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)