Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Some Cuban lizards

During our recent visit to Cuba we were impressed by the diverse lizard fauna. While we didn't make a special effort to find them, anoles and curly-tailed lizards were conspicuous in most areas we visited. Unfortunately, we didn't find any geckos in our lodgings - perhaps a consequence of the very liberal use of insecticides in the resort buildings.

The evolutionary dimensions of Cuba's herpetofauna are elegantly detailed at Caribherp: West Indian amphibians and reptiles.

Caribherp is part of a cluster of visually stunning, content-rich, conservation-oriented websites developed by Penn State evolutionary biologist Blair Hedges. These are worth a visit by any naturalist entertaining a trip to the Caribbean.

Here's a taxonomic breakdown (Family: genus) of Cuba's lizards as catalogued by the Hedges lab:

Lizard species: 105
Gekkonidae: 3 (Hemidactylus: 3 - all introduced)
Iguanidae: 71 (Anolis: 64; Cyclura: 1; Leiocephalus: 6)
Sphaerodactylidae: 24 (Aristelliger: 1, Gonatodes: 1, Sphaerodactylus: 22)
Teiidae: Ameiva: 1.

Here are some incidental photos of a few of the animals we saw in the province of Matanzas . My ID's are very tentative.

The Reserva Ecológica Varahicacos protects a 3 km2 remnant of xeromorphic coastal scrub and mangrove at the tip of the 20 km. Hicacos Peninsula. Much of the peninsula, also known as the sun destination 'Varadero' to hundreds-of-thousands of international tourists, has been modified to accomodate scores of sprawling, all-inclusive resorts. During our morning visit to the reserve, the staff biologist Maxine oriented us to the flora and told us to keep our eyes peeled for the newly described (2009) Cuban Croaking Gecko (Aristelliger reyesi), the only Aristelliger known from Cuba. Dίaz and Hedges (2009) named the species after its discoverer, local biologist and bird guide Ernesto Reyes. Reportedly, this little-known lizard is often observed in or near the towering arborescent cactus Dendrocereus nudiflorus.
We didn't see Aristelliger but we did find the Cuban Ameiva and the Cuban Brown Curlytail in the leaflitter beside the trail.

Here is a photo of the endemic Cuban Croaking Gecko courtesy of its discover.

Related resources:

Reserva Ecológica Varahicacos.

Cuba: The Accidental Eden. Episode from the PBS series Nature. (Sept 26, 2010).

Dίaz, L. M. and S. B. Hedges. 2009. First record of the genus Aristelliger (Squamata: Sphaerodactylidae) in Cuba, with description of a new species. Zootaxa 2028:31-40 (pdf).

http://www.caribherp.org. West Indian amphibians and reptiles
http://www.caribnature.org. A nexus for Caribbean nature and conservation awareness.
http://www.caribmap.org. Cartographic history of the West Indies.

Flora y Vegetación de la Reserva Ecológica “Varahicacos”, Península de Hicacos, Varadero, Matanzas (pdf).

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