Sunday, April 3, 2016

Caribbean Treerunner, Plica caribeana (Family Tropiduridae)

Plica caribeana Murphy & Jowers 2013: 59
Hypsibatus agamoides – Court 1858: 440
Uraniscodon plica – Boulenger 1885, 2: 180 (in part)
Plica plica – Burt & Burt 1931: 282 (in part)
Tropidurus plica – Frost 1992: 1 (in part)

Size: 124 mm, tail twice SVL; smallest measured 57 mm SVL, probably about size at hatching. Identification: A brown-green lizard with heavily keeled, overlapping scales giving it a spiny appearance; snout rounded from above; rostral rectangular; canthus short and distinct; ear opening has anterior and ventral tufts of spiny scales, a character that will readily distinguish this lizard from all other Trinidad and Tobago lizards; mid-dorsal crest starts on posterior head with a few enlarged spines and extends onto tail; dorsal scales are keeled, overlapping, rhomboidal, and decrease in size laterally; ventral scales smooth, slightly larger than dorsal scales and overlap; well-developed lateral fold of spiny scales from axillary region to base of tail, a character that will separate it from all other Trinidad and Tobago lizards; front limbs well developed with long fingers; tail laterally compressed. Color green with red-brown transverse bands, each having black spots; limbs and tail banded; a red-brown band from eye to ear; venter orange-yellow in males and orange-brown in females; males with a white throat and black gular pouch, females with gray throat and brown gular pouch; has color change ability.

Forest and forest-edge using vertical surfaces of tree trunks, rock faces, and buildings, holes at the base of trees for escape.

Diurnal. Diet: Insectivorous but will feed on other invertebrates. Hatchlings are more terrestrial than adults; occur in colonies of 6−12 adults and juveniles, on trunks of large trees, stone walls, bridges, ruins, old houses, and caves; usually head down, but in whatever position they may be the head and forebody raised.

Is Plica caribeana still present on Tobago? In the early 1990's Plica was observed by JCM near Easterfield, Tobago. No specimens were collected. In 2011 I started searching for this lizard on Tobago and failed to find it. The locality where it was observed had been deforested and developed.

Murphy, J.C. and Jowers, M.J. 2013. Treerunners, cryptic lizards of the Plica plica group (Squamata, Sauria, Tropiduridae) of northern South America. ZooKeys, (355), p.49.

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