Chipojo Lab

Field Work in Paradise

This summer the Chipojo Lab has initiated some new projects at a fascinating new field site in the Indian River Lagoon on the Atlantic coast of Florida. We are working in the Indian River Aquatic Preserve which stretches for 12 miles along the Indian River Lagoon from Vero Beach in the north to Fort Pierce in the south, encompassing over 9500 acres of protected land. Florida’s aquatic preserves aim to maintain the natural beauty of Florida’s coastlines, managed for wildlife habitat, recreation, and cultural heritage.
A group of dolphins surface near one of our islands.
I am only slightly larger than a newborn 'tee.

Along the lagoon are countless spoil islands, which are small, man made islands that result when the debris dredged up to make the channel piles up and breaks the surface. These islands eventually become vegetated and have developed into unique wildlife habitat. Many of the larger islands are home to populations of green and brown anoles, which are the focus of our study. To get to these islands, as you might imagine, we needed a boat. For this purpose, the Chipojo Lab is now the proud new owner of El Lagartijo, a 14 ft aluminum jon boat that we brought with us all the way from Missouri. More about our ship later, though.
A beautiful mural on the local Manatee Center.
A vulture committee meeting we interrupted one morning.

The Indian River Lagoon is the most diverse lagoon ecosystem in the northern hemisphere,  containing a huge variety of habitats and species. During our time on the lagoon the last few months, we have been able to glimpse so many magical creatures. One important habitat are the expansive sea grass meadows, which a large proportion of the world’s West Indian manatee population calls home. We have seen manatees frolicking at one of our boat launches, Round Island, and just offshore of the islands we work on. Federally endangered wood storks nest in the lagoon, as well as many other migratory bird species. Our group has seen some boisterous nesting herons, committees of black vultures, ospreys carrying fish overhead, cormorants poking their long necks out from under the water, and pelicans diving in to catch their next snack. Dolphins also inhabit the lagoon, and we often see them catching fish and traveling past us in small groups. In addition to the majestic creatures described above, we have also seen some cool tiny critters as well, such as hermit, fiddler, and mangrove crabs, a Florida horse conch, and different sorts of fish jumping from the water. We have yet to see some cool species that call the lagoon home, such as diamondback terrapins and alligators. We are working on it, though!
Some manatees surfacing near the dock at Round Island.

There is nothing more beautiful than a calm, cool morning on the Indian River Lagoon, and I am so excited to have had this opportunity to work here.  

The striking view from the dock at the Indian River Waterfront Cottages, where we are staying.

Island Experiment on A. sagrei in Florida

Greetings from the southeast coast of Florida! My name is Stephanie, and I am working as a research assistant here with Levi and another assistant Leslie.  We have been working in Florida for about a month now and will soon start running our experiment once preparation has been completed.  For this experiment, Levi is testing learning in the brown anole, an invasive species here in Florida.  Since we are using man-made islands as experimental habitats, we have the capability to transport lizards to these areas and track their evolution. The goal for this project is to establish a database of brown anoles we put onto these islands as well as keep track of generations to come.

As of now, we have identified lizards and transported them to the islands.  We are in the process of surveying the habitats to check up on the lizards and make sure they are behaving normally and not being taken by predators.  We look forward to the commencement of this experiment and will give further updates as the project progresses.  Check back for more on the adventures of team El Lagartijo!

What a catch this little lady is! This is a female brown anole with a brightly colored dewlap and a red tinted snout

Leslie, Levi, and myself pictured as the subtropical storm Alberto passes over us

       Levi demonstrating his expert boating skills as El Lagartijo (our boat) glides across the Indian River Lagoon

