A Non-Anole Grass-Bush Ecomorph?

I have long thought that the Asian lacertid lizard, Takydromus sexlineatus, is the best example of a non-anole species that corresponds to one of the anole ecomorphs. Extraordinarily long in tail, slender in body, light brown in color with a light-colored lateral stripe, this grass-dwelling lizard seems a dead ringer to a grass-bush ecomorph. This, of course, leads to many questions, not least of which is: if Takydromus somehow were juxtaposed with some ecomorphs, how would they interact?  Now we know the answer.

They’d ignore each other. Or at least, they’d do so within the confines of a small
Petsmart vivarium where they are commonly sold.

I recently mentioned this to perhaps the world’s authority, or certainly one of them, on Takydromus, none other than AA correspondent Gerrut Norval*, a brown-anole-studying South African who lives in Taiwan, where several of the slender lacertids are endemic. Gerrut was surprised to hear of the Taky commerce because until recently most species were legally protected in Taiwan, but I can attest that they pop up quite regularly at Petsmart, and I’ve seen them elsewhere.

In any case, it seems that relatively little is known of the habitat and behavior of these lizards. Not everyone is as convinced as I that Takydromus are Asian grass-bush anole döppelgangers, but it sure would be interesting to find out.

I showed a draft of this post to Gerrut. Here’s what he had to say: “These grass lizards are very beautiful and elegant lizards. I like the idea of sharing information about this genus. Just note, some, like Takydromus sauteri, are green in coloration, not unlike Anolis carolinensis come to think of it. Here is the species list of the known grass lizards in Taiwan.

Takydromus formosanus Boulenger, 1894 (endemic to Taiwan)

Takydromus hsuehshanesis Lin & Cheng, 1981 (endemic to Taiwan)

Takydromus kuehnei Van Denburgh, 1909 (indigenous species in Taiwan; the type locality is not far from my study area)

Takydromus luyeanus Lue & Lin, 2008 (endemic to Taiwan)

Takydromus sauteri Van Denburgh, 1909 (endemic to Taiwan)

Takydromus septentrionalis Günther, 1864 (some introduced populations exist in Taiwan)

Takydromus stejnegeri Van Denburgh, 1912 (endemic to Taiwan)

Takydromus viridipunctatus Lue & Lin, 2008 (endemic to Taiwan)

Also, the leading authority in Taiwan on these lizards is Dr. Si-Min Lin.

In the near future we will also look more into the interactions and competition between the grass lizards and the brown anole.”

p.s. Since writing this post, I returned to Petsmart for more cat food and, lo and behold, now’s the time to get into the Takydromus keeping game!


*incidentally, if you’re interested in how to pronounce Norval’s first name, here’s what he says: “In Afrikaans, the “g” is pronounced like the way the Scottish people pronounce the “ch” in the word “loch.” The “e” is like the “a” in “accent;” the “r” is pronounced like the “r” in Spanish—I guess—with a vibrating tongue. The “u” is pronounced similar to “ou” in “colour,” and the “t” is just the standard English pronouncing for the letter.

About Jonathan Losos

Author and Professor at Harvard University
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