Tag Archives: miami

JMIH 2016: Genetic Evidence of Hybridization between the Native Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis) and the Invasive Cuban Green Anole (A. porcatus)

Photo by James Stroud

Photo by James Stroud

At JMIH 2016, I chatted with Johanna Wegener, a graduate student at the University of Rhode Island in Jason Kolbe’s lab, about her poster detailing her work identifying hybridization between Anolis carolinensis and A. porcatus in southern Florida.

Interspecific hybridization in anoles is thought to be fairly rare, with the best-known example being hybridization between Anolis carolinensis (native to the southeastern U.S.) and A. porcatus (native to Cuba) in southern Florida. I was surprised to learn how little we know about this rumored hybrid zone.

A. porcatus was likely introduced into Florida within the last few decades, but the striking morphological similarities between A. carolinesis and A. porcatus make anecdotal reports of hybridization hard to confirm. Wegener conducted the first genetic analyses of hybridization between A. carolinesis and A. porcatus. She genotyped 18 nuclear microsatellites from green anoles in Florida (Palm Beach and South Miami) and western Cuba and conducted a STRUCTURE analysis and found support for three genetic clusters consisting of Cuban A. porcatus, and two Floridian groups (one from Palm Beach and one from South Miami). With the addition of the mitochondrial ND2 marker, she found that the South Miami population had both A. carolinensis and A. porcatus haplotypes. Interestingly, there appeared to be very few recent hybrids; instead, the hybrid group appeared distinct from either parent group, suggesting that hybridization has been occurring for several generations.

In addition, Wegener looked at the variation in A. porcatus and A. carolinensis markers in each hybrid individual and found examples of some parent markers being retained at high proportions in the hybrids, possibly suggesting the retention of beneficial parent alleles in the hybrids.

Given that this study was only conducted at two sites in Florida, the exciting next step of this study is to better quantify the genetic makeup of hybrids across southern Florida and map out the hybrid zone.

Dewlap Displays in Cuban Knight Anoles (A. equestris)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

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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!

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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!

Anoles have it tough in south Florida!

A common concept in ecology is that predators have a strong influence on the behaviour of prey species. Anolis lizards have been used as a classic model system to investigate the effect of predator presence on the behavioural response of prey species. On small experimental islands in the Bahamas the manipulated introduction of curly-tailed lizards (Leiocephalus carinatus), a large terrestrial anole-predator, has resulted in brown anoles (Anolis sagrei) shifting higher up in the vegetation, presumably in an understandable effort to avoid being eaten (1, 2, 3). However, predator-prey interactions such as these which may shape community structure are often difficult to observe.

Here in Miami FL we have a rich and diverse, although largely non-native, lizard community. There are two species of “crown-giant” anoles, the Cuban knight anole (A. equestris) and the Jamaican giant anole (A. garmani), that could be potential predators of smaller anoles in the canopy of trees and upper half of tree trunks (although see Giery et al. 2013 for an empirical analysis that suggests this may not be the case). Additionally, there are several large, terrestrial lizards present which may be filling a similar role to curly-tails in the Bahamas.

Potential lizard predators in south Florida:

– *Red-headed agama (Agama agama)
– *Cuban knight anole (Anolis equestris)
– Jamaican giant anole (Anolis garmani)
– *Brown basilisk (Basiliscus vittatus)
– Spiny tailed iguana (Ctenosaura similis)
– Curly-tail lizard (Leiocephalus carinatus)
– Giant day gecko (Phelsuma grandis)
– Black and white tegu (Tupinambis merianae)

*Present at Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens

Earlier this afternoon, while taking a break from my office at Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens (a hot spot for any anologist visiting Miami; 1, 2, 3, 4) in a typical graduate student effort to put off work that I should be doing instead, fellow lab member Evan Rehm and I noticed some scuffling in a nearby bush. At around 2.5m, and admittedly on relatively precarious branches by this stage, sat an adult female African red-headed agama (A. agama) around 30cm from an adamantly motionless adult male Cuban brown anole (A. sagrei)! As we moved towards the bush the agama was quick to ungraciously thump itself to the floor, while the brown anole remained still. On closer inspection, it soon became apparent why both lizards were so high.

