whether there have been more recent dispersal events. He went back on another occasion to St. George’s Hill, which he says is more densely forested than Richmond Hill, and saw three lizards there. When I visited St. George’s Hill a few years ago it was pretty barren, so clearly the habitat is recovering there.

Anolis lividus from Richmond Hill, Montserrat.

Anolis lividus from Richmond Hill, Montserrat. Photo by Nicolas Tirard.

I asked Nicolas if he thought that humans were transporting the lizards (accidentally or otherwise) to Zone C through increased transit. Nicolas reckons the lizards can get there on their own right now. He says, “I don’t think it is a human-mediated recolonization, even if there is traffic going back and forth, because the vegetation has grown again in the Belham river, and it is probable that anole can now cross it by themselves.” The finding that the Belham is vegetated is interesting – during my visits there it was a hot, barren bed of ash. The only herps I saw there were enterprising iguanas, boldly basking on piles of hot ash. I also saw an iguana on the roof of a house once in Richmond Hill. As the exclusion zone becomes more accessible, I hope that people will try to find A. lividus (and other organisms) there and, hopefully, share their observations with the Anole Annals.

Nicholas shares his observations on his blog. He has also seen a blind snake (Typhlops) and several iguanas in the exclusion zone. Check out his blog for more.

Another image of the male Anolis lividus spotted in Richmond Hill.

Another image of the male Anolis lividus spotted in Richmond Hill. Photo by Nicolas Tirard.

Communal Nesting in Anolis angusticeps

Previous posts have discussed communal nesting behavior among a number of anole species, whereby females deposit eggs in the same cavity. A new paper by AA‘s own Michele Johnson and friends extends this growing body of observations, stretching all the way back to Stan Rand’s 1967 work. This behavior has been previously reported for the Cuban Twig Anole (Anolis angusticeps) in Cuba, though apparently not in the Bahamas. According to Robinson et al. (2014), at least nine West Indian anole species are now known to engage in communal nesting, with others potentially to be added. AA has also called attention to a tenth mainland species (A. lionotus), described in Montgomery et al. (2011). So these observations bring to mind some questions: what intrinsic factors of a nest cavity draw multiple females to oviposit there? Are female offspring returning to the site in subsequent years to lay their own eggs? Does this behavior vary individually or regionally? Let us know if you have some of your own observations.


Communal nest of Anolis angusticeps on South Bimini. Figure 2 from Robinson et al. 2014, photo by B. Kircher.


Finding the “Rare” Anolis duellmani

Like many quests to find rare herps, this is a story of courage, persistence, and strength. Just kidding; it was a piece of cake.

Anolis duellmani was described by Fitch and Henderson (1973) based on four specimens from the southern slope of the Volcán San Martín Tuxtla, Veracruz, Mexico. Even though the phylogenetic position of A. duellmani is uncertain, no additional morphological variation had been described for the species. As part of a major effort led by Dr. Adrián Nieto-Montes de Oca and Dr. Steven Poe to untangle the systematics of Mesoamerican anoles, Israel Solano-Zavaleta, Levi N. Gray, and I went to Los Tuxtlas to search for the elusive species.

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More Morphological Oddities in Anolis sagrei

A few months ago, I shared with you some of the odder morphological variations my field assistants and I encountered while measuring Anolis sagrei in Gainesville, FL. We went on to measure quite a few more lizards, and saw quite a few more oddities, as well as some fairly gruesome injuries. Here are some of my favourite examples:

1. A far better picture of a doubly-regenerated tail.

double regeneration

2. A jaw injury that resulted in the left and right sides of the jaws being dissociated from each other.

jaw injury

3. A cut hyoid. I imagine this lizard was no longer able to extend his dewlap.


4. A nasty head injury. We saw this lizard three or four more times after we measured him, and his wound seemed to have healed up completely.

head injury

5. A brutal leg injury.


6. A male with not only an impressive tail crest but also some nice red tail coloration.

tail crest


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.

A Doubly Regenerated Tail and Other Morphological Oddities

I’m doing fieldwork with Anolis sagrei in Gainesville, FL, this summer. We now have about 125 lizards  measured and marked, and have come across a number of interesting morphological oddities in these lizards. Most interesting so far is this doubly regenerated tail, i.e. there appear to be two spots at which the tail has regenerated, which means a regenerated tail must have broken and regenerated again.

A doubly regenerated tail in a male Anolis sagrei in Gainesville, FL.

A doubly regenerated tail in a male Anolis sagrei in Gainesville, FL.

Approximately three minutes before we noticed this tail, my field assistant Christian Perez asked me if double regenerations were possible, and I confidently said “no.” As Jonathan Losos puts it in Lizards in an Evolutionary Tree, “when a tail regenerates, the new portion of is made of a rod of cartilage and thus lacks the intravertebral breakage planes that enable an unregenerated tail to autotomize.” So how did this double regeneration happen? Anyone seen this before?

The next oddity is this male with a mysteriously shortened upper jaw:

A shortened upper jaw in a male Anolis sagrei in Gainesville, FL.

A shortened upper jaw in a male Anolis sagrei in Gainesville, FL.

Third, we have a partially discoloured dewlap:


A discoloured dewlap in Gainesville, FL

A discoloured dewlap in Gainesville, FL

And finally, here’s an addition to our collection (1, 2) of multiply tailed lizards:

A double tail in an Anolis sagrei in Gainesville, FL.

A double tail in an Anolis sagrei in Gainesville, FL.


When You Can Not Get The Results You Expected, Use What You Can Get!

An adult Anolis sagrei male specimen from Santzepu, Sheishan District, Chiayi County, southwestern Taiwan.

An adult Anolis sagrei male specimen from Santzepu, Sheishan District, Chiayi County, southwestern Taiwan.

Field research does not always go the way we plan. My research partners and I were reminded of that in 2004, when we tried to use a mark-and-recapture method to determine the population sizes of brown anoles (Anolis sagrei) in a small betelnut palm (Areca catecha L) plantation in Santzepu, Sheishan District, Chiayi County, southwestern Taiwan. We ended up with too low recapture rates for our estimates. Still all was not lost! Of the lizards we did recapture, we were able to calculate monthly growth rates and monthly growth percentages. The results indicated that at least some individuals experienced active growth throughout the year. Our results also supported the findings of Schoener and Schoener (1978) and Cox et al. (2009) that smaller individuals of both sexes grew faster than larger conspecifics of the same gender, and that males grew faster than females. We also determined that growth rates of both sexes decreased during the peak reproductive period, suggesting that available energy is directed primarily to reproduction and the associated to behavior, and that energy is only directed towards growth once the requirements for reproduction are met.

The experience from this study convinced me again that it is important to collect as much data as possible when conducting field studies – it is hard to predict where it may come in handy at a later stage.