Montserrat: Caribbean Herpetofauna Island Of The Day

Anolis lividus. Photo by Jonathan  Losos

Anolis lividus. Photo by Jonathan Losos

Situated at the northern end of the the Lesser Antillean island chain, Montserrat is home to a number of interesting herps, including the endemic galliwasp Diploglossus montisserrati, the endemic skink Mabuya montserratae, and the endemic anole Anolis lividus. This anole was bravely investigated and reported on by Anole Annals’ intrepid anoleologist Martha Munoz. If your inquiry into the reason I used the words “bravely” and “intrepid” has left you a little lost, the smoke Montserrat is emitting from its active volcano will drag you to the answer: Martha was on the island when the Soufrière Hills dome collapsed and spewed volcanic ash 9 miles skyward!


Collapse of the dome sends ash skywards. January 2010. Photo by Martha Munoz.


The view from space. Image from NASA.

An Odd Interaction in Sitana and Anolis

When videotaping Sitana last year, I noticed an odd interaction between a male and female, wherein the female suddenly ran towards the male, and after he displayed a little bit at her, she sat on him. She remained there for a couple of minutes, and then ran away.

Anolis cristatellus female sitting on male (photo by Kristin Winchell)

Anolis cristatellus female sitting on male (photo by Kristin Winchell)

I had no idea what was happening–there were at least two more females in the vicinity, and I wondered if this sitting behaviour was an instance of female competition over the male. But I didn’t see the behaviour again, and thought no more of it until Kristin Winchell mentioned that she had seen similar behaviour in her captive Anolis cristatellus, being housed in male-female pairs for a common garden experiment. Moreover, she has noticed the same pairs repeatedly engaging in such interactions. Any thoughts on what might be going on?

Anolis cristatellus female sitting on male (photo by Kristin Winchell)

Anolis cristatellus female sitting on male (photo by Kristin Winchell)

SICB 2014: You Decide What To Read About

When AA contributors attend scientific conferences, we try our best to post about as many talks and posters as we can visit, but inevitably we simply can’t visit them all. I will be attending the annual meeting for the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology this upcoming January. This will be the third consecutive year in which I blog about SICB and I want to try a different approach this time. Rather than choosing the talks and posters myself, I want to get your input on what types of research most interest you. If you like to read about new research presented at conferences, then please take the survey provided below. Choose up to three different subject matters and I’ll decide my schedule based on the results. You can access a list of anole-related presentations here. Most presentations can fit into more than one category, but I just want a general idea of what most interests the readers. Now go vote!

Explaining Changes To Species Names In Nicholson et al. 2012

I’m a little embarrassed to be writing this post, but I’m still unable to figure out some of the proposed changes to anole binomials in Nicholson et al.’s (2012) taxonomic revision of Anolis. I’m a real novice with implementation of “The Code” and the rules of the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature, so I’m looking for a bit of help from AA readers who are more expert than I.

I understand that some of Nicholson et al.’s proposed changes to specific epithets are necessitated by the fact that their taxonomic revision would change the gender of generic epithets (e.g., Anolis chlorocyanus would be Deiroptyx chlorocyana due to the fact that Anolis is masculine and Deiroptyx is feminine). These types of changes are demanded by The Code’s article 31.2. However, I am struggling to understand Nicholson et al.’s proposed changes to twelve binomials that – to my novice eyes – do not appear to be due strictly to changes in the gender of generic epithets (see table below). Because the authors of this paper include leading authorities on taxonomy and nomenclature, I trust that these changes are not simply  the result of typographical errors.

In most cases cited in my table, Nicholson et al. add or change vowels in the correct original spellings of species epithets, where the “correct original spelling” is defined under The Code as “the spelling used in the work in which the name was established.” Based on my amateur reading of The Code, changes to correct original spellings are not permitted  unless it can be shown that the original spelling was inadvertently incorrect due to a printer’s error or related mistakes unrelated to the authors lack of familiarity with Latin (ICZN, Article 32). Can somebody enlighten me about which articles in the code govern the changes in the table below?

