Posted by: Alan Pitts | May 12, 2010

Lizard

This cute little guy  is a Puerto Rican Crested Anole. I spotted him in Puerto Rico  over spring break while hiking around in the dry forest.  We stayed on the southwestern part of the Island  close to some really great mangrove beaches.

Aside from taking a picture of a cool lizard, I am particularly proud of this picture for capturing several identifying characteristics of the Crested Anole. The first and probably most oblivious is the enlarged yellow dewlap between his throat and neck. This flap of skin, when extended, makes him appear much larger in the presence of a threat (in this case, me). The dewlap  is also used to charm or gain the favor of a nearby potential mate. The second thing is the how he is performing a little “push-up”, his lower body is fairly flat against the tree but he is extending his upper body with his front arms. Once again this is an effort to make him self appear larger (which I am not falling for). The third great thing about this picture I didn’t notice until after I had looked through several pictures of other Anoles. It occurred to me that this one’s tail seems a bit stubby on the end and rather short compared to others. And in fact near the base, the tail seems to start thicker and then taper before ending at the stubby tip. This looks to me like he has been forced to drop his tail more than once. This makes sense as most  lizards in the Anole family have the ability to drop a severed piece of their own tail in order to escape a fight or a predator. The recently detached tail section is then left wiggling about at the scene while the lizard can run off and regenerate the tail at a later time. . This ability in animals is called Autonomy which literally means “self amputation” and is also seen in other lizard species and invertebrates such as starfish, crabs and spiders.

I’ve also been referring to this lizard as a “he”(despite the fact that he is clearly performing a high school gym girl push-up). This is not only because of my tendency to preferentially anthropomorphize animals as males (except lady bugs of course) but also because of his size and behavior. Although there is no sense of scale in this photo (which I apologize for) I would say that he is between 5 and 6 inches long. Which would be on the large end for Anoles.  Also males have the large yellow dewlap and females have a smaller less colored dewlap.  Males are generally more territorial and more likely to act aggressively with the whole dewlap and push-up move . Which I understand completely as I have long felt that push-up competitions can peacefully resolve most situations. This one for instance… where I almost got beat up by a lizard.

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