Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The phylogeny of the luminous lizard of Trinidad - a new genus for the luminous lizard

The systematics and ecology of most microteiid lizards of the subfamily Cercosaurinae are poorly known. The subfamily is primarily associated with the Andean highlands where they inhabit humid forest leaf litter.  The genus Riama is the most speciose genus of the Neotropical lizard family Gymnophthalmidae. It contains more than 30 montane species that range throughout the northern Andes, the Cordillera de la Costa in Venezuela, and Trinidad. In a recent paper Sanchez-Pacheco et al. (2017) present a phylogenetic analysis of Riama based on a total evidence approach and direct optimization of molecular and morphological evidence. Analyses use DNA sequences from four loci and 35 phenotypic characters. The dataset consists of 55 in-group terminals representing 25 of the 30 currently recognized species of Riama plus five undescribed taxa, including an endemic species from the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Colombia, and 66 outgroup terminals of 47 species. Their analysis results in a well-supported hypothesis in which Riama is polyphyletic, with its species falling into three clades. The Tepuian Anadia mcdiarmidi nests within one clade of Riama, and the recently resurrected Pantodactylus nests within Cercosaura. Accordingly, the authors propose a monophyletic taxonomy that reflects historical relationships. Analysis of character evolution indicates that the presence or absence of prefrontals—a cornerstone of the early genus-level taxonomy of cercosaurines—is optimally explained as having been plesiomorphically present in the most recent common ancestor of Cercosaurinae and lost in that of the immediately less inclusive clade. Multiple independent reversals to present and subsequent returns to absent occur within this clade.
Gray (1858) described the genus Riama, and placed it in its own family (Riamidae) based on the new species Riama unicolor. Peters (1862) described Ecpleopus (Oreosaurus) striatus and Ecpleopus (Oreosaurus) luctuosus and assigned these species to Oreosaurus characterized as having striated dorsal scales while those in the closely related subgenus Proctoporus (P. pachyurus and P. unicolor), had smooth or keeled scales. Boulenger (1885) synonymized Gray’s Riama with Proctoporus and elevated both subgenera to genera. He defined Oreosaurus has having a wide band of small scales separating the ventral and dorsal scales, and Proctoporus as having the dorsal and ventral scales separated by a fold with granular scales. The diagnoses of the two genera are virtually identical, except for the lateral fold. Boulenger (1885, 1902, 1908) allocated six species to Oreosaurus (O. laevis Boulenger, O. luctuosus, O. ocellifer Boulenger, O. oculatus O’Shaughnessy, O. petersii Boettger, and O. striatus). And, Boettger (1891) described the Bolivian species O. guentheri. Andersson (1914) was unable to separate the two genera. Apparently, the fold Gray and Boulenger reported was an artifact of preservation (see Doan and Castoe, 2005). Thus, Andersson (1914) placed Oreosaurus in the synonymy of Proctoporus, an arrangement used into the early 21st century. Subsequently, Parker (1935) described Proctoporus shrevei from Trinidad. A species that would later gain the attention of science and the public for reportedly being luminescent (Roth and Gans, 1960; Knight et al. 2004).
Most species of Proctoporus were known from relatively few specimens. Uzzell (1958) noted more than half of the species were known from less than five specimens. Yet, after examining only 11 of the 16 recognized species, he attempted to define species groups within the genus. Uzzell (1958, 1970) placed P. luctuosus, P. laevis, P. oculatus, P. shrevei, and P. achlyens, a new taxon from Venezuela, in the luctuosus group. Uzzell defined the luctosus group as having: lateral scales smaller than dorsals and forming a wide band between dorsals and ventrals; males have ocelli in their pattern; four supraoculars; a divided palpebral; no median occipital; pregulars arranged in chevrons with the apices forward, not in transverse rows; limbs overlapping when adpressed; the absence of a continuous narrow granular band along the sides of the body. Uzzell argued that the characters occur in other species outside the group, but the combination is distinctive. He recognized two other species groups that are not directly related to the discussion here.
The three taxonomic groups (Uzzell, 1958, 1970) are allopatric with the Proctoporus luctuosus group occurring mostly in Venezuela and Trinidad, with one species, P. laevis, in Colombia, and another, P. oculatus from Ecuador. The P. pachyurus group occurs in central and southern Peru and Bolivia, and the P. ventrimaculatus group in northern Peru. Kizirian (1996) studied the Ecuadorian Proctoporus, and added nine new species to the previously described 16 species. Doan and Schargel (2003) described Proctoporus inanis from the Merida Andes of Venezuela.