In this table, I provide the genus to which Nicholson et al. assign each species, the gender of this genus, the exact spelling for the specific epithet used in their manuscript, the spelling of the specific epithet from the Reptile Database, the spelling of the specific epithet from the original publication (NAs indicate that I have yet to check the original citation4), the type of change that Nicholson et al. have proposed, and the citation of the original description. Below the table, I provide some additional details about three specific cases. Thanks in advance for your help.

Genus Gender Nicholson et al. Reptile Database Original Spelling Change Description Citation
Anolis Masculine anfilioquioi anfiloquioi anfiloquioi o to io Garrido 1980
Anolis Masculine maclientus macilentus macilentus e to ie Garrido and Hedges 1992
Anolis Masculine pumilis pumilus pumilus4 u to i Garrido 1988
Ctenonotus Masculine monoensis monensis monensis4 e to oe Stejneger 1904
Ctenonotus Masculine nubilis nubilus nubilus4 u to i Garman 1887
Dactyloa Feminine anatolorus anatoloros anatoloros o to u Ugueto et al. 2007
Dactyloa Feminine euskalerrari euskalerriari euskalerriari ia to a Barros et al. 1996
Deiroptyx Feminine domincanus [see comments for correction and clarification] dominicanus dominicanus delete i Rieppel 1980 [Note: the original version of this post incorrectly referenced de Quieroz et al. 1998]
Norops1 Masculine forbesi forbesorum forbesi si to sorum Smith & Van Gelder 1955
Norops Masculine schiedei [see comments] schiedii schiedii4 ei to ii Wiegmann 1834
Norops2 Masculine williamsi williamsii williamsii ii to i Bocourt 1870
Norpos3 ? parvicirculatus parvicirculata parvicirculata4 rops to rpos and a to us Alvarex del Toro & Smith 1956

I have a bit more information about three cases in this table.

1. Anolis forbesi is the original spelling in Smith and Van Gelder (1955), but Michels and Bauer (2004) corrected this name to Anolis forbesorum due to the fact that this species is named after more than one person. Michels and Bauer (2004) suggest that this change is a “justified emendation” under Articles 31.1.2-3 and 33.2.2 of The Code. We know that at least one author of Nicholson et al. (2012) was aware of this report because Michels and Bauer thank Jay Savage for having provided thoughtful comments on their manuscript. I’m not sure why Nicholson et al. (2012) reject this proposed change by using forbesi.

2. Nicholson et al. (2012) delete the final ‘i’ from a species originally named Anolis williamsii, in spite of the fact that article 33.4 of the ICZN states that “[t]he use of the genitive ending -i in a subsequent spelling of a species-group name that is a genitive based upon a personal name in which the correct original spelling ends with -ii, or vice versa, is deemed to be an incorrect subsequent spelling, even if the change in spelling is deliberate.” Which part of this rule or related rules in The Code permits changes from ‘ii’ to ‘i’ under some conditions?

3. Nicholson et al. (2012) change both the generic and specific epithets of Anolis parvicirculata when they refer to this species throughout their manuscript as Norpos parvicirculatus (see pages 91 and 96). Although I have included this change in my table for completeness, it is the one change that I think we must attribute to a typo, even though the misspelling of Norops as Norpos appears at least twice. The change from parvicirculatus seems likely due to the fact that this species originally, and incorrectly, had a feminine rather than a masculine specific epithet.

4. This post was revised to include original spellings confirmed by Peter Uetz, thus no more NAs in the table. Thanks Peter!


Variation in Anolis equestris

Last week, while going through some old pictures  I had stored on my computer , I happened upon a few photos of  A. equestris that I must have saved back when I  used to surf the web for pictures of anoles. Taking a second to glance through the pictures for old times sake, I realized something: A. equestris is actually a quite variable species. Now I’m sure others besides myself have realized this before, the people who went about naming the long list of subspecies that I just found out this species has for example, but I can’t seem to find pictures of some of these subspecies so as to identify the animals in the photos, if they are indeed different subspecies that is, so I decided to post them here in hopes of getting an ID. I have chosen one photo for each of the different forms that I have noticed. I have my guesses about many of them and I’m pretty sure about a couple others. I have written my guess, if any, under each photo along with the photo reference; could anyone who knows the ID of a particular animal post their opinion in the comments? Thanks in advance!

