Tag Archives: Sphaerodactylus

Predation of a Gecko by Anolis pulchellus in the British Virgin Islands

In the most recent issue of Herp Review, Anole Annals stalwarts Kevin de Queiroz and Jonathan Losos documented their account of observing an adult female grass-bush anole (Anolis pulchellus) consume a dwarf gecko (Sphaerodactylus macrolepis) on Guana Island, British Virgin Islands. The authors share their detailed report below:

Many primarily insectivorous lizards will eat other vertebrates on occasion, a behavior that has been reported in many species of Anolis. One unifying generality is that such carnivory is size structured, with the predator usually being substantially larger than the prey (Gerber 1999. In Losos and Leal [eds.], Anolis Newsletter V, pp. 28–39. Washington University, Saint Louis, Missouri). Not surprisingly, reports of anole carnivory pertain primarily to middle-sized and larger anoles. Here we report carnivory by a small anole of the species A. pulchellus. To our knowledge, this is the first instance of carnivory reported for this species and one of few for any similar-sized anole (the record noted by Henderson and Powell 2009. Natural History of West Indian Reptiles and Amphibians. University Press of Florida, Gainesville, Florida. 495 pp. is based on the observations reported here).

Fig. 1. Female Anolis pulchellus in the process of ingesting a Sphaerodactylus macrolepis.

Fig. 1. Female Anolis pulchellus in the process of ingesting a
Sphaerodactylus macrolepis.

We observed a female A. pulchellus (SVL ca. 38 mm) capture and consume a Sphaerodactylus macrolepis (SVL ca.18 mm) in the leaf litter at approximately 1430 h on 25 September 2006, on Guana Island, British Virgin Islands, near the head of the Liao Wei Ping Trail at roughly 18.47916°N, 64.57444°W (WGS 84). The anole jumped from a low perch (ca. 20 cm above the ground) to the ground and bit the gecko, which escaped and fled 15–20 cm to the opening of an ant nest. The anole attacked the gecko again, seized it in its mouth and carried it approximately 10 cm up a vine, a distance of 15–20 cm from the site of attack. Initially, the anole held the gecko upside down (i.e., dorsal surface facing down), biting it between the fore and hind limbs on the left side. Eventually the anole worked its grasp posterior to the base of the tail, still on the left side. At this point, parts of both the base of the tail and the left hind limb were in the anole’s mouth (Fig. 1). The anole then manipulated the gecko so that it was no longer upside down, but rotated about its long axis by roughly 90 degrees (the ventral surface of the gecko was then oriented forward relative to the anole) at which point it was biting the gecko at the base of the tail and possibly by the left hind limb; the anole eventually manipulated the gecko so that it held it tail-first in its mouth, dorsal side up, at which point the anole proceeded to ingest the gecko tail first (during this time, the tail itself broke off and was carried away by ants, which had been biting the gecko in several places since shortly after it was
captured by the anole). Total time from capture to complete ingestion was approximately five minutes.

Predation on Sphaerodactylus geckos has been reported in anoles of only a few species, none of which are as small as Anolis pulchellus (Henderson and Powell 2009. Natural History of West Indian Reptiles and Amphibians. University Press of Florida, Gainesville, Florida. 495 pp.). However, given the size discrepancy between the lizards in these two clades and their extensive coexistence across the Caribbean, we suspect that such interactions may occur with some frequency. Moreover, the high population densities of some Sphaerodactylus geckos (e.g., Rodda et al. 2001. J. Trop. Ecol. 17:331–338) and the diurnal activity of several species (Allen and Powell 2014. Herpetol. Conserv. Biol. 9:590–600) suggest that they may be important prey items for anoles.

References
Allen, K.E. and Powell, R., 2014. Thermal biology and microhabitat use in Puerto Rican eyespot geckos (Sphaerodactylus macrolepis macrolepis). Herpetological Conservation and Biology, 9(3), pp.590-600.
Gerber 1999. In Losos and Leal [eds.], Anolis Newsletter V, pp. 28–39. Washington University, Saint Louis, Missouri
Henderson and Powell 2009. Natural History of West Indian Reptiles and Amphibians. University Press of Florida, Gainesville, Florida. 495 pp.
Rodda, G.H., Perry, G.A.D., Rondeau, R.J. and Lazell, J., 2001. The densest terrestrial vertebrate. Journal of Tropical Ecology, 17(02), pp.331-338.

