Introduced Herps of the Caribbean

The knight anole, Anolis equestris, gets around more than you might think. Photo by Neil Losin.

 A new, two-volume set on the conservation of Caribbean herps has just been published. More on that in a minute, but let’s cut to the important stuff. There’s a great summary of the record of anole introductions (discussed previously a number of times on Anole Annals, such as here, here, here and here) in an article by Bob Powell and others. Here’s what they have to say about anoles:

Anoles (family Polychrotidae). Anoles are highly diverse (Losos, 2009), quite adaptable, and often function as human commensals. Many species in the region exploit buildings, ornamental plants, and the night-light niche (e.g., Henderson and Powell, 2001, 2009; Perry et al., 2008; Powell and Henderson, 2008). Some are colorful and available in the pet trade (e.g., Kraus, 2009), but nearly all introductions within our region were inadvertent and attributable to stowaways in cargo such as building materials and ornamental plants.

Anolis cristatellus is native to the Puerto Rico Bank and was the only anole that made the list of most successful colonizing species (Bomford et al., 2009). A population became established in the DR in the early 20th century (Powell and Henderson, 2008 and references therein). It quickly displaced its native ecological counterpart (A. cybotes) from the most intensely altered habitats in and around the city of La Romana. These anoles have more recently been introduced into Dominica (Malhotra et al., 2007, 2011), where they are expanding their range and displacing endemic populations of A. oculatus along the dry leeward coast, and to St.-Martin (Breuil et al., 2010). Cuban A. porcatus became established in Santo Domingo (DR) in the mid-20th century (Powell and Henderson, 2008 and references therein) and, much like A. cristatellus in La Romana, has displaced its endemic ecological equivalent (in this instance, A. chlorocyanus) from much of the urban area. Anolis porcatus also has been reported from Aruba, to which it probably was introduced with a shipment of palm trees from Cuba (Odum and van Buurt, 2009).

Perhaps the most frequently relocated West Indian member of the genus is A. sagrei, which is native to the Bahamas, Cuba, and presumably Little Cayman in the lesser Cayman Islands. This species is established in Jamaica, where its presence was documented as early as the mid-19th century (Gosse, 1850). These aggressive lizards can affect other anoles negatively (e.g., Brown and Echternacht, 1991), and have displaced endemic A. carolinensis from much of peninsular Florida (Lever, 2003 and references therein). Nothing comparable appears to be occurring on Grenada (Greene et al., 2002) or St. Vincent (Treglia et al., 2008), where populations have become established with building materials, but so far appear to be restricted to only the most intensely altered habitats on those islands. Whether such constraints will continue to constrain expansion in the future or whether they will apply to recently reported populations on Barbados (Fields and Horrocks, 2009), St. Maarten (Fläschendräger, 2010), and Canouan in the Grenadines (M. de Silva, pers. comm.) is unknown. Anolis sagrei is comparable in size to the native species there and the potential for competition and possible displacement exists. A population on Aruba might be extirpated (G. van Buurt, unpubl. data).

Populations of A. carolinensis, a NA native, have become established inside and outside of the Caribbean. Although the pet trade has been implicated in many instances (Kraus, 2009), the West Indian introductions all appear to be consequences of arrival with nursery plants (e.g., Eaton et al., 2001; Powell, 2002; Hodge et al., 2003). A number of insular populations initially identified as A. carolinensis now are assigned to other species of anoles (Henderson and Powell, 2009).

Anolis extremus from Barbados and A. wattsi from Antigua are both established on St. Lucia, where they interact with each other and with endemic A. luciae (Lazell, 1972; Gorman, 1976; Henderson and Powell, 2009). Other regional anoles found outside their native ranges include strays (A. equestris, A. garmani, A. leachii) or localized populations not far from their points of origin (A. distichus, A. lineatus, A. maynardii).

The introduction of A. bimaculatus in St. Maarten (Powell et al., 1992) appears to be one of the few documented colonization failures in the region (Powell et al., 2005). Researchers intentionally introduced Puerto Rican A. pulchellus and A. stratulus into Isla Palominitos (Levins and Heatwole, 1973), which is essentially adjacent to both species’ native range. Other researchers introduced A. pogus from the Anguilla Bank onto Anguillita (Roughgarden et al., 1984). All of those introductions eventually failed.”

No surprise on which species are the main movers, but how is A. equestris getting about? The pet trade? And A. garmani? In fact, large anoles (throw in A. bimaculatus/leachii) are surprisingly common, whereas the tiny anoles—twiggers and grass-bush species, for example—seem to never be introduced. Interesting.