Anolis equestris potior or Anolis equestris cyaneus

Anolis equestris potior

Anolis equestris equestris

Anolis equestris equestris
(introduced to Miami)


Photo from: ? probably Anolis equestris equestris

Photo from:
probably Anolis equestris  or A.luteogularis
Photo apparently taken at La Habana.
two other photos: (1,2)


Anois equestris, photo by Henk Wallays.  license:CC BY-NC photo from Anolis equestris thomasi

Anolis equestris, photo by Henk Wallays.
license:CC BY-NC
photo from
Anolis equestris thomasi

photo from this pdf

photo from this pdf. 
Other photos of this form (1, 2)
And another one taken near Playa Larga.

Continue reading Variation in Anolis equestris

Agamids One-Upping Anoles Once Again: The Belly Dewlap

Photograph of Mantheyus phuwuanensis by S. Manthey from Ulrich Manthey's book on agamids of SE Asia.

Photograph of Mantheyus phuwuanensis by S. Manthey from Ulrich Manthey’s book on agamids of SE Asia.

Posts about how other lizards have outdone anoles in one way or another are a common theme here on Anole Annals (e.g., 1, 2, 3, 4). Keeping this trend going, I wanted to share a photograph of a remarkable species of lizard found in northeastern Thailand and Laos. This photograph of Mantheyus phuwuanensis is by S. Manthey and appears in Ulrich Manthey’s book Agamid Lizards of Southern Asia: Draconinae 2 Leiolepidinae. Very little is known about this species. The photo caption in the book notes that this is a male display. The Reptile Database has a few references, but most are not readily accessible. The one paper I could get my hands on is Ananjeva and Stuart’s (2001) paper from the Russian Journal of Herpetology that moves this species from Ptyctolaemus to its own monotypic genus based on the presence of femoral pores and other traits. Ananjeva and Stuart (2001) don’t comment on the belly dewlap, but do note that the species lives along rock streams and that it spreads its ribs and becomes dorsoventrally flattened when handled, a “behavior that is almost certainly an adaptation for fitting into rock crevices.”

Literature Cited:
Ananjeva, N. B. and B. L. Stuart. 2001. The agamid lizard Ptyctolaemus phuwuanensis Manthey and Nabhitabhata, 1991 from Thailand and Laos represents a new genus. Russian Journal of Herpetology 8:165-170.

New Look For Anole Annals

We were long overdue for a little make-over here at Anole Annals, so we just updated our WordPress theme. We’re also going to be adding some new header images derived from this year’s  photo contest. We will include a credit to the copyright holder on each image, but please let us know if you’d prefer not to see your image in our header. We hope you enjoy the new look and please let us know if you notice any problems.

Natural History Of The Little Known Anolis blanquillanus

blanquillanus rivas

Anolis blanquillanus. Photo by Martin Dávila.

Anolis blanquillanus is a rare lizard that occurs on the flattened Blanquilla Island and on Los Hermanos archipelago (the Brother’s Archipelago), which comprises a series of seven islets or Morros that emerge abruptly from the sea.  These islands are ubiquitous in the Venezuelan Caribbean Sea and have never been connected to the mainland. A recent visit to Los Hermanos archipelago from 16-19th of August 2013, sponsored by the Laboratorio de Protección y Manejo de Cuencas at the Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Científicas (IVIC), allowed us to make some observations of this interesting lizard. Specifically, we had the opportunity to visit Morro Fondeadero (36 ha, 0.5 Km2, 120 m of elevation), one of the seven Morros that make up Los Hermanos archipelago. This group of islands forms an arc to the southeast of Isla La Blanquilla and is located approximately 80 km NW of Isla de Margarita, 10 km SE of La Blanquilla, and 160 km N of the Venezuelan mainland (Puerto La Cruz).

