Bold Island Lizards: The Video

Day’s Edge Production in full swing

The guys at Day’s Edge Productions keep on chugging along. Their latest offering is the first video report from their Italian island lizard project, studying the incredible variation of   wall lizards found on tiny Spanish islands. What makes this video worth checking out for anolistas is the incredible abundance and audacity of the lizards, which crawl right over the actors as the camera rolls. Anyone ever seen anoles that daring?

Can Anoles Repeat As Evolution Meeting Champions In 2012?

Last year was a banner year for anoles. As Xavier@evolutionistX tweeted at the end of the Norman, OK Evolution meetings: “The star of #evol11: Anolis lizards. They won both Fisher’s and Dobzhansky awards, would like to invite them to a celebrity party @NYC.” And who could blame him? The prestigious Dobzhansky and Fisher Awards both went to workers studying anoles, as did three of the four Young Investigators Prizes. And there were a slew of other excellent anole talks (reported on these pages last year; start at this post and work backwards, or search on “Evolution Meetings”). David Hembry summarized the meeting well on Nothing in Biology Makes Sense: “I confess, I didn’t go to the Evolution meetings for three years. I missed Minnesota in 2008 due to fieldwork, Idaho in 2009 due to illness, and Portland in 2010 due to the EAPSI. When I “returned” in 2011 in Norman, it was like everybody had switched to working on anoles and sticklebacks!” (see the rest of David’s insightful observations on this point below).

But can anoles do it again in this year’s meeting , slated to begin on Friday in Ottawa? You can rely on Anole Annals to be on hand to provide the play-by-play coverage from the spectacle of the opening ceremonies to the climactic closing mixer. And fear not: though not the grand slam of last year, anoles again will bring home some medal.

Here are the talks. Unfortunately, authors are not listed, but you can get all program information at the meeting’s program mobile app website:

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Habitat Related Life History Variation in an Anole Relative

Photo by Claus Meyer at

ResearchBlogging.orgFor many years, the South American lizard genus Polychrus has been considered the closest extant outgroup to Anolis.  In light of this phylogenetic position, the authors of a new report on the life history of Polychrus acutirostris note that “a comprehensive understanding of Polychrus might help clarify possible ecological factors related to the radiation of anoline lizards as well as to infer the existence of niche conservatism or dietary shifts related to the origin of this large lizard radiation” (Garda et al. 2012).

Members of Polychrus are superficially similar to Anolis, and are mostly medium sized arboreal and diurnal lizards.  However, Polychrus also differs from Anolis in both conspicuous (e.g., lack of toepads) and somewhat less conspicuous ways (e.g., its tendency to produce single clutches of multiple eggs, versus multiple one egg clutches in Anolis).  In their report, Garda et al. (2012) compare populations of Polychrus acutirostris found in two different Brazilian habitats to test whether size of eggs and clutch size, reproductive seasonality, diet, and size of reproductive adults varies among populations in the manner predicted by life history theory.  Although recent work makes Polychrus‘s position as the outgroup to Anolis less certain than it once was (Schulte et al. 2003, Townsend et al. 2011, and this previous AA post), we still have much to learn from the type of comparative studies that Garda et al. have implemented. Continue reading

Anoles And Banana Flowers In Hawaii

Photo by Avery Locklear at From the National Geographic Traveler 2012 photo contest.

Like they always say, it’s important to take time to smell the bananas.

Avery Locklear provides the back-story: “I saw the banana flower from a distance and approached it. Then I found the anole resting on it, sitting content. I stood there for a few minutes  as it continued to explore the banana flower.
I have so many memories of anoles from when I was younger. I always called them chameleons until several years ago, I looked them up and found more information about them. My grandmother, who lives in Florida, would sometimes find them in the house and would catch them so she could set them free. I always liked to have a look at them before she let them go.
I have lots of photos of them as they are everywhere in Florida.”

The Anoles of San Andres And Providencia

Anolis concolor from mangroves on San Andres island. Photo by Lee Fitzgerald

ResearchBlogging.orgAlmost all Caribbean anoles are descendants from a single colonizing species, whose descendants now occupy all of the Greater Antilles, the Lesser Antilles south through Dominica, and many other islands. Almost all of the remaining species are members of the roquet clade, occupying the southern Lesser Antilles and descended from a South American colonist. As we all know, these species have been extensively studied.

