Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Enigmatic Horned Anole

The horned anole, Anolis proboscis was originally described in 1956 by Peters and Orces from mid-altitudes on the western slopes of the Andes in Pichincha, Ecuador. Now Losos et al. (2012) have rediscovered the species in the general vicinity of the type locality. These include several females, which lack the conspicuous rostral appendage seen in males. Despite rediscovery, the natural history of the horned anole remains almost completely unknown. The authors conducted an ecological and behavioral study of this species near Mindo, Ecuador and found it to be an extremely slow-moving and cryptic species that often occurs high in the trees. The rostral horn of the males aside, A. proboscis is indistinguishable from Greater Antillean anoles of the “twig” ecomorph class in morphology, ecology, and behavior. The horn is soft and highly flexible and thus unsuitable for use as a weapon in male–male combat; hence, the horn most likely serves as a signal and may be involved in mate choice or territorial displays. However, the anole was not observed in any social encounters and this idea has not been tested. Given its cryptic morphology and behavior, it is not surprising that A. proboscis is so rarely observed. It is now known from four localities around the town of Mindo, Pichincha province. The furthest localities are only 13 km away from each other and investigations of nearby areas for this species have not yielded results. Current thinking is that the species range is about 33 square kilometers and no more than 200 square kilometers at altitudes between 1200 and 1650 m above sea level. The horned anole is a montane forest specialist although it has been collected in pasture land and secondary forest. It is a cryptic, slow-moving, species of the forest canopy and it has been named for its proboscis, an appendage used in courtship. The entire artcle can be found on-line. 

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