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Adult male Cuban brown anole (A. sagrei) found ~2.5m high in Miami FL, supposedly following a predation attempt from an African red-headed agama (A. agama) – JStroud

The significance of tail loss/damage in a population is still debated. The classical view argues that high proportions of tail damage indicates high predation pressure, therefore prey populations are under high predation stress (1). Alternatively, high proportions of tail damage could indicate low predator efficiency, which would suggest prey populations are experiencing low predation stress (1, 2). But the debate doesn’t stop there! Having already lost a tail, a lizard may experience either a resulting increase or decrease in predation depending on the predator species and its associated foraging tactic (1).

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The extent of tail damage is clearer in this photo. The lizard had autotomised the lower half of it’s tail however a secondary half-completed break is also evident – JStroud

African red-headed agamas (A. agama) are similar morphologically to curly-tailed lizards (L. carinatus), although are taxonomically distinct (Agamidae and Leiocephalidae, respectively). Predation of anoles by agamas in Miami has not previously been officially recorded, and the impact of these large predators remains unclear. Unlike in the Bahamas, there are multiple predators in the same geographic vicinity that anoles need to be aware of. For example, at Fairchild, brown anoles (A. sagrei) could be eaten from below by agamas, eaten at intermediate levels by basilisks and eaten from above by knight anoles!

South Florida is a tough place to be an anole!

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Adult male African red-headed agama (A. agama) at Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens, Miami FL. The population of agamas is localised to the botanical gardens; the source remains unclear but is likely an introduction from the pet trade – JStroud

Miami Anole Safari (Part III)

Firstly, let me start by offering my sincere apologies for the standard of photography you are about to view. As you AA readers have become accustomed to Jonathan’s flowing prose, and other members’ excellent use of modern photographic equipment, I must warn you not to expect either here!

As has been mentioned previously, the IBS Conference was a tremendous success, and firstly huge congratulations must be passed on to (a potential anologist in the making?) Ken Feeley for all the hard work and effort. The lack of talks concerning arguably one of the world’s most studied vertebrate biogeographic systems did not detract from the high levels of anole hunting that ensued over the course of the conference!

After a wonderful afternoon visiting Miami’s most bizarre lizard community, the following day provided an opportunity for conversations to be followed up from the previous night’s conference dinner (as some graduate students’ memories may have appeared a little hazy on Saturday morning). Much of the day was spent wandering around FIU’s Biscayne Bay Campus eagerly trying to find the dozen knight anoles that were promised to us the previous night by resident expert, and thoroughly nice guy, Sean Giery.

Sean has spent the past 3 years observing the A. equestris community on this campus, and has assured me that he will bless AA readers with a synopsis of his eagerly awaited dietary analysis paper in the near future. The day started brightly, with two juveniles being found in close proximity to each other; however with just he and I as the only observers, it was tough to include these individuals in the promised dozen.

Juvenile knight anole found on a horizontal branch ~2m high. Photo by JStroud

Juvenile knight anole found on a horizontal branch ~2m high. Photo by JStroud

At the start of lunch, and confronting the midday heat with the enthusiasm of schoolboys on a day trip, we regrouped with some extra eyes and headed back out to continue on our quest. Although A. sagrei, A. carolinensis and A. distichus were abundant, these were still not the target species. A loud thump behind us saw us all swivel in synchrony, like a troop of sunburnt and slightly dehydrated Michael Flatley fanatics, to be confronted by a rather startled green iguana that had just plummeted 10 feet after submissively losing a dispute to a larger male. The campus had previously been awash with a healthy population of green iguanas; however the big freeze of 2009 reduced this significantly so that the only survivors were those small enough to retreat underground. Continue reading Miami Anole Safari (Part III)