But colonization of Caribbean islands has occurred more than just these two times. Some other islands have been colonized by different colonists. None of these invasions has led to much in the way of evolutionary radiation and these species–in each case the only anole on the islands they occupy–have been little studied. We’ve previously discussed one such colonization, A. lineatus on Aruba and Curaçao. In addition, islands in the Pacific (yes, the Pacific!) have twice been colonized, leading to A. agassizi on little known Malpelo and A. townsendi on Cocos Island (incidentally, the island said to have beeen the inspiration for Isla Nublar in Jurassic Park).

And, finally, there are the presumed sister taxa, A. pinchoti and A. concolor, on the Colombian islands of Providencia and San Andrés. A smidgeon of research has been conducted previously on their ecology, and now a new paper in the South American Journal of Herpetology has examined their morphology. Calderón-Espinosa and Barragán Forero measured museum specimens of these species and compared them to published data on a variety of other Caribbean anoles. They found that neither species is a good match for any of the Greater Antillean ecomorphs, but that they are most similar to trunk-ground or trunk-crown anoles. By comparison, anoles of the Lesser Antilles are also most similar to these two ecomorphs. Anolis concolor attains an intermediate body size, similar to Lesser Antillean species that occupy islands on which they are no other anole species. By contrast, A. pinchoti is smaller and more similar to the smaller Lesser Antillean species on two-species islands.

Anoles are renowned for their convergent evolution. Further comparison of the many cases in which anoles have colonized relatively small islands should prove interesting.

M. L. Calderón-Espinosa and A. Barragán Forero (2011). Morphological Diversification in Solitary Endemic Anoles: Anolis concolor and Anolis pinchoti from San Andrés and Providence Islands, Colombia South American Journal of Herpetology

How Will Global Warming Affect Lizards? A Detailed Physiological Study On Puerto Rican Anoles

Anolis cristatellus from mesic habitats. Photo by Manuel Leal.

For obvious reasons, there is great concern about how species will cope with climate change–as the world gets hotter, will species be able to survive? Many studies have taken a macroscopic view, examining the geographic distribution of a species to divine what its temperature tolerances are and then projecting where it will be able to occur in the future. Although such approaches are useful as a first pass, direct study of the physiology of species is a much more informative way of determining how a species will be affected. An excellent example of just this approach was published recently by Gunderson and Leal in Functional Ecology (pdf here).

Mesic and xeric habitats. Photos courtesy Alex Gunderson (left) and Manuel Leal (right)

The authors studied the Puerto Rican crested anole, A. cristatellus, which occurs throughout Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. They focused on comparing populations living in cooler, wetter (mesic) habitats versus those living in hotter, drier (xeric) places. They found that in the field, mesic populations had an average body temperature of  about 29 C, whereas xeric populations averaged 32.5 C. However, using copper models as described in previous posts, the authors determined that a lizard randomly placed in a mesic habitat would have a temperature of about 29 C, whereas the random xeric lizard would be 33.5. In other words, the lizards are not thermoregulating in the mesic forest (lizards and randomly placed copper models have the same temperature), but they are actively altering their habitat use in the xeric areas to use cooler spots and thus keep their temperature lower than if they were sitting in random spots. In support of this conclusion, the mesic lizards were in the sun about as much as expected, but the xeric lizards were in the sun less often than predicted. Continue reading

Anoles at The World Congress of Herpetology

In the herpetology community (i.e., reptile and amphibian aficionados), The World Congress of Herpetology (WCH) is a big deal. In essence, it is a very large scientific conference, held every 3-5 years, uniting local herpetology societies from around the world.

“I wouldn’t miss WCH for anything!”- J.B. Losos

As the WCH mission statement says, “the objectives of the Congress are to promote international interest, collaboration and co-operation in herpetology”; in laymen’s terms means we herpetologists get together to talk about our research in formal meeting rooms, as well as informally in the pub over a beer or two.

This year the 7th World Herp Congress will be held in Vancouver (8-14 August 2012). [Incidentally, a small typing error in google brought me to the 11th World Harp Congress, happening just a few weeks earlier in the same place!]

There will be 15 presentations and 8 posters focussing on our beloved anoles! Including presentations from some of your favourite Anole Annals contributors. A run down of the anole content is after the fold. Continue reading

Reptile Beer And Wine Bottles As Collectibles: Alexis Harrison Wins Award For Essay

The Philip Hofer Prize for Collecting Books or Art “is awarded each year to a Harvard student whose collection of books or works of art best exemplifies the traditions of breadth, coherence, and imagination represented by Philip Hofer, A.B. ’21, L.H.D. ’67, founder and first Curator of the Department of Printing and Graphic Arts in the Houghton Library and Secretary of the Fogg Art Museum.”