Brighter is not always better

--> Those that follow the Chipojoblog are familiar with one of our core tenets: strive as best you can to design experiments under natural conditions. This philosophy reflects my own view that behavior should be studied in the field whenever possible. Our recent paper in Current Zoology, “Visual playback of colorfulsignals in the field supports sensory drive for signal detectability,” is a prime of example of the power of this approach, in which an intimate understanding of the ecology and behavior of anoles was used to test a major prediction of the sensory drive hypothesis: are signals locally adapted? In other words, are dewlaps locally adapted to effectively grab the attention of an inattentive receiver?
Over the years we have published a series of papers supporting the hypothesis that dewlap diversity can be partially explained by selection to increase the probability of detection. However, until this paper, experimental evidence from the field was missing, in part because manipulating dewlaps of live anoles is not trivial. Furthermore, even if we were able to successfully manipulate dewlaps, there are still many other signals (e.g., body color, motion pattern, size and posture) that would be out of our control. This problem was solved by researchers working with acoustic signals a long time ago by figuring out ways to play the signal of interest in isolation in what have become known as ‘playback experiments.’ We stole a page from their book and constructed a remote-control dewlap apparatus, which provided an opportunity to display only the dewlap under natural conditions (see gizmo below).  Alex’s building and painting skills was key to the success of this gizmo. He was able to construct dewlaps with similar reflective and transmission properties of real dewlaps while taking into account the visual system of the anoles (please see papers for details). Control-remote dewlap display apparatus. A) Acrylic box within which electrical components were housed. B) Electrical components. C) The apparatus at a mesic site with a fake dewlap displayed.

Besides presenting the dewlaps in the field, we wanted to test the hypothesis that the dewlaps are locally adapted. Under this hypothesis, increased detection in one habitat comes at the cost of decreased detection in another habitat. This functional approach to test for adaptive value of a trait is commonly used as robust evidence to support selection favoring the evolution of the trait in question. In this paper we tested if the observed differences in dewlap brightness between xeric and mesic populations of Anolis cristatellus is adaptive. If so, dewlaps from mesic populations should be more detectable in mesic habitats and dewlaps from xeric habitats should be more detectable in xeric habitats. Furthermore, detection probability should decrease in the ‘wrong' habitat. Below are the results of the experiments.  In A. cristatellus individuals from xeric habitats have dewlaps which are darker, that is less brighter,  than individuals from mesic populations. Responses of free-ranging A. cristatellus to fake dewlaps that mimic the brightness properties of real dewlaps.

Our findings support the sensory drive hypothesis and strongly suggest that the brightness  properties of A. cristatellusdewlaps are locally adapted via selection on signal detectability.  Furthermore, we have demonstrated that a brighter signal is not always the most detectable or effective signal. A common misconception, which is partially the result of not including the sensory system and habitat conditions as part of the analysis. Studies addressing potential functions and selective forces promoting the diversity of dewlaps found in anoles have flourished over the last decade,  nevertheless, these results are the best experimental evidence that we have to support the hypothesis that diversity of dewlap colors might be partially explained by local adaptions to habitat light conditions and the best smoking gun to support the idea that diversity of dewlap colors can be the result of local adaptations to habitat light conditions.  Additionally, our study once again underlines the need to measure both reflection and transmission when asking questions regarding the potential function of the dewlap because the two combine to determine dewlap coloration (brightness, coloration, etc.) in the real world.

We Need Your Help

If you follow my blog, you may have noticed that my lab conducts a significant amount of research in Puerto Rico. As a Boricua, working in Puerto Rico provides me the opportunity to work with the flora and fauna that I have become familiar with since I was a little kid. Furthermore, the anoles from Puerto Rico have a long tradition in scientific research, and studies on them have paved the road for Anolis to become a model system in behavioral, physiological, and evolutionary ecology. In Puerto Rico, the general region around El Verde Field Station can be considered a hot-spot in anole research, and the station itself has hosted many of the pioneers of West Indian Anolis biology, including Stan Rand, George Gorman, Paul Hertz, Ray Huey, Ernest Williams, Judy Stamps, Harold Heatwole, and Joan Roughgarden to name a few. In fact, a Google search returned approximately 4000 anoles papers, for which some of the data was collected at El Verde. Like most of Puerto Rico, the field station was badly damage by Hurricane Maria. We, researchers that have worked at El Verde, are trying to raise funds to re-build and maintain the station, if you can help, it would be greatly appreciated.
The University of Puerto Rico was also badly damage, and the AAAS is raising funds that will be used to help the reconstruction of the science buildings. You can donate following this link.

Muchas gracias por la ayuda.  

