Thanks-giving Far from Home

Giant anoles and new friends

Initially skeptical of my ambitions, a group of security guards celebrate the capture of a massive Anolis baleatus.

Part of any field-based research program are the random, unimagined discoveries that develop into fascinating side projects. (I’m sure that statement made my advisor’s blood pressure swell a tad).  One such “discovery” I’ve been a part of during my adventures in the Dominican Republic are the existence of maggot infestations inside the mouths of crown giant anoles.  Another crucial component to field research are the memories you take home with you – I mean the ones you’re not even sure you believe yourself when you tell your friends and family because they are just too random, bizarre and wonderful to be possible.  And that January night when Miguel Landestoy, Anthony Geneva, and I first glimpsed these writhing maggots in the mouths of giant anoles certainly qualifies…  (Cliff notes: Cipro and solenodon).

And so, while I am down here catching geckos for my thesis work I’m also searching for more populations of maggot-infected crown giants to provide some preliminary data on the flies responsible for the infections and comment on their host specificity (there are 3 described crown giant anoles here).

That bit of background brings me to my thanks-giving far from home.  A couple of nights ago I surveyed a forest patch on the SE tip of the Samaná Peninsula for crown giants (Anolis baleatus)  On the drive out we encountered a group of security guards camped out on private land, ensuring no one could pillage the area.  I refilled their water jug and explained what I was up to.  They told me to bring a giant back to show them.  I managed to locate a pair of giants, although neither had maggots.  The male was simply amazing.  Huge, with enormous orange eyes, so brought him to the guards (I released the animal where I caught it the following morning, minus a portion of its tail for a tissue sample).

They were all so captivated by the giant anole.  After taking turns holding the animal, the  ritual Brugal blanco bottle was passed around, and we took the photo in the post.  The photo does a good job approximating the excitement and energy of the scene, and it’s  a memory to be thankful for.  (And so is the gecko species I also found in relative abundance)

Sphaerodactylus callocricus

I'm also thankful I managed to locate some Sphaerodactylus callocricus alongside the Anolis baleatus.

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7 Responses to Thanks-giving Far from Home

  1. lukemahler says:

    You win the fieldwork photo contest Dan.

  2. You look so pleased with yourself Dan. Great photo. Have you found many instances of maggots in crown-giants while down there?

  3. scantlebury says:

    Ben, we found another population of A. ricordii that had some infected individuals. Very interesting to see what I imagine is the immune response to these things… But, I couldn’t wait to brush my teeth after plucking them out for specimens. At this point, it seems maggots are confined to riparian settings, but so are the greatest densities of crown giants. Hopefully we’ll be able to find some populations of A. barahonae over the next few days to round out the sampling.

  4. geneva says:

    Glad to hear you got more crown giant mouth maggot specimens. We really need to compare the maggots from different crown giant species and localities.

  5. Rich Glor says:

    Great photo and story, thanks for sharing. Did you think the side projects or the shotgun would make my blood boil more? Where did you get the giants in that callocricus-type habitat?

  6. scantlebury says:

    I spent a day working the trail around the callocricus locality – it extends for several more km’s and encircles the northern extent of Samaná’s southern tip. Although most of the area is coconut palms, there are patches of forest and vines adjacent to some of the most amazing rock formations I’ve ever seen. It was in one such patch that I found the pair. Interestingly, I also collected some Aristelliger lar in one patch – they were on twigs in the canopy. I thought they were crown giants, so you can imagine my surprise when I climbed the tree and pulled them down.

  7. Interesting! Good luck with the hunt.

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