One might think that the award always goes to magnificent collections of rare books or fine art, but apparently not so, as the second place award this year went to anole biologist Alexis Harrison, who established and curates the Collection of Herpetological Beer and Wine Bottles pictured above. Note that each specimen is tagged and catalogued, and the exhibits are arranged in systematic order. Moreover, the public exhibit rotates regularly, and most recently featured the Fisher Collection, on loan from San Diego, CA.

Of course, the question on everyone’s mind: are there anole bottles? The answer is yes, but regrettably few. The best exemplar is a species–best guest: porcatus group–featured on Cerveza Lagarto from Cuba.

Also, even more regrettably, we must acknowledge that the collection has spawned a competing, mammal-themed collection exhibited in the next cabinet over. Lacking anoles or saurians of any kind, the collection is obviously substandard, but it does have its moments.

Two-Tailed Lizards: How’d That Happen?

You never know where you'll find a two-tailed lizard in the Bahamas

Two-tailed–or occasionally even three-tailed–lizards are not all that uncommon. The way it usually happens is easy to explain. Most lizards can lose their tails and regrow a new one.  The way they do this is that in the middle of each vertebra in the tail is a zone of weakness (called a “breakage plane”), pre-made to easily fracture. At the same point, the muscles are arranged to pull apart, and the blood vessels to easily split and clamp down, losing little blood. When this happen, the signal goes out–don’t ask me how–and new tail construction begins.

But occasionally it doesn’t quite work like this. The tail is only partially broken, and doesn’t come off, but enough is broken that new tail growth begins. The result: two tails, the old, still attached one, and the newly grown one.

Now, one more point: new tails do not regrow the original vertebrae, made of bone. Rather, they grow as one long, cartilaginous rod. So, one can easily tell the new tail from the old one.

In any case, that’s how I understood things. When we caught the beauty pictured above, I thought “let’s x-ray the tail to illustrate how this happens for our viewing audience back home.” And boy was I surprised. Take a close look–both tails are composed of cartilage–no bones there.

Now, you’re probably thinking: “Big whoop. It lost its tail, regrew it, then partially broke the regenerated tail, leading to the production of a second one.” Well, you’re probably right, but it’s not supposed to happen that way. Regenerated tails do not have breakage planes and other adaptations for detachment. They’re not supposed to be lost and regrown. Can anyone explain to me what’s going on here?

Curly Tail Lizards Eating Brown Anoles: Coming Soon To A Theater Near You (If You Live In Florida)

BK. Photo by John Rahn

Previous posts (1, 2, 3) have discussed the effect of Curly-tailed lizards (Leiocephalus carinatus) on brown anoles in the Bahamas and elsewhere. To summarize briefly, the effect is this: curly-tails eat brown anoles. Lots of them. The survivors move up into bushes to get away.

Such slaughter may seem of academic interest when it occurs in far-flung Caribbean ports, but soon–already!–Florida denizens can see the carnage up close and personal. The reason: curly-tails have been introduced to the east coast of Florida and seem to be spreading fairly rapidly.

This is all preamble to a series of photographs that AA reader John Rahn has sent in. John lives in Hobe Sound, Florida  (on the coast, north of Miami and West Palm Beach) and enjoys watching and photographing lizards on his back patio. He commented that “I love watching their antics. They are actually quite interesting and are great subjects to practice shooting (photographing).There’s another on my patio (editor’s note: “another” refers to  the A. distichus  he mentioned, along with a photo, in a comment), a girl with great markings and a red head, and this big boy.”

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On The Complete Lack Of Discretion Anoles Exhibit While Having Sex

I think it’s time we had a talk. How do I put this? There’s going to come a time in your life where you start to notice, you know, things around you that maybe you didn’t notice before. You might not fully understand it, it can be confusing, and, well, I just want to make sure you’re prepared. What am I trying to say? Well, er, I’ll just say it. Anole sex. That’s right. That magical event when a male anole and his old lady get together to make sweet love. There have been a some posts recently on the morphology of the male’s one-twig-per-berry genitalia, anole copulation, and Isabella Rossellini. I thought I’d throw my hat into the ring focusing on the behaviors anoles exhibit while copulating, accompanied by a video of mating A. stratulus, a species of Puerto Rican trunk-crown anole.

