Content uploaded by Tom Brown
All content in this area was uploaded by Tom Brown on Jul 12, 2018
Content may be subject to copyright.
The Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund provides
nancial support to species conservation projects worldwide.
In 2017 the Fund provided 182 grants totaling $1,525,473.
Since being established in 2008, the Fund has distributed
$16,494,529 to 1,738 projects across the globe.
True conservation is the result of passionate individuals
dedicating their time, resources, expertise and ingenuity,
all for the love of nature.
Printed on Forest Stewardship
Council certied paper
On rst inspection the Bica anole blends in
well with its surroundings, as is the case for
many of its reptilian relatives in the dappled
forest environment, but despite its drab
grey-green camouflage this agile little lizard
has an unmistakable physical feature that
makes it one of nature’s true exhibitionists.
When defending their territory, Bica
anoles are known to extend the saggy
flap of skin below their neck – known as
a dewlap – to reveal a striking combination
of colour and texture reminiscent of an
exotic poisonous fungus.
Whilst one might be forgiven for
overlooking a more modestly coloured
Utila resident, given its penchant for
showing o it is perhaps surprising that
the Bica anole has not caught the eye of
more herpetologists over the years.
The species has never been documented
in any substantial detail – an oversight
that must now be rectied with some
urgency given that N. bicaorum is endemic
to a shrinking habitat.
THE SMALL ISLAND OF UTILA, WHICH RISES FROM THE
TURQUOISE CARIBBEAN OFF THE COAST OF HONDURAS, IS
HOME TO AN IMPRESSIVE ARRAY OF UNIQUE REPTILES, BUT
ONE IN PARTICULAR HAS A HABIT OF STANDING OUT AGAINST
THE LEAFY BACKGROUND OF ITS FOREST HABITAT.
© T. Brown
Concerned that the Bica anole had
not made it into the IUCN’s Red List of
threatened and endangered species,
Tom Brown, in conjunction with the
Kanahau Utila Research and Conservation
Facility, set out to ll in the blanks in our
knowledge of the species and to include
the species in the list for the rst time,
supported by a $6,000 grant from the Fund
for travel, food and equipment expenses.
Rainfall through the summer of 2017 was
unusually heavy; consequently, by the
time the researchers arrived on Utila their
repellents and head-nets were no match
for the sheer number of mosquitoes
roaming the island. They stayed for
eight weeks in the forest conducting
mark–recapture and home range surveys,
spending hours each day attempting
to suture 2-millimetre wide identifying
beads to 200 wriggly anoles in the forest,
15 in a sitting, whilst being hazed by
intense clouds of ravenous blood-suckers.
© T. Brown
With the help of a local Honduran
research assistant – who was able to
take a salary thanks to the grant provided
by the Fund – as well as volunteers
and students from the Kanahau facility,
intense extended surveys were conducted
daily. Loved and begrudged in equal
measure, these full-day ‘anole patrols’
involved endlessly plodding along
transects to identify the anoles visually.
So familiar had some of the anoles
become that they even named a few
of the more charismatic individuals –
‘Lemondrop’ sported a single yellow bead;
‘Sunnyday’ a combination of blue and
yellow – which provided added motivation
when searching for them each day.
The researchers gathered a variety of new
information on the species. For example,
they observed that some of the female
anoles, which were previously only known
to have white dewlaps, boasted red or
pink varieties, which they theorize may
provide a competitive advantage over
their peers when repelling rivals and
attracting potential mates.
Previously only recorded from the eastern
side of Utila, the surveys also showed the
Bica anole to be more widespread throughout
the forest; although this was perhaps not
surprising given the lack of data on the
species. However, this does not make its
inclusion in the IUCN Red List any less urgent.
The Bica anoles face a double threat on
Utila: the presence of a notorious invasive
member of the family, the Cuban brown
anole (Norops sagrei), and the ongoing
loss of the broad-leaf and palm forest
ecosystems it calls home.
TOM BROWN, IN
THE KANAHAU UTILA
SET OUT TO FILL IN
THE BLANKS IN OUR
KNOWLEDGE OF THE
SPECIES AND INCLUDE
IT IN THE IUCN RED LIST
FOR THE FIRST TIME,
SUPPORTED BY A $6,000
GRANT FROM THE FUND
So far, this unwanted Cuban–Bahamian
relative has restricted itself to a more urban
lifestyle, preferring the streets and gardens
of Utila Town to the forest. Should it choose
to explore inland, the researchers believe
it would likely out-compete the locals,
especially as it is known to prey on the
young of its competitors.
As for the forest habitat, this is small
enough as it is without being stripped away
for development. Like other conservation
projects on the island, it is thought that the
only way to ensure the safety and longevity
of Utila’s fascinating endemics is to
purchase tracts of land in which they may
nd sanctuary from deforestation and other
forms of habitat destruction.
For now, however, Tom Brown and his fellow
researchers hope that this charismatic
extravert receives the recognition they
all believe it deserves as a species that is
increasingly threatened in its island home.
© T. Brown © T. Brown