Team Perserverence

Greetings from El Verde—team Anolis gundlachi rides again! I am back at the station to observe the behavior of female A. gundlachi, joined by two fabulous helpers—Jessica and Phil. Phil joins us on a quick break from the Steen Lab at Auburn University. He’s met some A. cristatellusin Miami before, but he is enjoying getting to know some of the other species of anoles Puerto Rico has to offer, as well as many frogs and a whip scorpion! Jessica is our resident Coqui frog expert, and has become quite the lizard catching champion in our short time together. She will be starting a masters in the fall at the University of Rhode Island in the Kolbe lab—hopefully she won’t be tired of anoles yet?!

My team has a serious dose of perseverance this year. We are trying to stage territorial interactions with free living female anoles, and it is proving to be tricky and trying work. Jessica, Phil and I have tromped all over the forest staging trials—kudos to my team for staying in high spirits even when our lizards evade capture! I am thrilled to report that we have 19 successful trials to date. Here’s hoping we are able to move on to collecting some data on males soon!
Phil, Jessica, and Ellee: Fresh from the forest, and only a little damp. I hope you enjoy the picture of us. This is us, fresh from the forest having encountered a torrential down pour. But have no fear, WE CAUGHT AND SAMPLED OUR LAST LIZARD IN THE POURING RAIN!

Fence lizard cognition

Welcome to another non-anole portion of the lab! Stephanie and I are currently studying problem solving in Sceloporus consobrinus, the Eastern fence lizard. We are using a similar setup to past testing of anole behavior by others in the lab but are instead testing a lizard native to Missouri. Our biggest challenge so far hasn't been the lizards--it's the weather! Testing lizards held in outdoor enclosures has brought variables we hadn't run into before, so trial and error is the name of the game so far. We think we're (sort of) getting the hang of it! Additionally, we are starting to explore the possibility that the lizards use their tails to produce vibrations that are detectable by insects, so we now have lots more to learn about making and setting up new equipment.

The fence lizards aren't as flashy as anoles, but they have their own splashes of color, especially the males. Another possible project will be testing how much of these blue and black patches reflect UV light. We hope to find out more soon!

 Number 26 is ready for her measurements

 Blue/teal patches on the sides of a mature male

Time to weigh them!A gravid female


Eddie, was awarded a Student Research Grant from the Animal Behavior Society. Eddie’s project will evaluate the potential contribution of head-bob displays to species recognition in anoles, and if hybrid populations exhibit head-bob displays that are distinct to the displays of the parental species.  Eddie with one his study species, Anolis krugi


Today (4/22/2017) we joined forces with the Mid-Missouri communityand March For Science. Our message was loud and clear "Science is for all and must be supported" Our march and those around world had a common message, undermining science education and research threatens public health, the environment, our livelihood, and the planet--now and for future generations. 

Han's Awesome Sign

After the march we entertained questions from the general public as apart of a science festival. Our table was well attended and the attendees were extremely curious about the biology of amphibians and reptiles. 
Ellee, Han, and Eddie answering questions about lizard's biology 

Arianne and Jake answering questions about salamander's biology

Levi trying to change the fear toward snakes, one kid at a time
The Chipojolab was also represented at the science march in San Francisco, thanks to Alex. Alex Gundeson at the San Francisco march. 

Beyond Anoles

Han Hoekzema, a senior working in the Chipojolab, and representing the lab at Life Science Week 2017. Han’s poster resulted from her work testing potential behavioral paradigms to evaluate cognitive abilities in fence lizards. If you are wondering how fence lizards measured to anoles, stay tuned, we should know soon.  Han presenting her poster at Life Science Week 

Kudos to Ellee

Ellee, was awarded a Student Research Grant from the Animal Behavior Society. In case you are wondering, Ellee's goal is to fill the gap on our current understanding of the mechanisms mediating aggression and territoriality in female anole lizards under natural conditions."A picture is worth a thousand words" 

New Gizmo

We recently acquired a portable field metabolic system, a gizmo that will allow us to measure 02, CO2 and water loss, in the field.  If it works, measuring physiological variables without the need to bringing lizards to the lab. Arianne is very quickly becoming the expert, and because a photo is worth a thousand words, no need to say how excited she is about the potential questions that she will be addressing in the near future. Arianne calibrating our new gizmo. Note: how nicely she has color coded each of the sample ports.  