Kizirian (1996) summarized the nomenclatural history of Proctoporus, but remarked that while the monophyly of the genus had been suggested it was not confirmed. Additionally, he recognized three available generic names (Emphrassotis O'Shaughnessy, Oreosaurus Peters, and Riama Gray) are in the synonymy of Proctoporus. Kizirian (1996) also points out that Burt and Burt (1931) designated the type species of Oreosaurus as Oreosaurus (Ecpleopus) luctuosus Peters. Later, Peters and Donoso-Barros (1970) designated the type species as Oreosaurus (Ecpleopus) striatus Peters. Presumably, this was because the striatus description precedes that of the luctuosus description in Peters (1862). Kizirian also commented that Peters and Donoso-Barros may be correct.  Too be clear, these two species were described in the same paper (Peters 1862) and the ICZN Code does not recognize page priority, but it does recognize the principal of the first reviewer, Article 24.22.2 (Ride, 1999). Given this rule, we consider Burt and Burt (1931) to be the first reviewer and Oreosaurus would have priority in the event luctuosus should require a new genus. 
The first attempt to establish a phylogenetic classification of the Cercosaurini tribe of gymnophthalmids recognized two clades. Doan and Castoe (2005) resurrected the genus Riama to accommodate one of the clades of the polyphyletic genus Proctoporus. Using their classification Proctoporus contains five species from the central Andes of Peru and Bolivia. The remaining 24 species formerly belonging to Proctoporus were placed in Riama. Following this arrangement Gray’s genus Riama occurs throughout the Andes of central Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, and Venezuela, the Cordillera de la Costa of Venezuela, and Trinidad’s Northern Range. Rivas et al. (2005) described Riama rhodogaster from Venezuela’s Peninsula de Paria, and considered it the sister to Trinidad’s P. shrevei.
Sanchez-Pacheco et al. (2017) results have implications for patterns of distribution among major biogeographical units, and especially the connection between the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Colombia, the Cordillera de la Costa in Venezuela, the island of Trinidad, and the tepuis (Venezuelan Guyana and Guyana Shield). Their inclusion of the undescribed Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta endemic Oreosaurus “Sierra Nevada”, two endemic species from the Cordillera de la Costa (O. achlyens and O. “Venezuela”), the Trinidadian endemic O. shrevei (Aripo Northern Range), and the tepui endemic O. mcdiarmidi allows a test of previous biogeographical hypotheses. Although each of these highland complexes has a unique geological history, cumulative phylogenetic evidence suggests an ancient connection between them. Species form monophyletic groups despite the considerable geographical distances that separate them. For example, our analysis recovers O. “Sierra Nevada” as the sister of the remaining species of Oreosaurus, followed by O. mcdiarmidi. Oreosaurus achlyens is the sister of O. shrevei + O. “Venezuela”. The distribution of Oreosaurus (Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, CC, Trinidadian high-lands and tepuis) constitutes a biogeographical pattern (as a whole) not repeated in other vertebrates. This distribution strongly implies an ancient biogeographical connection between the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and the Cordillera de la Costa as part of the explanation for the origin of the montane Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta endemic vertebrate fauna.
Cordillera de la Costa which includes the island of Trinidad extends eastwards along the Caribbean coast from the Andean Cordillera de Merida and it has two main sections. First, the Barquisimeto Depression separates the Central (locality of Oreosaurus achlyens and O. luctuosus) from the Cordillera de Merida. Second, the Cordillera de la Costa Oriental extends farther east along the coast toward the island of Trinidad, which lies 12 km off the northeastern coast of Venezuela. In turn, the Cordillera de la Costa Oriental consists of two separate mountain chains situated in extreme northeastern Venezuela: the Pen􀀁ınsula de Paria, the type locality of O. rhodogaster, and the massif of Turimiquire, locality of O. “Venezuela” (Rivas et al., 2005). The Cordillera de la Costa originally extended from the Merida Andes onto the island of Trinidad. Thus, the northern range of Trinidad, the type locality of O. shrevei, was stratigraphically contiguous with the coastal range of Venezuela during the Pliocene and Pleistocene. This connection facilitated the exchange of species through land connections. A Miocene downwarping event severed the land connection. Accordingly, the Cordillera de la Costa Oriental shares many species with Trinidad. 