Morro Pando seen from Morro Fondeadero. On the background Morro grueso, behind this, El Rajao, one of the two Morochos (The twins). Photo by Martin Davila.

Morro Pando seen from Morro Fondeadero. In the background is Morro grueso, behind this, El Rajao, one of the two Morochos (the Twins). Photo by Martin Davila.

One of the goals of this trip was to study the terrestrial herpetofauna, which is mainly composed of lizards, although marine turtles also inhabit the surrounding areas (but there are not nesting beaches). My personal goal was to collect an undescribed species of Gymnophthalmid lizard, observed more than 70 years ago in this archipelago by the Dutch naturalist P. Wagennar Hummelinck, but never collected until our recent survey work. Los Hermanos and La Blanquilla were surveyed by Hummelinck during the late 1930s, which resulted in the description of Anolis blanquillanus and Phyllodactylus rutteni. More recently, these islands are rarely visited, although on occasion fishermen climb to Morro Fondeadero mainly to make a prayer to the Virgen del Valle (the Valley Virgin) in order that she protect them during the time they are working on the sea.

During the five days we spent at Morro Fondeadero, we had the opportunity to take some data on Anolis blanquillanus, the most commonly observed reptile on the island. The vegetation in this Morro is composed of cactuses, some bushes and isolated trees (Ficus sp.). Temperatures can reach over 40ºC and the relief possesses much inclination. For this reason, we decided to sleep on a little less inclined rocky surface that would be a safer place to sleep, although not comfortable.

During the first day, after we found the place for our provisional camp, we opened a small trail in search for the summit to verify vegetation data we had obtained using satellite images. On this trail we saw the first individual of A. blanquillanus; after that first encounter, many additional juveniles and adults appeared before our eyes, including males fighting! Some individuals were very curious, approaching us very close, head bobbing and displaying their dewlaps.

Female A. blanquillanus. Photo by Martin Dávila.

Female A. blanquillanus. Photo by Martin Dávila.

To my surprise, all individuals observed were in good condition in spite of the very dry habitat resulting from the particularly long and dry season. I observed some individuals jumping from their perch trying to catch insects. Also I had the opportunity to see a big male swallowing a small fruit of Ficus sp. One individual that we collected defecated digested fruit of Ficus sp. while it was in the bag. Also, I was surprised with how two males were fighting only approximately two meters away from us without caring much for our presence. Anolis blanquillanus, along with Gonatodes naufragus, Phyllodatylus rutteni and Iguana iguana, are the only species (all natives) that have colonized Morro Fondeadero. Interestingly, species such as Cnemidophorus leucopsammus, the most common lizard in La Blanquilla, is absent, although Hummelinck reported the species there. Nine of us worked intensively during the day for four days, and no Cnemidophorus were observed, nor were P. rutteni (also observed by Hummelinck in 1940). Our findings suggest that it is unlikely C. leucopsammus ever existed there; however, it might exist in low densities, or it might have been extirpated by exotic species, such as domestic rats (Rattus rattus) that are very common on the island.

Continue reading Natural History Of The Little Known Anolis blanquillanus

2014 Anole Calendar Now On Sale; 20% Off Today

calendar cover

marchBook-ended by this year’s photo contest winners, the 2014 anole calendar features 13 spectacular anole photographs selected by you, Anole Annals’ readers. Unlike previous year’s calendars, this year’s edition has a heavy South American influence thanks to photographs by Lucas Bustamante and Diana Troya. In addition to the two contest winning snaps of A. chrysolepis and A. gemmosus, other pin-ups include A. princepsA. proboscis, and A. biporcatusThat’s not to say that some of our favorite Caribbean species don’t also make an appearance. Hispaniola is particularly highlighted, thanks to several photos by Cristian Marte, including stunning shots of A. bahorucoensis and A. coelestinus. in addition, there’s a lovely silhouette of A. sagrei displaying and an intriguing vignette of a tree boa and a sleeping A. aeneus. Check them all out at, where the calendars are now on sale. Til midnite tonight, you can get 20% with the discount code “TDAYPOSTSALE.”