Fruit Flies and Hair Strands

Most of our posts are on lizards, particularly anoles. However, this semester Josh has decided to tackle a project evaluating the spatial abilities of the jumping spider (Phidippus audax). Here are a couple of photos of Josh’s progress, including carefully attaching a fruit fly to a hair-strand, a critical step of his experimental design. Stay tuned for updates.Josh carefully attaching a fruit fly to the end of a hair strand SUCCESS!!!!!!!!!

Photogenic Habitat Selection

On our way into the forest one morning, Deborah made a great "spot" (Noun, Ellee's Field Dictionary: to visualize an anole in a particularly difficult or interesting location). Check out this A. evermanni hatchling enjoying the decorative vegetation around El Verde Field Station!

It's All In The Little Things

 When you spend a lot of time learning about a single species, it is easy to start generalizing. You begin to assume that the individuals are more or less the same. Sure, there is a bit of variation here and there, but your brain seeks categories and determines rough averages:
“Most individuals are this big or that big.” “In most cases, individuals will behave in this manner.”
But the more time you actually spend with the individuals in their day to day lives, the more you realize that the “bit of variation here and there” can be both substantial, and fascinating.
Deborah and I are trying to catch glimpses of this variation by observing the natural behavior of female Anolis gundlachi lizards. We know each of these lizards by “name”—they have unique IDs that enable us to identify particular lizards day after day. Over time, we get to know each of them. We start to see patterns.
Deborah's Forest "Escritorio"
Ellee's Favorite Observation RockWe know who is always out—rain, shine, Ellee tromping past, they are always there, on that tree or this rock.
We understand that there are some lizards we will never glimpse until we sit on this rock, that far away, and watch a particular bunch of dead palm leaves with binoculars for 10 minutes. Give her that time and space, and sure enough, she will poke through the leaves and scamper over to the dead tree she seems to like.
And most annoying, we know which male is likely to tromp through the whole plot and mess up all the behavior observations as the females go skittering back into their hidey-holes. “Here comes O1/O2,” we sigh into our tape recorders. “Yep—yep she’s gone.” Poor, lonely O1/O2.
It’s the minor variation that makes things interesting. Why is this female out when the others have hidden? Why does this female run from this male, but the others don’t?

Collecting this kind of data is hard work. It takes time, practice, and a whole lot of patience. Losing lizards under rocks is frustrating, praying to the rain gods only seems to work on Tuesdays, and, on some days, lizards sit on the exact same perch all day long. But it’s the only way to truly capture that variation, and begin to wonder how it plays a role in the lives and history of the animals we all study.

A Usurper’s Tale: The Saga of B30/B31

[It's more fun if read aloud...]
Today I shall tell you the tale of a lizard known as “Blue/Blue.” She’s actually called “Female, LeftB030/RightB031, Tree 3, Plot 1, 6/21/16,” but I know all that matters little you.An Anolis lizard, she takes hails from the tropics, but of her many behaviors, female-female competition shall be today’s topic.

