The Anoles of Soroa
Photo credit :Jonathan Losos.
Anoles are interesting. They can change color, males have attention-getting dewlap displays, they are numerous at many locations, they are sexually dimorphic, and there are more than 377 species. They come in a variety of sizes; the smallest are less than 40 mm, while the largest exceeds 500 mm. Because they are diurnal they are easily observed. All of these traits make them ideal for testing theories about behavior, ecology, and evolution. In a recent paper Lourdes Rodriguez Schettino from the Instituto de Ecologıá y Sistemática, CITMA, in La Habana, Cuba and colleagues report on an exceptionally diverse anole community in the Sierra del Rosario, near Soroa in western Cuba. Their study site was a resort, that included the hotel grounds, shrub hedges, concrete walls, and a grove of Ocuje trees; as well as more natural habitats that encompassed evergreen forest, gallery forest, and secondary forest. Soroa supports a community of 25 species of lizards, 11 of which belong to the Anolis clade. As in similar studies the anoles of Soroa have divided up the available habitat and resources, some species specialized in perching on tree trunks, others on branches, leaves, rocks, the ground, or human constructions. One of the more unusual species at the site is Anolis vermiculatus which usually occurs near streams, and perches up to 4 m above the water. This species has been reported to dive into the water to escape predators. The Soroa anole community is the richest and most diverse community studies in detail to date. The authors note that sites in eastern Cuba have been discovered that support 14 and 15 anole species but they have yet to be studied, and there may be places in Central America that also have richer anole faunas than have been previously reported.