Editor’s Note, Monday, Dec. 2: 60% off until 1 pm Eastern time today, code : ZAZZLEMONDAY

feb image

Sitana Fight!

Sitana at Manimutharu, Tamil Nadu (photo by Ambika Kamath)

Sitana at Manimutharu, Tamil Nadu (photo by Ambika Kamath)

Earlier this year, I lamented not having any cameras when I witnessed the most epic fight in 5 months of Sitana fieldwork. As luck would have it, I saw an equally impressive fight on the last day of my sixth month of  Sitana observation, and this time I had a video camera! I was working in Manimutharu, Tamil Nadu, at the Agasthyamalai Community-Based Conservation Centre, home to Sitana with partially-coloured dewlaps.

A map of the Sitana populations I've sampled.

A map of the Sitana populations I’ve sampled.

This male-male interaction lasted over 11 minutes, and ended only because I disturbed the lizards. Neither male was injured at all when I caught them after the fight. I’ve broken the video into two parts, one short and one long. The video begins when I realised I was watching two lizards–one is on the large rock to the right, and the other just below the rock on the left. Apologies for the shaky camera-work.

In between the two videos is over two minutes of the lizards biting each other ceaselessly. This length of fighting is atypical–actual combat between Sitana males is usually over in seconds, though the displays and staring-competitions can persist for much longer.  This second video gives a better feel for the pace of these interactions. The lizards start out near the rocks on the right of the screen.

Ecuadorian Sweep of 2013 Anole Annals Photo Contest

Goldenscale Anole (Anolis chrysolepis) small

Anolis chrysolepis. © Lucas M. Bustamante-Enríquez/TROPICAL HERPING

It’s over, it’s all over! After more than 50 fabulous submissions, 600 votes, and detailed review of the finalists by an all-star team of anole photography experts, Anole Annals is pleased to unveil this year’s winners. Last year’s theme was blue anoles, this year’s: Ecuador!

The Grand Prize winner (above) is a lovely photo of Anolis chrysolepis taken in Amazonian Ecuador by Lucas Bustamante (check out Lucas’ photography on the Tropical Herping website or in his new book on the herpetofauna of Mindo, Ecuador). Lucas reports that the photo was taken in Yachana Lodge, an ecotourism lodge located on the Napo River in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Says Lucas: “I was walking in the morning to the viewpoint and I found this male Goldenscale Anole (Anolis chrysolepis) making a display. I took my camera as soon as possible but I couldn’t photograph it “red-handed.” However, he maintained an elegant posture and I was happy with the picture. This anole lives in low vegetation and litter. Males, females and juveniles are very territorial.”

Second prize goes to Diana Troya for her fabulous photo (below) of two Anolis gemmosus males displaying to each other, tongues out, bodies raised and compressed. What a gorgeous dewlap, especially when backlit! Diana’s reports that the photo was taken “in the Natural Reserve Rio Guajalito in Santo Domingo de los Tsachilas-Ecuador. I was a field assistant of Andrea Narvaez, who is doing her doctoral thesis on the ecology of Anolis and as part of her project we had to film the display of Anolis species.”

Congratulations to both winners!


Anolis gemmosus. Photo by Diana Troya.

Anoles Take Over SICB 2014

With all my preparations for Thanksgiving underway, I had almost forgotten that the highlight of the holiday season is upon us. I am referring, of course, to the annual meeting for the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB). Unlike most scientific conferences, which tend to host their meetings during the summer, SICB bucks the trend and meets during the first week of January. To me what is most exciting about SICB is the diversity of work that is presented there. SICB draws biomechanists, ecologists, physiologists, and geneticists, among many others, under the same roof. Thus, for those of us who are interested in anoles, SICB is a one-stop shop for learning about what’s new and exciting in Anolis lizards. In recent years, anoles have had a very strong presence at SICB. At the 2012 meeting in Charleston, South Carolina, there were 26 anole-related talks and posters. Last year’s meeting in San Francisco saw a bit of a lull, as there were only 18 talks and posters focusing on anoles. The program for the 2014 meeting has just been released, and a few quick searches using the terms “Anolis” and “anole” turn up 22 talks and posters. I hope this means that the Anolis presence at SICB is back on the rise. I will be posting about as many talks and posters as I can visit, so stay tuned. The talks and posters are given in alphabetical order by author below.