The Forest Scene for our story. 
When Blue/Blue’s name first came to be, she spent most of her days on a Tree called SP-3.A modest sierra palm, she seemed happy enough, surrounded by neighbors, and insects, and a whole manner of forest-y stuff.One of her neighbors, known to all as White/White, lived on Tree 4, but seems to have disappeared during one night!Whether she carried her bags to a neighboring plot, or met a maniacal lizard cuckoo, I’m afraid we know naught.Regardless of reason, there resulted a great tizzy, and we suddenly found our day of observations quite busy.
It would seem that Tree 4 is a great perching prize, as we found it was coveted by a great many eyes.Green/White eyed the vacancy from Tree number 1, but decided it not worth the battle she might not have won.Green/Green looked upon the great tree with envy, as she and White/White had never been friendly.Orange/Yellow crawled down the base of tree 2, shook her head and thought “that’s just too much territory for you.”Yellow/Yellow had always been restless, tree 5 being easy to defend and leaving her quite quest-less.But it was Blue/Blue who moved quickly to claim the new prize, much to the surprise of neighborly eyes.
On the roots of Tree 4, Blue/Blue perched with pride, but soon found herself drawn to the other side.Green/Green pranced about, exploring by root and by vine, not content to remain on her palm leaf and pine!Blue/Blue took offense and began doing push-ups, as she had come too far and cared not for territorial screw-ups.But it seemed her efforts would be drawn thin, as Yellow/Yellow scampered up seeking to join in!
Blue/Blue would not give up her prize so easily, as she was 45mm long and therefore not measly!She push-upped, and dewlapped, and stuck her tongue out, daring her foes to seek other routes.It seemed Yellow/Yellow would be first up to battle, her own pushups making her palm perch rattle.They darted and bit and ran round in circles, and if lizard faces could show fatigue, they’d both have been purple!It lasted ten minutes and filled me with fright, but eventually Yellow-Yellow gave up, and left the fight.With wounded pride she slunk back to tree five, promising she’d be back when she felt more alive.
But the woes of Blue/Blue were far, far from finished, as Green/Green remained, causing a menace.She push-upped and crawled closer, drawing Blue/Blue ever nearer, thinking her chance to own tree number 4 had never been clearer.Drawing un-lizardly strength from her ectotherm soul, Blue/Blue quickly retaliated, never forgetting her goal.Darting this way and that, she harried her opponent, declaring “This is my throne, and you shall never own it!”She jumped to the palms that were Green/Green’s home turf, and incited an interaction that became quite a tryst. Five minutes it lasted, all puffed chests and tongues out, as these two former neighbors battled it out. Blue/Blue emerged triumphant and Green/Green did run, and with some victory push-ups she shouted “What, leaving the fun?”
She returned to her tree, all pride and all glee, taking stock of the goods in her new territory.  She slept soundly that night, nestled amongst the leaves, thoughts of her triumphs filling her dreams.
It was good that she rested, for as you all know, the Usurper will always be tested,by friend and by foe. 

A xenomorph moment with an anole

Late last night, I returned to home base after capturing anoles at several sites for additional mate-preference trials. I started to organize the lizards that I captured and process them before placing them into their cages.

In addition, I had one male Anolis krugi that I held captive for a two days from a previous collection night. I try to catch extra male A. krugi when I can because they’re by far the rarer demographic that I need for my trials and can be used as insurance in case I can’t find enough for the following capture-session. This anole, from the northern hills of Yauco, was a beautiful 53mm-SVL whopper and he wasn’t at all shy to eat the crickets I fed him during his time in captivity.

As I was about to remove him from his cup container to assign him his trial cage I noticed something protruding out of the side of his torso. And that something was moving. “Is that a bot fly?!?” I exclaimed in my thoughts. The larva was just idling with its head (assuming it’s the head end) sticking out of the anole. As many biologists might do if they have the equipment, I ran to my car and grabbed the camcorder and some tweezers.

With the camcorder on and recording, I took the anole out of his container. But as the lizard briefly squirmed in my grasp, it stimulated the larva to flee the scene. I would’ve uploaded the video here of the scene but my current internet provider cannot handle the byte-load. So here is a screen shot. 
After squirming a bit, the lizard calmed down while the larva inched its way out of the hole.It was pretty like a slightly boring, calm rendition of the scene from the 1979 film, Alien - but the lizard survived the ordeal albeit with a large dry wound exposing his raw musculature.I decided not to use him for trials and put him back in his cup container. I procured the wiggly larva from the floor, sampled it into a vial and alcohol, and continued on to process the rest of the lizards for the night.

Once all the lizards were measured and in their cages, I briefly googled what this parasitic larva could be. Turns out it is not likely to be a botfly species such as the human botfly (Dermatobia hominis) of family Oestridae, but of a different yet closely related family, Sarcophagidae, the flesh flies.

I found that a fellow anole researcher, Dr. Travis Ingram, reported a similar case with an Anolis pulchellus at El Verde field station with an outcome more fitting of a Ridley Scott movie. The pictures he provided of the larvae seemed just as girthy as the one that emerged out of my A. krugi. Looking at the comments of his post, it appears there have been at least several of these observations in A. carolinensis and A. pulchellus.

Dr. Ingrams’s own googling led him to a paper by Irschick et. al. (2006) which provides insight on the parasitism of a Anolis carolinensis by a sarcophagid fly. Dr. Ingram went the extra kilometer and provided his parasitic larvae with substrate to complete their life cycle and managed to observe the adult fly stage, possessing the characteristics similar to sarcophagid flies.

And just as Dr. Ingrams’s also noted, I noticed nodules bulging from under the same A. krugi’s skin. Perhaps they are other larvae? Has anyone ever seen this in an A. krugi?