Below is figure 3 from Sanchez-Pacheco et al. (2017) showing the distribution of the members of the genus Oreosaurus.



Literature Cited

Andersson LG. 1914. A new Telmatobius and new teiidoid lizards from South America. Arkiv för Zoologi 9: 1–12.
Boettger O. 1891. Reptilien und Batrachier aus Bolivia. Zoologischer Anzeiger 14: 343–347.
Boulenger GA. 1885. Catalogue of the Lizards in the British Museum (Natural History) I–III. London: British Museum (Natural History).
Boulenger GA. 1900. Descriptions of new Batrachians and Reptiles collected by Mr. P. O. Simons in Peru. Annals and Magazine of Natural History, Series 7 (6): 181–186.
Boulenger GA. 1902. Descriptions of new batrachians and reptiles from the Andes of Peru and Bolivia. Annals and Magazine of Natural History, Series 7 (6): 394–402.
Boulenger GA. 1908. Descriptions of new batrachians and reptiles discovered by Mr. M. G. Palmer in south-western Colombia. Annals and Magazine of Natural History, Series 8 (2): 515–522.
Burt CE, Burt MD. 1931. South American lizards in the collection of the American Museum of Natural History. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 61: 227–395.
Castoe TA, Doan TM, Parkinson CL. 2004. Data partitions and complex models in Bayesian analysis: the phylogeny of gymnophthalmid lizards. Systematic Biology 53: 448–469.
Doan TM. 2003a. A south-to-north biogeographic hypothesis for Andean speciation: evidence from the lizard genus Proctoporus (Reptilia, Gymnophthalmidae). Journal of Biogeography 30: 361–374.
Doan TM. 2003b. A new phylogenetic classification for the gymnophthalmid genera Cercosaura, Pantodactylus, and Prionodactylus (Reptilia: Squamata). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 137: 101–115.
Doan TM, Castoe TA. 2003. Using morphological and molecular evidence to infer species boundaries within Proctoporus bolivianus Werner (Squamata: Gymnophthalmidae). Herpetologica 59: 433–450.
Doan TM, Schargel WE. 2003. Bridging the gap in Proctoporus distribution: a new species (Squamata: Gymnophthalmidae) from the Andes of Venezuela. Herpetologica 59: 68–75.
Duellman WE. 1979. The herpetofauna of the Andes: patterns of distribution, origin, differentiation, and present communities. In: Duellman WE, ed. The South American herpetofauna: its origin, evolution, and dispersal. Lawrence: Monographs Museum Natural History University Kansas, no. 7, 371–459.
Gray JE. 1858. Description of Riama, a new genus of lizards, forming a distinct family. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1858: 444–446.
Kizirian DA. 1995. A new species of Proctoporus (Squamata: Gymnophthalmidae) from the Andean Cordillera Oriental of northeastern Ecuador. Journal of Herpetology 29: 66–72.
Kizirian DA. 1996. A review of Ecuadorian Proctoporus (Squamata: Gymnophthalmidae) with descriptions of nine new species. Herpetological Monographs 10: 85–155.
O’Shaughnessy AWE. 1879. Descriptions of new species of lizards in the collection of the British Museum. Annals and Magazine of Natural History, Series 5 (4):295–303.
Parker HW 1935. The New Teiid Lizard in Trinidad. Tropical Agriculture, 12: 283.
Peters W. 1862. Über Cercosaura und die mit dieser Gattung verwandten Eidechsen aus Südamerica. Abhandlungen der Akademie der Wissenschaften Berlin 1862: 165–225.
Peters JA, Donosos-Barros R. 1970. Catalogue of the Neotropical Squamata, Part II, lizards and amphisbaenians. Bulletin of the U.S. National Museum 297: 1–293.
Rivas, G., Schargel, W. E., & Meik, J. M. (2005). A new species of Riama (Squamata: Gymnophthalmidae), endemic to the Península de Paria, Venezuela. Herpetologica, 61(4), 461-468.
Sánchez‐Pacheco SJ, Torres‐Carvajal O, Aguirre‐Peñafiel V, Nunes PM, Verrastro L, Rivas GA, Rodrigues MT, Grant T, Murphy RW. 2017.Phylogeny of Riama (Squamata: Gymnophthalmidae), impact of phenotypic evidence on molecular datasets, and the origin of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta endemic fauna. Cladistics 1-32.
Uzzell TM. 1958. Teiid lizards related to Proctoporus luctuosus, with the description of a new species from Venezuela. Occasional Papers of the Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan 597: 1–15.
Uzzell TM. 1966. Teiid lizards of the genus Neusticurus (Reptilia, Sauria). Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 132: 277–328.
Uzzell T. 1970. Teiid lizards of the genus Proctoporus from Bolivia and Peru. Postilla 142: 1–39.
Uzzell TM. 1973. A revision of lizards of the genus Prionodactylus, with a new genus for P. leucostictus and notes on the genus Euspondylus (Sauria, Teiidae). Postilla 159: 1–67.




Monday, January 23, 2017

Cuiver’s Dwarf Caiman, Paleosuchus palpebrosus

The Dwarf Caiman has males that are slightly larger than females (1.3-1.5 m); females reach about 1.2 m. They are distributed in northern and central South America from Trinidad southward to Paraguay. The Dwarf Caiman tends to use fast-moving streams in forested habitats that are cooler than stream in more open habitat,. The streams may be shared with the Spectacled Caiman. The Dwarf caiman is more terrestrial than the Spectacled Caiman, and can be observed sitting on the shoreline and using burrows. Dwarf Caimans are nocturnal hunters. Juveniles feed on insects, mollusks, crustaceans, fish frogs and their tadpoles. Adults have a similar diet but include small mammals. Their gizzard contains gastroliths (small stones) which mechanically break down the food into smaller pieces. On the mainland nesting occurs at the end of the dry season and the beginning of the rainy season in areas with warm climates. Clutches of 10-25 eggs are deposited in a nest made of soil, leaves, small branches, and other vegetation; and  constructed by both parents. The nest is usually small in diameter and height. Incubation is about 90 days. Parental care is minimal or absent until the nest is opened by the female when the young start to vocalize. After hatching the young stay under the nesting material for several days. Sexual maturity is reached at 1.1 meters in males and about one meter in females. These sizes are reached at about 10 years of age. Dwarf Caimans are social, and while they are sometimes solitary they may be found in pairs or small groups. Like other crocodilians, they communicate with sound, posture, movement, chemicals, and contact. Dominance hierarchies form within groups. Dominant individuals have access to mates, nest sites, food, and living space. Dominance is maintained by social signals and displays. Predators of these small crocodilians include cats, raptors, wading birds, snakes, and large fish. Conservation Status. The IUCN considers it a species of Least Concern, while CITES has listed it on Appendix II. This species was only recently discovered in south-central Trinidad.