Anolis talks and posters at SICB 2014.

Anolis talks and posters at SICB 2014.

The Grenadines: Caribbean Herpetofauna Islands Of The Day

The Grenadines. ( Archipelago)

The Grenadines. ( Archipelago)

Check out the Grenadines, a polyphyletic chain of approximately 600 islands found at the southern end of the Lesser Antilles. The islands north of the Martinique Channel are governed by St. Vincent. The islands south of the Martinique Channel are governed by Grenada. (Grenada, you’ll recall, was invaded by the US in 1983).

Given Martinique Channel’s apparent role as a political boundary, I wondered if it is also an important biogeographical boundary, much like Wallace’s Line in Indonesia. Wallace’s line, which passes through through the Lombok Strait between Bali and Lombok and between Borneo and Sulawesi, denotes a clear faunal break between Asian and Oceanic faunas. The biogeographical explanation is that Wallace’s line follows the transition from continental shelf to deep water channel, which serves as a barrier for migration.

Martinique Channel (line added).

Martinique Channel (line added).

A look at the Caribherp distribution of herpetofauna found on the Grenadines suggests that the Martinique Channel is not actually a biogeographic break. The distribution of most herps found on the Grenadines crosses the channel, suggesting that the channel is not a barrier to migration. And, consistent with this, Google Earth suggests that the channel is not very deep.

Oh, almost forgot: the Anolis species on the Grenadines are A. aeneus, A. richardi, and the invasive A. sagrei.

Anolis aeneus. Photo from

Anolis aeneus. Photo from

Anolis richardi. (Photo from

Anolis richardi. (Photo from

Trapelus flavimaculatus – Another Anole-Like Agamid

Trapelus flavimaculatus displaying. photo from

Trapelus flavimaculatus displaying.(above photo does not quite show dewlap at full extension). Photo from

Quick—when you think of an agitated anole, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Perhaps a quick color change, maybe even some squeaking and biting and, of course, a couple flashes of the dewlap all may have been high on the list. Well, not to be outdone by its cousins from the new world, the Middle-eastern yellow-spotted Agama (Trapelus flavimaculatus)  has come up with a spectacular display that involves all three behaviors listed above.

Now while its true that when it comes to agamid dewlaps, this species is not as well endowed as a few others (Hypsilurus and Draco come to mind), no other agamid (to my knowledge, that is) displays quite like it. First off, the lizard changes  from its usual drab brown coloration (essential for a desert dwelling lizard)  to a  light cobalt blue while its ordinarily pale yellow tail glows neon orange. Next, the lizard opens its mouth and displays the bright orange inside of its jaws while making a hissing noise.

yellow spotted rock agama- regular coloration. photo from

yellow spotted rock agama- regular coloration. photo from

The final act to this performance comes when the lizard extends its deep cobalt blue dewlap at the attacker. As soon as the threat is gone, the display is over and the lizard resumes its usual coloration. These lizards also use this display as a means of attracting/advertising their presence to females, so that’s another thing they might have in common with Anolis (I’m not exactly sure if the Anolis dewlap actually helps attract females). I thing it’s interesting that while anoles turn darker to convey agitation, these lizards actually become brighter. I think this has something to do with the fact that these are desert lizards and the blue color is really more in contrast to the desert  environment.

On a related note, how many other lizards out there have the ability to change color based on their mood?