The following morning, I checked on the A. krugi male and saw he was still kicking and seemed that he’ll get to live another day at his home site. This was definitely a cool thing to observe, though I much prefer ‘not’ to observe it happen to the rest of my anoles for the rest of the season.The next morning the wound was dry but still open.This guy had at least two nodules at the edge of his ventral side.
-Eddie Ramirez

Close encounter of...

Close encounter of the third kind…of Puerto Rican grass anole!
It so happens that right in my Yauco home base where I’m conducting my video trials, there are resident Anolis poncensis, also known as Ponce anoles, southern garden anoles, or el lagartijo jardinero del sur. This third Puerto Rican species of grass-bush anole is found throughout much of the drier southern and southwestern coast of the island. It possesses a diminutive dewlap, making this species a bit of an oddball among anoles. Nonetheless, a lack of a “bandera” does not make it less shy to show off its display. I regularly see one male and at least one female perched within a lemon grass bush just in view of one of my enclosures, almost as if they’re pouting at a distance for not being included in my study. Lemongrass makes for great tea and a great home for xeric anoles.

One time I approached the lemongrass too close and the male Ponce anole jumped out, climbed up the nearby fence post, and gave me a brief glimpse of his macho display.
Close encounter of the “bird” kind!

Puerto Rico certainly has its fair share of backyard birds. And aside from their neat calls and aesthetically-pleasing plumage, I appreciate most of them for their lack of interest in my lizards and enclosures. Of course that’s not the case with every bird.
Enter the Greater Antillean grackle: a very gregarious bunch of birds and a common site in parks, popular beaches, plazas, college campuses, parking lots, and anywhere else they could find scraps of human food. The courtship of the males is particularly hilarious to watch as males puff themselves up and follow the female while fluttering their wings. They are known locally as the Mozambique or Chango. In this instance, “chango” is most appropriate. While they open to share similar tastes with humans, they also seem to enjoy fresh lizard on the side. The chango, on top of the enclosure, fails to find a way to break into the cage.
I’ve had few instances of a chango approaching the enclosures while recording. The lizards freak out which in turn motivate the chango to chase after it, running and flapping laps around the enclosure as they fail to penetrate their beak through the metal mesh. They eventually give up, but only after giving the lizards a fear-motivated “Insanity” workout. On one occasion when a chango was inspecting a cage, it was nearly tackled by another common bird, the Pearly-eyed Thrasher or Zorzal pardo. As the chango tried to hopelessly nab a lizard, the zorzal pardo was trying to chase it off so it too could take a stab at the lizards. This Anolis krugi male shows off his dewlap as he has a brief stare-down this pearly-eyed thrasher.I should probably take the time to write a review for Zoo Med’s ReptiBreeze® cages. “Cages can withstand the bills of highly motivated medium-sized passerine birds.”

Grass anole superstars.

Greetings from the west side of Puerto Rico!
I’m almost two weeks in conducting my studies on the Puerto Rican grass anoles: Anolis pulchellus, Anolis krugi, and the hybrids that have arisen from the two species via mitochondrial introgression. Considering how these hybrids, which look practically identical with pure Anolis pulchellus with the naked eye, seem to have swept through west coast of the island I’m really interested to find out if these two groups would still mingle between themselves if given the opportunity. So I decided to host my own lizard dating show – a sort of “The Anolis-Bachelorette” except these bachelorettes don’t get a whole season for themselves but an episode.
Combining three cages into one, I built enclosures with three partitioned sections. Placing a female in the center, and a male on each end, she’ll be given the opportunity to view both a male of her own group and a male of the other all while I record the whole session. The first season of the Anolis-Bachelorette are between pure A. pulchellus and A. krugi.
Multiple enclosures to record multiple "episodes" because who doesn't love binge-watching?! The white foams boards are in place during the acclimation period and are pulled out upon the start of the recordings. Those tin soda-crackers cans are in place as the mounts for each of my video cameras.