The video starts out with the male displaying with bobs and dewlap, and moving a lot, appearing agitated. From what I’ve seen in Puerto Rico and the Bahamas, this is classic male anole hallelujah-I-think-I-might-get-lucky behavior. When the camera moves to the female and the male approaches her, you see her adopt a receptive posture. The male does a couple of push-ups, then bites her neck and the act begins.

During copulation both the male and the female bob, and the male displays his dewlap. Displaying during mating is common in anoles, and from the video you can see that these displays, and especially the dewlap, are pretty conspicuous. Which leads me to wonder why in the world they do it? This is brazen behavior. I saw lizard cuckoos and crown giant anoles (A. cuvieri) at this site on a daily basis, and I doubt either of these predators would pass up on a two-for-one meal if they saw it. Displaying seems to greatly increase the risk of an already compromising and thus dangerous pastime. Is it just a correlated response to the excited physiological state that likely accompanies copulation? Are the males and females communicating with each other? Good old-fashioned exhibitionism? David Crews has published some interesting work on anole display and female receptivity, but I’ve never seen anything that explicitly addresses the topic of display during the act of mating.

Help With Yellow Eggs

A 'slug' next to a healthy, freshly laid egg. The scale bars in millimeters.

In December, Rich posted on infertile eggs occasionally produced by anoles, also known as slugs.  These eggs are small, yellow, and uncalcified. We have found that females typically lay slugs in different locations than fertile eggs. In our breeding colony,  nearly every viable egg is deposited in egg laying substrate (moistened vermiculite in a plastic yogurt container), whereas slugs are found on nearly any surface but these cups, as described in a previous comment by William Baugher.

As our hybridization experiment in distichoids proceeds, it has become clear that these inviable eggs may be an important measure of the success of hybrid matings. There are some really great studies on viable anole eggs in the reproductive biology literature (12, and 3, to name a few), but I have had no luck in finding papers that discuss, or even mention the production of, these inviable eggs. Since the last post on this subject AA readership has gone up and I am hoping that someone out there has some additional information on the phenomenon.

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Territorial And Thermoregulatory Behavior Of Sri Lankan Otocryptis Lizards

Anole Annals has a long tradition of promoting knowledge of honorary anoles (e.g., here). A little while ago, we had a post on non-anole dewlaps featuring Otocryptis and now we continue what will become a series of sporadic posts on the Asian branch of the anole fan club (Hey! That was a pun, in case you missed it).

Thanks to Sameera Suranjan Karunarathna’s posting on the Facebook “Professional Herpetologists” page, I’ve become aware of several interesting articles on the behavior of the Asian dewlap-bearing agamid lizard, Otocryptis wiegmannii.

The first paper is on the territorial behavior of this species. The description sounds like anoles in some ways—dewlap deployment is a major feature—but different in others, such as the ability of the dewlap to change colors and the way in which the lizards launch themselves at each other after approaching bipedally. Here’s the heart of the description:

“At once both males ran towards each other bypedally about 1 m and stood by their hind limbs for about another 1 minute (Fig. 3b). After that, there was about 1 m distance between them. During this period they were expanding and compressing their dewlaps rapidly approximately four to six times per minute and kept the dewlap expanded for approximately 1 second. Theirtails were lifted up and they appeared suddenly with black and white bands that became more prominent. The body colour was distinct with yellow, black, white and green. Their heartswere fluttered fast and both lizards breathed deeply.

Struggling Continue reading

Field Work in Puerto Rico and a First Lizard Bite

Anolis evermanni in Bosque San Patricio, San Juan.

I’m presently in the field in Puerto Rico working with my (first, brave) doctoral student, Kristin Winchell, along with two undergraduate assistants (Zack & Sofia). Although Kristin has been with me to Puerto Rico once previously (in January), this expedition is the first trip of Kristin’s doctoral research, which will focus on urban ecology and adaptation in anoles. In this trip she is collecting phenotypic, habitat use, and activity temperature (ambient and internal) data for Anolis cristatellus in urban and forested sites in the three major municipalities of Puerto Rico: San Juan, Mayagüez, and Ponce. For example, our forested field locality in San Juan is the diminutive but verdant state forest Bosque San Patricio. San Patricio is a small forest of no more than about 70 acres nestled well within the sprawling San Juan metropolitan area. In spite of this status as an island of green amidst concrete, at least three species of anoles can be found there (including Anolis evermanni, pictured above), along with Ameiva, the Puerto Rican racer (I found two), and (according to accounts) the endangered Puerto Rican boa.