New Education Films On Evolution Featuring Finches, Anoles And Darwin Released By Howard Hughes Medical Institute

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute is one of the wealthiest private foundations supporting scientific research in the world, with annual payouts exceeding $800 million. One branch of HHMI focuses on science education activities and is headed by renowned evolutionary developmental biologist Sean Carroll. Starting several years ago, HHMI has produced a series of short films on evolution, each focusing on a topic and usually focusing on a particular case study. Previous films in the “Making of the Fittest” series have centered on lava mice, sticklebacks, icefish and humans. Yesterday, HHMI announced the release of a new series, “The Origin of Species,” featuring films on Darwin and Wallace (a historical dramatization that marks a break from the approach of previous films), Darwin’s finches and…anoles! The films are short, approximately 15 minutes for birds and lizards, 30 for the big men. The HHMI press release explains more and provides short video clips, and the films themselves can be watched here:

The Origin of Species: The Making of a Theory

Video Clip

The Origin of Species: The Beak of the Finch

Video Clip

The Origin of Species: Lizards in an Evolutionary Tree

Video Clip

The press release notes that the films are only part of the educational initiative, complemented by a variety of teaching tools:

“HHMI’s Educational Resources Group has developed an extensive set of teaching materials that will help teachers use the films. All the resources are freely available on the website. “The films’ contents are built upon through additional classroom discussion, activities, and further study. To maximize classroom impact, it is crucial to provide teachers with various supplements and media to support the use of the films in addressing key topics in the curriculum,” said Carroll. Carroll notes that to date, several million students have viewed previously released films and well over one-half million teacher supplements have been distributed or downloaded.”

Stay tuned for the release of materials for these films, which currently are in production and should be ready by early next year. More generally, the films are readily downloadable from the HHMI website and are distributed as DVDs.

New York Times Covers Lizard Smarts

From the New York Times, November, 19th

From the New York Times, November, 19th

Who’s hands are those in the Times?

Research that is revealing the surprising cognitive abilities of reptiles is featured in the Science Times in tomorrow’s (Nov. 19) New York Times. And not surprising to AA readers, the work of Manuel Leal on the problem-solving ability of Anolis evermanni is prominently reviewed, a topic we have discussed several times in these pages [1,2]. The article contains a nice discussion of Leal’s work, as well as several photographs and a brief appearance (of lizard, not Leal) in the accompanying video (fast forward to the 2:20 mark).

The article also discusses research on tortoises showing they can work their way through mazes, using several different approaches, to find food, and on monitor lizards that can figure out how to open a door on a tube to access mice within.

Do Black Spots On Anoles Fool Parasites Into Going Elsewhere?

With regard to the recent discussion of the black spots on the side of A. allisoni:

We saw a bunch of sarcophagid flesh fly larvae infections in canopy-dwelling Puerto Rican A. evermanni. These evermanni were sluggish and often had brown spots either on the shoulder or just dorsal and anterior to the rear legs. I captured some of these lizards and held them in captivity as the flies emerged and the flies emerged in the spots.

Now, our thinking was that the evermanni — a morphologically unspotted lizard — had these spots as a result of the fly larvae damaging the tissue from inside the body cavity. On the evermanni with fly infestations, the soon-to-be-exit holes looked like the “shoulder” spots shown  here on these lizards and on many other anole species.

In contrast, the Puerto Rican spotted A. stratulus had a much reduced frequency of sarcophagid infestation compared to evermanni living in the same canopy habitat and location. These spots often fooled me into thinking that stratulus individuals had been infected, but they were actually just spotted in the shoulder and anteriorly dorsal to the rear leg, where the flies would leave exit holes on evermanni.

One hypothesis is that perhaps morphological spots on spotted lizards fool female flies looking to larviposit on lizards into “thinking” that the lizard is already infected. An infected lizard, when it has visible spots, will soon die, too soon for a flesh fly female’s larvae to survive to the pupal stage, if the female were to larviposit on this dying lizard

I always wanted to do an experiment with the flesh flies and the evermanni and a sharpie, but ….

[Editor’s note: sarcophagid fly effect on anoles has been previously discussed in on AA]