Because these bachelorettes only get one “episode” the show requires a lot of participants! So between episodes, I’m going out on frequent casting calls at different sites on the island. One day, in particular, I was in search of specific site to find A. krugithrough the windy, narrows roads of the mountains of Peñuelas. En route, my GPS lost signal but stubbornly didn’t want to admit it as it was just taking me in circles. After realizing this, I retreated from the high hills. But on my way back to the studio, my peripheral caught a glimpse of a beautiful, unfenced stretch of grass at the edge of the forest. I stopped to explore this narrow field and low and behold it was teeming not just with A. krugi but also mitochondrial-hybrid A. pulchellus both living in densely-populated harmony. The find definitely made up for “lost” time. Ha. Ha.

A grass anole (researcher's) oasis! After casting the anoles in the dating show I bring them right back to their nice homes.
In addition to running a dating show, I was also in the works of gathering scenes for a talent show! More specifically, I’m gathering video recordings of display behaviors by both groups of A. pulchellus and of A. krugi. With evidence that hybrids can produce signals that are either mixed or novel in reference to the parental species, I’m curious to see if these mitochondrial hybrid grass anoles possess signaling traits that differ from there parental groups. So I’m out to find male anoles willing to show off their pushup style-dewlap pulsing dance moves. These guys can be pretty elusive as it seems most of them don't want to come out of hiding to seek fame.Screenshot of Anolis krugiScreenshot of an A. pulchellus mitochondrial hybrid in mid-pushup.

Tune in next time! 
-Eddie Ramirez

Night Life

Anoles are diurnal, meaning that for the most part we only see them active during the day. However, when night descends upon the tropics, things don't necessarily die down.
During the night, most anoles find a quiet place to sleep. I snapped this picture of a female Anolis sagrei snoozin' on a blade of grass the other night while prowling for bugs. She quickly moved away once she realized we found her. She needs to be more careful next time!Snoozin sagreiSome anoles, however, have found that staying up late can have some perks. This Anolis distichus was hunting around the light next to the pool, probably hunting ants which seem plentiful at night.

Other lizards are specialists of the night, such as these introduced house geckos (Hemidactylus mabouia) which can be seen hunting all over at night for various bugs. This is a pretty big one! Photo courtesy of our undergraduate assistant Josh Jones.

Photo credit: Josh Jones


Poppin' some tags!

My debut post on the Chipojo Lab blog!
I'm Levi, a first year grad student in Manuel's lab (aka the sunburned lobster in one of the below posts), and I joined the team down here in Marsh Harbour for my first lizard field season!
This is my first time in the Caribbean, and I love it. On the whole this town has been very amicable to field work. It is a short jaunt across the street to one of my sites, and a short walk down the road to the other. These sites are not only dripping with lizards but they are also nicely mowed and maintained, which makes our job pretty easy (we can catch lizards in shorts!). Sure, my food options might not be the best (more on that later!), but studying lizards here is just great.
Tagged lizard butt.
Over the last three days we have tagged exactly 47 lizards. The "we" I refer to includes myself, Manuel (while he is here!), and my two field assistants/minions Will and Josh, mentioned in a post below. We have all enjoyed honing our lizard wrangling skills as we run around our sites to find, catch, and tag any lizards we can find.
Most of the lizards we have tagged are Anolis sagrei or brown anoles, a trunk ground species found on tree trunks and bushes all around this area. In our endeavors we have seen plenty of Anolis distichus and even a few elusive A. smaragdinus, two other anoles common to this region.

A curious male brown anole
Although most of the tagged lizards are anoles, we have also tagged 4 curly tails (Leiocephalus carinatus), feisty Caribbean lizards that are kind of the "white whale" of the lizard community here. They are much more skittish and a lot stronger, making them more difficult to sneak up on and catch. Manuel has caught all of those we have tagged to date. Despite their attitude, it is the cutest when these guys are on the run, as they scuttle around like some kind of lizard-toad, holding their tails above their backs as they go. I will have to get a picture to post here later.
A curly tail sunning outside our room.
We tag the lizards using tiny little tags that are usually used on bees. These tags are "popped" out of a card (hence the title) and we glue one on each side of the lizard's hips. These tags don't impede the lizards and allow us to identify individual lizards using unique color and number combinations. We weigh and measure each lizard before tagging it, data which we can use later, and flag the tree on which it was found so we can hopefully find it in that area again later. We can use these tags to follow the lizards over successive days, which is necessary for the field learning task we are trying to use in this study. More on that later!
Me with one of my tagged lizards.
A cute tagged lizard.
Until next time, stay cool!