As for the book in general, Sandy Echternacht has kindly summarized the situation: “Brill published Conservation of Caribbean Herpetofaunas as two volumes:  Volume 1 – Conservation Biology and the Wider Caribbean ($169); Volume 2 – Regional Accounts of the West Indies (US$239).  Senior authors of chapters all received pdfs of their contribution(s) and were asked to send these along to co-authors.  You ought to be able to build both volumes entirely out of free pdfs.  Some of the chapters in the two volumes had been originally published in Applied Herpetology, also published by Brill, and many of these included color photos. I don’t know if the papers reprinted in these volumes are in color, but pdf reprints of the original publications may be available from the authors.  Brill cancelled the journal, but agreed to publish these books to include chapters that were in review or in press when the journal folded.”

The Table of Contents is pasted below. I’d love to have these books, but the $400+ price tag is outrageous. Authors: if you’ve posted your pdf online, please drop a line to AA and we’ll put up the link.

Contents of Volume 1

Preface 1

Byron S. Wilson, Julia A. Horrocks and Adrian Hailey

Introduction. Conservation of insular herpetofaunas in the West Indies


S. Blair Hedges

An overview of the evolution and conservation ofWest Indian amphibians

and reptiles


S. Blair Hedges and Luis M. Díaz

The conservation status of amphibians in the West Indies


Peter J. Tolson and RobertW. Henderson

An overview of snake conservation in the West Indies


Robert Powell, Robert W. Henderson, Michael C. Farmer, Michel

Breuil, Arthur C. Echternacht, Gerard van Buurt, Christina M.

Romagosa and Gad Perry

Introduced amphibians and reptiles in the greater Caribbean: Patterns

and conservation implications


Gerard van Buurt

Conservation of amphibians and reptiles in Aruba, Curaçao and



Jamie P. Bacon, Jennifer A. Gray and Lisa Kitson

Status and conservation of the reptiles and amphibians of the Bermuda



Adrian Hailey and Michelle Cazabon-Mannette

Conservation of herpetofauna in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago


Contents of Volume 2

Preface 1

Karim V.D. Hodge, Robert Powell and Ellen J. Censky

Conserving the herpetofauna of Anguilla


Jennifer C. Daltry

An introduction to the herpetofauna of Antigua, Barbuda and Redonda,

with some conservation recommendations


Charles R. Knapp, John B. Iverson, Sandra D. Buckner and

Shelley V. Cant

Conservation of amphibians and reptiles in The Bahamas


Angela Fields and Julia A. Horrocks

The herpetofauna of Barbados: Anthropogenic impacts and conservation



G. Perry and G.P. Gerber

Conservation of amphibians and reptiles in the British Virgin Islands:

Status and patterns


A.C. Echternacht, F.J. Burton and J.M. Blumenthal

The amphibians and reptiles of the Cayman Islands: Conservation

issues in the face of invasions


Anita Malhotra, Roger S. Thorpe, Eric Hypolite and Arlington


A report on the status of the herpetofauna of the Commonwealth of

Dominica, West Indies


Robert Powell and Sixto J. Incháustegui

Conservation of the herpetofauna of the Dominican Republic


Robert Powell

Conservation of the herpetofauna on the Dutch Windward Islands: St.

Eustatius, Saba, and St. Maarten


Olivier Lorvelec, Michel Pascal, Claudie Pavis and Philippe Feldmann

Amphibians and reptiles of the French West Indies: Inventory, threats

and conservation


RobertW. Henderson and Craig S. Berg

The herpetofauna of Grenada and the Grenada Grenadines: Conservation



Jacques Daudin and Mark de Silva

An annotated checklist of the amphibians and terrestrial reptiles of the

Grenadines with notes on their local natural history and conservation


Byron S. Wilson

Conservation of Jamaican amphibians and reptiles


Michel Breuil

The terrestrial herpetofauna of Martinique: Past, present, future


Rafael L. Joglar, Alberto O. Álvarez, T. Mitchell Aide, Diane

Barber, Patricia A. Burrowes, Miguel A. García, Abimael León-

Cardona, Ana V. Longo, Néstor Pérez-Buitrago, Alberto Puente,

Neftalí Rios-López and Peter J. Tolson

Conserving the Puerto Rican herpetofauna


Robert Powell and RobertW. Henderson

The St. Vincent (Lesser Antilles) herpetofauna: Conservation concerns


R. Graham Reynolds

Status, conservation, and introduction of amphibians and reptiles in the

Turks and Caicos Islands, British West Indies


Renata J. Platenberg and Ralf H. Boulon, Jr.

Conservation status of reptiles and amphibians in the U.S. Virgin



About Jonathan Losos

Author and Professor at Harvard University
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