Ali SH, Rampersad-Ali N, Murphy JC. 2016. The discovery of Cuvier’s Dwarf Caiman, Paleosuchus palpebrosus (Reptilia: Alligatoridae) in Trinidad. Living World, Journal of the Trinidad and Tobago Field Naturalists' Club. 2016 Nov 30.

Johnstone's Rain Frog, Eleutherodactylus johnstonei

Johnstone's Rain Frog, Eleutherodactylus johnstonei (Family Craugastoridae)

Males 17-25 mm, females, 17-35 mm. Dorsum brown or gray brown with one or two darker chevrons; a narrow middorsal stripe or a pair of broad dorsal stripes may be present;skin smooth to slightly tuberculate; distinct tympanum; small, rounded finger and toe disks; digits lack webbing. Native to Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Montserrat, Netherlands Antilles, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; introduced into Aruba, Bermuda, Colombia, Costa Rica, French Guiana, Guyana, Jamaica, Panama, Trinidad, Venezuela. Males usually call from low vegetation in disturbed habitat, it seems to avoid forests and undisturbed environments. Reproduces throughout the year with most activity during the wet season. Clutches 10-30 unpigmented eggs covered in a thin layer of viscous mucus which undergo direct development; froglets have body lengths of about 4 mm. It takes about a year for the frog to reach sexual maturity. In the 1980's this frog was restricted to Port of Spain, it has now spread east along the Eastern Main Road to St. Augustine, and can be heard at Piarco Airport. It has now reached Tobago.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Trinidad & Tobago Polychrus distinct from the Guyana-Amazonian species

Audubon's Multicolored Lizard, Polychrus audubonii (Hallowell, 1845)
For the past century the Trinidad and Tobago herpetofauna has been considered to composed of mostly widespread Amazonian and Guianan species. In fact this is not correct and the evidence is mounting that the T&T herpetofauna is composed of more endemics and  near endemics that the islands share with the Venezuelan coastal ranges.

The most recent evidence is a paper by Murphy et al. (2017) that demonstrates the widespread multicolored lizard Polychrus marmoratus (Linnaeus, 1758) is a species complex. The Trinidad and Tobago populations and in the Venezuelan Coastal Range populations are distinct from the Guyana endemic Polychrus marmoratus. The new species actually has an old name.

Edward Hallowell (1845) described Leiolepis auduboni based on a specimen collected by Samuel Ashmead at a location within 200 miles of Caracas, Venezuela. Hallowell’s specimen was identified as Polychrus marmoratus by Roze (1958) and placed in the synonymy of the Linnean species. However its status as a junior synonym of Polychrus marmoratus has been overlooked in more recent works.

Polychrus auduboni  is distinct from P. marmoratus, in having the loreal usually fragmented into two scales (usually three or more in marmoratus); nasal does not usually contact first upper labial (in marmoratus is usually does not contact the first upper labial); total femoral pores 17–28 (8-19 in marmoratus); multicarinate scales in paravertebral rows few or none (many in marmoratus); paravertebrals much larger than laterals (about the same size in marmoratus). The two species are also genetically different.

The authors also suggest there is at least one undescribed species in Para, Brazil and that the names   Polychrus virescens Schniz and Polychrus neovidanus Wagler are valid names for species currently not recognized in Brazil's Atlantic Forest.


Citation
Murphy JC, Lehtinen RM, Charles SP, Wasserman D, Anton T, Brennan PJ. 2017. Cryptic multicolored lizards in the Polychrus marmoratus Group (Squamata: Sauria: Polychrotidae) and the status of Leiolepis auduboni Hallowell. Amphibian & Reptile Conservation 11(1): 1–16 (e132).

Friday, January 6, 2017

Environmental DNA Detection of the Golden Tree Frog

The Bromeliad-dwelling Treefrog or the Golden Tree Frog, Phytotriades auratus was long thought to be restricted to two of Trinidad's sky islands. However, in 2015 Rivas and Freitas found it in Eastern Venezuela's Paria Peninsula. Now, an investigation has located another sky island locality in Trinidad - Chaguaramal. Torresdal et al. (2016) used environmental DNA (eDNA) to detect the presence of the frog in its bromeliad microhabitat. Phytotriades are known to use the water tanks of the bromeliad Glomeropitcairnia erectiflora. This is a huge strap-shaped leaf plant that is epiphytic and often three meters or more above the ground. Previous studies of the frog required ripping the plants apart to find the frog; now a water sample can be take from the plant and tested for the frog's DNA. The researchers tested 29 bromeliads, 23 of these tested positive for the presence of P. auratus. Additionally, two P. auratus were observed and in two of the plants tested, the Dwarf Marsupial Frog, Flectonotus fitzgeraldi, was also observed. The test distinguishes between species of frogs. The eDNA test will provide used data without destroying the microhabitat of this species, and allow conservation efforts to monitor the species distribution.