My role in this expedition is mostly in a supporting capacity. In addition, I am visiting colleagues, scouting sites, looking for boas, and preparing for the tropical biology field course that I will be co-instructing with herpetologist Alberto Puente here in January. In fact, while Kristin & her crew finish up in San Juan, I have proceeded ahead to Mayagüez with my wife, Emily, and our two year old daughter, Cecilia, both of whom joined us on the island a couple of days ago. This leads me to the the second part of my post title. No doubt Zack & Sofia, who have never worked on anoles before, suffered their first anole bites (and perhaps inumerable additional bites) on this trip. It’s part of the job! However, it was to my considerable surprise when Cecilia suffered her first Anolis bite as well. Before you call Child & Family Services, this was a total accident, not some cruel rite of passage.

What happened was as follows. Continue reading

Anole Annals Wants You: Post Today!

Now that the summer’s in full swing, and many of our readers are out in the field seeing our beloved anoles, it’s a good time to advertise for new contributors. And the next two weeks will be particularly good, because this correspondent will be far away, thinking of things other than blogging, so why not help pick up the slack?

Who can post? Anyone who has something to say about the biology, natural history, or amazing-ness of anoles (well, within reason–we leave anole husbandry and sales issues to other websites). And fear not–you’ll have an audience. Anole Annals is now routinely visited by 500-800 readers a day (this month’s average = 605/day).

Anole Annals is a good place to let the anole community know what you’re working on, like Brad Lister’s recent overview of his fascinating work on the status of Puerto Rican anoles. And, it’s a great way to spread word of your recently published work–why not provide a short precis or tell the backstory of how the paper came to be, like Simon Lailvaux recently did? It’s a great way of giving people the short story of what you’ve done and get them interested in reading the whole paper.

If you are fortunate to live in an anole-inhabited region, tell us about your local species, like Juan Salvador Mendoza’s recent post on the anoles of Colombia.

And it’s just a great place to ask a question, post a photo, or report an observation. We aim to make Anole Annals the clearinghouse for all things Anolis, the place that the anole community turns to for the exchange of information or ideas. To do so, we welcome–no, heartily encourage–contributions from anyone and everyone. Posting is easy, and really doesn’t take much time. Don’t overthink it–just post today!

Help With Honduran Anole ID

Sofia Raudales, biologist and curator of the natural history museum of the National Autonomus University in Honduras, just sent these photos of an un-named anole captured in Honduras. I have a pretty strong hunch what they are, but since I’ve never been to Honduras, I thought I’d post the photos. If they are what I think they are, they were found where they’re not supposed to be. ID, anyone?

Can Anoles With Differently Shaped Genitals Interbreed?

We’ve had a number of posts in the last few months discussing new species described on the basis of difference in the shape of their hemipenes (most recently here). And, because such descriptions have been based on morphological data without any corroborating molecular data, we’ve wondered whether, in fact, these forms are genetically isolated and whether they are capable and willing to interbreed given the opportunity.

Köhler et al. have taken the next step and attempted to answer these questions in the case of Anolis osa, which was split from the otherwise nearly indistinguishable A. polylepis on the basis of its hemipenial shape (figures A and B above). They find that in the lab, members of the two putative species can interbreed and produce offspring, at least some of which are apparently fertile (although the details of this are hard to fathom). Moreover, in the field, hybrid looking individuals are found where the two forms meet (Figure C above), and the hemipenes of these individuals are similar to the intermediate-looking tallywhackers of hybrids bred in the lab (Figure D above).

Most interestingly, females of the species seem to differ in the shape of their reproductive tract in a manner parallel to the differences among the males. In particular, female A. polylepis have longer vaginal tubi, corresponding to bilobed structures of their males, whereas female A. osa‘s tubes are shorter. One possible explanation for these differences is the old “lock-and-key” hypothesis that male and female genitals are perfect matches, thus preventing interspecific matings. This idea has fallen out of favor in recent years, and the authors discount it. Rather, they favor more recent ideas that such differences evolve by sexual selection, females preferring males whose genitals phenotypically match their own. Here’s their theory Continue reading