The Kings of Greater Antillean Anole Taxonomy I: E. D. Cope

Greater Antillean anoles would not be a model system for studies in ecology and evolutionary biology without the foundation provided by a century and a half of careful work by anole systematists.  Because their contributions often go unrecognized, I thought I’d use this post to call attention to the work of some of the most important figures in Greater Antillean anole systematics.  I’m going to focus here on alpha-taxonomy, and specifically on description of new species (we’ll do later posts on the history of anole phylogenetic systematics and descriptions of subspecies).  The majority of the nearly 120 species of anoles found on Cuba, Hispaniola, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico were described by  five key figures and their colleagues.

Over a series of five posts, I will reveal the names of each of these kings and give some details about each of their contributions to our knowledge of anole species diversity.  Before I get started I want to address a few preliminaries.  To avoid counting any species more than once, species totals for each of the five kings do not give credit for junior authorship when another member of the five was the senior author on a description (e.g., Garrido gets credit for describing A. vanidicus, but Schwartz does not because he’s Garrido’s junior coauthor on the description).  My apologies for cutting the list off at five to other important figures who had a hand in multiple species descriptions (e.g., Leonard Stejneger [3 species], Doris Cochran [6 species], Blair Hedges [6 species]).  Astute observers may also note that I’ve excluded Duméril and Bibron from my list of kings despite the fact that they described nine anole species in their 1837 tome,  one more than I’ve credited Schwartz with and the same number I’ve credited to Barbour.  I needed to draw the line somewhere and the fact that Schwartz and Barbour actually worked in the West Indies and contributed so much else to our understanding of the region was a reasonable tie-breaker.  Also, Schwartz’s number goes up to ten if we include species descriptions he coauthored with another member of the five.

Edward Drinker Cope (1840-1897) was a prolific Philadelphia-based naturalist who described over a thousand new species, including 14 species of Greater Antillean anoles.  In his 39-year academic career, Cope published 1395 papers (over 35 per year!); his complete bibliography is available as a PDF.  Cope’s legacy to science has been detailed in contemporary and academic biographies as well a graphic novel. The journal of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists is named Copeia in Cope’s honor.  Because academic journals grew tired of publishing the famous academic (and often quite personal) back-and-forth between Cope and Marsh, Cope purchased the publishing rights to the American Naturalist which he owned from 1878 to his death in 1897 (during which time he published 87 papers in the journal).

Cope described Greater Antillean anoles during American Civil War years (1861-1864) and early in his own career (between the ages of 21 and 24).  Cope described species from all four islands, including some of Hispaniola’s most abundant and conspicuous species (A. baleatus, A. distichus, A. cybotes, A. coelestinus, and A. semilineatus).  With a record like that you have to wonder why many folks only know about Cope because of his famous “Bone Wars” with Marsh!

The next king was a founder of the famous field station at Barro Colorado Island, Panama.  Who knows who it is?

About Rich Glor

Assistant Professor of Biology at the University of Rochester and longtime anole enthusiast.
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5 Responses to The Kings of Greater Antillean Anole Taxonomy I: E. D. Cope

  1. ryanelogsdon says:

    Really informative post Rich, I didn’t know most of what you discussed. I look forward to the rest of the series!

  2. geneva says:

    I guess it could be my ANSP/Philly roots but I’ve always had a soft spot for E.D. Cope. I’m very happy to be working on a species he described. In my days as a lab manager, I got to handle a number of Cope specimens and even extracted DNA from one (a bridled shiner).

  3. Rich Glor says:

    Anthony’s comment gives me a chance to acknowledge his contribution to the post; he added some interesting facts and links to additional material that I had missed.

  4. Wes Chun says:

    Did someone say “Thomas Barbour?”

  5. Pingback: The Kings of Greater Antillean Anole Taxonomy II: Thomas Barbour |

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