Citations

Rivas GA, De Freitas M. Discovery of the critically endangered golden tree frog, Phytotriades auratus (Boulenger, 1917), in Eastern Venezuela, with comments on its distribution, conservation, and biogeography. Herpetological Review. 2015; 46:153–157.

Torresdal JD, Farrell AD, Goldberg CS (2017) Environmental DNA Detection of the Golden Tree Frog (Phytotriades auratus) in Bromeliads. PLoS ONE 12(1): e0168787. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0168787

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Turnip-tailed Gecko, Thecadactylus rapicauda


Size. To 220 mm in body length. In mainland South America this gecko is primarily a tree-trunk dweller, but it will colonize buildings. The exception appears to be building that have already been colonized by the invasive African House Gecko, Hemidactylus mabouia. Thecadactylus has an average body temperature of 26.9 C and were similar to air and substrate temperatures, suggesting the species is a thermal conformer. Thecadactylus, like many other geckos has a clutch size of one egg, and the female lays multiple clutches in a short period of time.

Twig Anole, Anolis tigrinus

A Tobago Anolis tigrinus
The Tobago Anolis tigrinus Peters, 1863 is a small anole that belongs to the ecomorph group referred to as twig anoles.  The following description is based on Ugueto et al. (2009) On mainland Venezuela females may reach 58 mm and males 55 mm in body length. Head elongate with large, tuberculate scales;  the supraoculars are also large and the supraorbital semicircles are usually in contact, but may be separated by one scale; interparietal and supraorbital semicircles are usually in contact, rarely separated by one scale; a  distinct occipital knob is present. Dorsal scales are small and smooth; 63–97 scales along the middorsal line from axilla to groin; 94–114 scales around midbody; ventrals slightly larger than dorsals, roundish and completely smooth; 57–84 scales along the midventral line between axilla and groin. Dorsal coloration has a lichen-like appearance, changing from brown to mossy green during metachrosis; dark vertebral, rectangular spots, lateral light round, large spots and/or oblique lateral blackish lines are usually present. Dewlap in males large extending close to mid-venter with more or less horizontal rows of single scales; pale whitish anteriorly, pale yellow medially and orange postero-inferiorly with pale scales; females with a smaller dewlap, just reaching between the insertion of arms and  lightly beyond the axilla; with moderately separated, horizontal rows of single scales; pale orangish or grayish with conspicuous (usually horizontally elongated) black spots and pale scales.

Anolis tigrinus appears to be a central Venezuelan Coastal Range-Tobago endemic. However, we also have photographic evidence that A. tigrinus is present on Trinidad. Also see this blog post for more on its discovery on Tobago.

Ugueto GN, Rivas G, Barros T, Smith EN. A revision of the Venezuelan anoles II: redescription of Anolis squamulatus Peters 1863 and Anolis tigrinus Peters 1863 (Reptilia: Polychrotidae). 2009. Caribbean Journal of Science. 45(1):30-51.

Tegu or Matte, Tupinambis cryptus (Family Teiidae)


Our observations of this lizard suggest they use secondary forest, savannas, and human modified habitats. We have not observed them in primary forests proper, but at the forest edge. It may avoid dense forest because of the low number of basking sites. Like other species of Tupinambis, it is a dietary generalist. We have observed this lizard investigating caiman nests, forging along streams, on the floor of secondary forests, and in mangroves; usually while tongue flicking and probing the leaf litter with their head. This lizard is most readily observed foraging under the bird feeders at the Asa Wright Nature Center where they scavenge pieces of fruit.

Everard and Boos (1975) report it feeding on leatherback turtle eggs, ground nesting birds (including nestlings and eggs). They trapped itat Waller Field in Trinidad as well as Chaguaramas, Aripo-Cumuto, the Turure Forest, and Bush Bush Forest while studying the mongoose over a six year period. Traps were baited with chicken remains. At the Waller Field study site 56 specimens were trapped during a 23 week period. In a mark and release study involving 40 animals they had ten recaptures; time between capture and recapture ranging from 1–86 days. The animals moved between 0.0–1.2 km (X=404 m) and they estimated 79.9 (r=116.3–43.5) lizards inhabited the 104 ha study site. Trinidadian folklore (Everard and Boos, 1975) states that the young hatch during thunder storms, this suggests Beebe (1945) observed females depositing eggs in termite nests. Females excavate a chamber in a termite nest (often in arboreal situations), deposit their eggs, and the termites re-seal the nest chamber. The eggs hatch and the hatchlings escape when the termite nest softens during heavy rains. When disturbed their first defense response is to escape into vegetation or a burrow, but if cornered they raise their body and posture with stiffened legs while hissing and threatening with an open mouth. They will drop their tails and we have found shed tails in the field.