Reporting on the Reptiles of Redonda

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I’m back from Redonda and the expedition was a great success! I’m happy to report there were many Anolis nubilus boulder-hopping out of the way of the black rats and even blacker ground lizards on the island. In many ways the trip was even more challenging than expected but we came out with quite a lot of data so we have a great sense of the current status of the reptiles on the island and a baseline for comparisons into the future. I have even more stories and some videos going up on my blog to keep watch over there if you want even more details about Redonda.

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To refresh your memories, Redonda is an island of Antigua and Barbuda and was completely denuded by rats and goats over the last century. Despite the dearth of vegetation, three endemic reptiles had been hanging on: Anolis nubilusAmeiva (Pholidoscelis) atrata, and an as-yet unnamed Sphaerodactylus dwarf gecko. The government of Antigua and Barbuda, in collaboration with Fauna & Flora International and local NGO the Environmental Awareness Group, has decided to undertake a massive restoration effort by eradicating the rats and relocating the goats. My job was to get some baseline data on the current lizard populations so we can figure out how they change into the future.

helicopter inside

Helicoptering to the island was every bit as exciting as I’d hoped. The Jurassic Park theme was playing through my head the whole way down. See that grassy patch with slightly fewer large rocks – that was the little tiny helipad, but our pilot was a pro and set us down perfectly. Almost as soon as we were out of the helicopter, we deposited our bags by our tents and set about catching Anoles.

nubilus

Anolis nubilus is at first blush a relatively innocuous member of the genus. They’re perfectly camouflaged in this environment, which is to say they’re drab gray and brown. Their dewlaps are cream-colored (which is really just my nice way to say drab gray-yellow) and the most decorated of the females sport faint dorsal stripes. Males did fairly regularly display impressive crests behind their heads, but nonetheless, the species at first and second glance is considerably less flashy than many of their cousins on nearby islands.

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Photo: Geoffrey Giller

All that said, there’s still a lot of cool stuff going on with nubilus. As Skip mentioned in his article 45 years ago, there’s a casuarina tree right next to the remains of the mine manager’s house that hosts an abundance of the few Redonda tree lizards living up to their name. The tree is still there and the lizards are still eagerly defending their precious few branches (see above).

There are actually quite a few trees still on Redonda, some of which are native Ficus trees. For the most part they’re in fairly inaccessible areas, but that really just means you need to bring a longer noose pole and don’t look down. I caught a lizard on this tree below with a perch height of approximately 350 meters (that’s really going to mess with the averages). Truth be told, after catching the lizard my knees were so wobbly I had to go find a nice big boulder and just had Geoff and Anthony shout me data for a while.

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After a week on the island and many, many Anoles, we got morphometric and performance data, diet data, extended focal-animal behavior videos, two mark-recapture density studies and two permanent transects established, thermal ecology data, habitat use data, and flight behavior data. We even exhaustively determined whether nubilus likes Chuckles! (But that’s a story for another post).

I know this is an Anole blog, but there were some pretty cool things going on with the other reptiles on the island, too. The ground lizards were jet black and really big. Here’s a picture of Anthony Herrel trying to get a tail measurement:

atrata tail

Photo: Geoffrey Giller

The atrata spent their days cruising around scavenging. We saw one eating a hermit crab, and we heard rumor of another that managed to get a sardine away from one of the crew working on the eradication effort! Analyzing the stomach contents of these guys is going to take quite a lot of detective work.

We also were able to gather the first natural history data on this unnamed dwarf gecko species. They’re strangely beautiful with an unlovely shovel-face and semi-transparent, too-squishy, gelatinous body. You wouldn’t guess it but they’re quick!

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Photo: Geoffrey Giller

In all, the reptiles of Redonda were fascinating and getting to explore the island was a unique privilege. I can hardly wait to return next year, and many years after, to see how the lizards change with the island.

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“What about us?” Technically these guys are reptiles too, but c’mon, the lizards are so much cooler. Photo: Geoffrey Giller