Thursday, 23 June 2016

New lizard found in Dominican Republic


Suggests similar evolution occurs on separate Caribbean islands
Date: June 17, 2016
Source: University of Toronto

A University of Toronto-led team has reported the discovery of a new lizard in the middle of the most- visited island in the Caribbean, strengthening a long-held theory that communities of lizards can evolve almost identically on separate islands.

The chameleon-like lizard -- a Greater Antillean anole dubbed Anolis landestoyi for the naturalist who first spotted and photographed it -- is one of the first new anole species found in the Dominican Republic in decades.

"As soon as I saw the pictures, I thought, 'I need to buy a plane ticket,'" says Luke Mahler of U of T's Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and lead author of an article on the discovery published today online in The American Naturalist.

"Our immediate thought was that this looks like something that's supposed to be in Cuba, not in Hispaniola -- the island that Haiti and the Dominican Republic share," says Mahler. "We haven't really seen any completely new species here since the early 1980s."

What's more, the new species could help piece together a long-standing puzzle of similar looking species that exist on different Caribbean islands.

"I got a grainy photo from local naturalist Miguel Landestoy, who saw a nesting pair of birds that were mobbing a branch," says Mahler. "He saw they were flying around what he thought was a new species of heavily camouflaged anole clinging to that branch." It wasn't possible to say much from the photo though, and Mahler didn't think much of it. "You get all these people who say they found a new species but it's almost always just an atypical individual of a very common species," says Mahler. "So you get pretty hardened against thinking claims like these are legit."

A few years after the initial photo, Landestoy caught one of the lizards and emailed clear images of the find to Mahler and several other researchers he'd been working with. "As soon as I opened the email, I thought 'what on earth is that!?,'" says Mahler.

Well-studied ecologically, Greater Antillean anoles are a textbook example of a phenomenon known as replicated adaptive radiation, where related species evolving on different islands diversify into similar sets of species that occupy the same ecological niches.

Examples of this could be long-tailed grass dwellers, bright green canopy lizards, and stocky brown species that perch low on tree trunks, each living in similar environments on more than one island.


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