Barbados Anole, Anolis extremus (Family Dactyloidae)

Anolis roquet var. extremus Garman 1887: 35
Anolis extremus — Schwartz & Henderson 1991: 262

Distribution. The Barbados anole (Anolis extremus) is native to Barbados, but introduced to Saint Lucia and Bermuda, Trinidad and Huevos I. It does not appear to have survived the introductions on Trinidad or Huevos.

Diagnosis. Males have pale lavender to blue-gray heads, with blue eyelids. Their body is a deep green with dark markings and occasionally white spots, and ventral surfaces are yellow. Females are smaller and duller in color and may have a mid-dorsal stripe. Photo by Postdif.


Creer, D. A., Queiroz K., Jackman TR, Losos JB, Larson A. 2001. Systematics of the Anolis roquet series of the southern Lesser Antilles. Journal of Herpetology 35 (3): 428-441

Garman, S. 1887. On West Indian reptiles. Iguanidae. Bull. Essex Inst. 19: 25-50.

Lazell, J.D. 1972. The anoles (Sauria: Iguanidae) of the Lesser Antilles. Bull. Mus. comp. Zool. Harvard 143 (1): 1-115.

Schwartz, A. & Henderson, R.W. 1991. Amphibians and Reptiles of the West Indies. University of Florida Press, Gainesville, 720 pp.

Speckled Anole, Anolis aeneus (Gray)

Distribution. Anolis aeneus is endemic to Grenada and the Grenadines, its populations in Trinidad and Tobago (as well as Guyana) are introduced.

Males reach a body length of 77 mm, females are smaller reaching about 55 mm. Coloration is usually gray, olive, or chocolate-brown, mottling or speckles. Note that it has a bluish eye which will distinguish it from most other Anolis on Trinidad and Tobago.

Natural History. Anolis aeneus uses a wide range of habitats including open areas (Hailey et al., 2009), with substrates of mainly bushes and walls (White & Hailey, 2006) and it is usually seen in urban areas in Trinidad and Tobago. However we have found it in disturbed secondary forests on Tobago.

Gray, J. E. 1840. Catalogue of the species of reptiles collected in Cuba by W. S. MacLeay, esq.; with some notes on their habits extracted from his MS. Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. (1) 5: 108-115.

John, RR., Hedman HD, Powell R. 2012. Anolis aeneus. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles (892): 1-11.

Lazell,J.D. 1972. The anoles (Sauria: Iguanidae) of the lesser Antilles. Bull. Mus. comp. Zool. Harvard 143 (1): 1-115

Malhotra, A. & Thorpe, R.S. 1999. Reptiles & Amphibians of the Eastern Caribbean. MacMillan, London & Oxford

Schwartz, A. & Henderson, R.W. 1991. Amphibians and Reptiles of the West Indies. University of Florida Press, Gainesville, 720 pp.

Simmons, P. M., B. T. Greene, K. E. Williamson, R. Powell and J. S. J. Parmerlee 2005. Ecological interactions within a lizard community on Grenada. Herpetologica 61 (2): 124-134.

Williams, E.E. Quesnel, VC. Kenny, J S.; Underwood, G. 1959. The anoles of the Eastern Caribbean (Sauria, Iguanidae) Part. I. Preface; Part II. Two sibling species of anoles in Trinidad; Part. III. Revisionary notes. Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool. Harvard 121 (5): 185-226.

Streak Lizard, Gonatodes vittatus (Family Sphaerodactylidae)

Male (top), female (bottom).


Size: 33−34 mm SVL, both sexes about the same size; tail about 50% of SVL. Identification. A small lizard with a cylindrical body and tail; smooth, small, uniform scales on dorsum; digits slender and end in a claw. Males with bright white vertebral stripe bordered in black, extends to tail tip; body otherwise red-brown to blue gray; females heavily spotted, vertebral stripe indistinct; but colors are variable and may change with social situations. Lamellae on fourth toe 19−23. Like other Trinidad and Tobago Gonatodes dorsum with tiny granular scales, belly with larger overlapping scales. Perhaps, the most commonly seen lizard in Trinidad and Tobago. Similar species are mostly other Gonatodes that can be distinguished on the basis of coloration, hatchlings are minute, but tend to have numerous small orange spots distinguishing them from the tiny, usually striped Mole’s Gecko. Distribution: northern Colombia, Venezuela (including the Isla de Margarita and other coastal islands) and Trinidad and Tobago. Habitat: Forest-edge, savanna, and edificarian habitats; abundant in coconut trash; open shaded surfaces, on tree trunks and garden walls; does not hesitate to enter occupied houses. Biology: Diurnal but may be active at night, ambush predator and active forager. Unlike some of its relatives this species often basks in direct sunlight. Diet small arthropods including ants, beetles, spiders, dipterous larvae, isopods. Reproduction: Gonatodes frequently curl their tails over back in a scorpion-like posture, a female displaying the tail-raised posture toward a male may then be displaced by the male, the function of the display is poorly understood. Fertile eggs produced for 5-6 months after the last mating; eggs laid on palm trunks covered with fallen fronds, under rocks, and in crevices or buildings; like anoles and many other geckos, probably lays clutch of a single egg in rapid succession. Males engage in tumbling fights over territories or display locations.

Black &White Worm Lizard, Amphisbaena fuliginosa Linnaeus

Amphisbaena fuliginosa Linnaeus

Distribution. Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, Trinidad, Brazil, Peru.

Natural History. May be active any time of the day in leaf litter or loose soil. Uses savanna and forest habitats. Feeds on arthropods, and may be associated with leaf cutter ant nests.

Double-headed Worm Lizard, Amphisbaena alba Linnaeus 1758

Amphisbaena alba Linnaeus 1758: 229.

Distribution. Panama, Guyana, Surinam, French Guiana, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, N Paraguay, Trinidad. Probably island wide on Trinidad.

Size. Adults reach 609 mm in total length. The tail is 10% or less than the body length.

Natural History. On Trinidad it has been associated with leaf cutter ant nests (Riley et al (1985). A Brazilian study (Colli and Zamboni, 1999) reports on this species natural history. Diet includes plant material as well as small vertebrates. Reproduction occurs in the dry season in Brazil, smallest reproductive males are 422 mm, smallest reproductive females 457 mm. Clutch size 8-16.

Andrade, Denis V.; Nascimento, Luciana B.; Abe, Augusto S. 2006. Habits hidden underground: a review on the reproduction of the Amphisbaenia with notes on four neotropical species. Amphibia-Reptilia 27 (2): 207-217

Colli, G.R. & Zamboni, D.S. 1999. Ecology of the Worm-Lizard Amphisbaena alba in the Cerrado of Central Brazil. Copeia 1999: 733-742

Gans, C. 1962. Notes on amphisbaenids (Amphisbaenia, Reptilia). 5. A redefinition and bibliography of Amphisbaena alba Linné. American Museum Novitates (2105): 1- 31

Gans, C. 2005. Checklist and bibliography of the Amphisbaenia of the world. Bull. Am. Mus. Nat. Hist. 289: 1-130

Gans, Carl 1967. A check list of recent amphisbaenians (Amphisbaenia, Reptilia). Bull. Amer. Mus. Nat. Hist. 135:61-106.

Linnaeus, C. 1758. Systema naturæ per regna tria naturæ, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus I. Editio decima, reformata. Laurentii Salvii, Holmiæ. 10th Edition: 824 pp.

Rivas, Gilson A.; César R. Molina, Gabriel N. Ugueto, Tito R. Barros, César L. Barrio-Amorós 2012. Reptiles of Venezuela: an updated and commented checklist. Zootaxa 3211: 1–64

Starace, Fausto 1998. Guide des Serpents et Amphisbènes de Guyane. IBIS Rouge Editions, Guadeloupe, Guyane, 450 pp.

Vanzolini, P. E. 1955. Contribucoes ao conhecimento dos lagartos Brasileiros da familia Amphisbaenidae Gray, 1825 5. Distribuicao geographica e biometria de Amphisbaena alba L. Arquivos do Museu Nacional 42: 683-706

Vanzolini, P.E. 1974. Ecological and geographical distribution of lizards in Pernambuco, northeastern Brasil (Sauria). Papeis Avulsos de Zool. 28(4): 61-90.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Garman's Thin-toed Frog, Leptodactylus validus (Family Leptodactylidae)

This species occurs on the Lesser Antillean islands of St. Vincent and Bequia, Grenada, and is widespread on the continental islands of Trinidad and Tobago. It has been recorded from sea level up to near 730m asl. This is a terrestrial and nocturnal forest and forest edge species found in road side ditches, flooded grassy habitats, and secondary forests near streams. It is one of the most commonly heard, but less often seen frogs on the islands. Parent Leptodactylus validus stand watch over their offspring.

Charlotteville Litter Frog, Pristimantis charlottevillensis (Family Craugastoridae)

Charlotteville Litter Frog, Pristimantis charlottevillensis is a Tobago endemic restricted to the forested habitats on Tobago's Main Ridge. Adult males may reach 31 mm, female 47 mm. Males call from the leaf litter or from the vegetation. This terrestrial frog is nocturnal.

Trinidad Thin-toed Frog, Leptodactylus nesiotus (Family Leptodactylidae)

Trinidad Thin-toed Frog, Leptodactylus nesiotis (Family Leptodactylidae)

This frog is known from Trinidad from a few specimens collected in the southwest peninsula and Nariva Swamp. It is endemic to Trinidad.

Steffen’s Thin-toed Frog, Leptodactylus latrans (Family Leptodactylidae)

This is a large leptodactylid in the Leptodactylus latrans–macrosternum-chaquensis complex. Until this species complex is revised its exact identity remains unknown. It occurs in the southwest peninsula of Trinidad (unknown from Tobago).

Leptodactylus lineatus (Family Leptodactylidae)

This frog is known from Trinidad from a single specimen collected early in the 20th century. This may represent a locality error or the species may be extirpated from the island.

Barbour’s Thin-toed Frog, Leptodactylus insularum

Barbour’s Thin-toed Frog ranges from Costa Rica south into Colombia and east into Venezuela, with the Trinidad the extreme eastern edge of its range. In Trinidad it has been recorded from the southwest and central portions of the island. This is a lowland species, from forest and swamp margins.


Heyer WR, de Sa RO 2011 Variation, systematics, and relationships of the Leptodactylus bolivianus complex (Amphibia: Anura: Leptodactylidae). Smithsonian Contrib Zoology 635:1-58.

Adenomera sp. (Family Leptodactylidae)

The Trinidad Adenomera are undescribed (see Fouquet et al. 2014). There appears to be at least two species on the island. Until now they have been considered Adenomera hylaedactyla. Males 22-24 mm, females 26-27 mm. The dorsal coloration consists of scattered dark markings on a brown background. There are two well-defined glandular dorsolateral folds on each side of the body. The distance from the eye to the snout is about one and a half times the diameter of the eye. The belly and throat are white. The lower and front surfaces of the thighs are yellowish. The iris is bronze. The species is terrestrial, active by day and night (mostly at night), and usually found in open areas and edges of forests. Reproduction occurs throughout the year, with a peak in the rainy season. The males call from the ground, hidden among leaves and fallen branches. Males excavate small burrows in the soil, in which the female deposits about 15 eggs in a foam nest. The tadpoles develop in the nest, living exclusively on the yolk provided in the eggs. These frogs have also been placed in the genus Leptodactylus.


Fouquet, A., Santana Cassini, C., Fernando Baptista Haddad, C., Pech, N., & Trefaut Rodrigues, M. (2014). Species delimitation, patterns of diversification and historical biogeography of the Neotropical frog genus Adenomera (Anura, Leptodactylidae). Journal of Biogeography, 41(5), 855-870.

The Whistling Frog, Leptodactylus fuscus (Family Leptodactylidae)

As currently defined it occurs from the Pacific lowlands of Panama throughout South America, east of the Andes to northern Argentina. It is found over most of Trinidad and Tobago (absent from Little Tobago Island) and is perhaps the most common and abundant frog in the islands. It is terrestrial and nocturnal, using open habitats (savannahs, grasslands, marshy areas, degraded forests and urban habitats). Males calling at the onset of rains. Breeding takes place in small burrows in shallow temporary wetlands and the edges of permanent bodies of water. The eggs are deposited in foam nests within a burrow. When the burrows flood the larvae escape into the adjacent wetlands where the tadpoles then develop.

Pepper Treefrog, Trachycephalus typhonius (Family Hylidae)

Size males 70 - 101 mm; adult females 93- 114 mm. Head wider than long, a round, blunt snout and medium-sized eyes. Tympanum distinct and about half the diameter of the eye, larger in females than males. The dorsal skin thick and glandular. Digits short, large expanded discs, fingers moderately webbed; toes heavily webbed. Males have paired, lateral, expandable vocal sacs behind the angles of the jaw when not inflated. Nuptial pad, lacking spines, on the base of the thumb in males. Bones are green, as in other frogs of the genus Trachycephalus.

Distribution and Habitat Widespread, ranging from Mexico to Argentina, present on Trinidad and Tobago. A forest and forest-edge frog that will traverse long distances to meet at breeding sites. Males call while floating on the water, often engaging each other in agonistic behavior. This is an explosive breeder, with many dozens of males and females breeding in one pond at one time. Breeding is triggered by heavy rains. Eggs form a raft on the water surface. These frogs readily parachute from trees. One was observed gliding for 27 m, after being dropped from a height of 43 m. They may land on car windshields.

LimeTreefrog, Sphaenorhynchus lacteus (Family Hylidae)

Lime Treefrog, Sphaenorhynchus lacteus (Family Hylidae)

Snout-vent length 25.5-41.5 mm in males, 38.4-45.7 mm in females. The skin is smooth above, granular on the belly. The snout is pointed viewed from above, and angles sharply back when viewed laterally. The pupil is horizontally elliptical. A thin, dark canthal stripe often present. The tympanum visible and a tarsal fold is present. Fingers are approximately two-thirds webbed, while toes are completely webbed. Nuptial pads present on the thumb. Vocal sac large and medial. A widespread species, known from Trinidad, Venezuela, Brazil, Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Peru, from sea level to about 300 m. Habitat used include tropical wetlands, flooded savannas and meadows, and pond. Males call from emergent grasses and floating vegetation. Duellman (2005) reported it feeds on ants.