Nature Foundation Sint Maarten Researches Status of Vulnerable and Endemic Bearded Anole Lizard

The Nature Foundation Sint Maarten, in collaboration with RAVON (Reptile, Amphibian and Fish Conservation Netherlands), is currently researching the local status of the bearded anole (Anolis pogus) lizard, also known as the Anguilla Bank bush anole. The bearded anole is an important endemic species to Sint Maarten, which means that the species is native and can only be found here. In the past, the bearded anole occurred on Anguilla and possibly on Saint-Barthélemy, but has vanished on both islands for unknown reasons. This new research, executed by AERES University student Joost Merjenburgh, will provide insight into the status of the vulnerable species and hopefully prevent its extinction.

The research is aimed to better understand the current abundance, distribution and habitat preference of the bearded anole as presently only little data is available. The data will provide insight about the population trend of the species and is needed for its IUCN red-list re-assessment. With this information measures can be made to conserve and protect the species. Merjenburgh is investigating a total of 100 location plots each with the size of 80m². All bearded anole are counted as well as measurements taken of tree canopy cover and habitat type. Until now the bearded anole population seems to be well distributed on the island. The bearded anole seems to be quite abundant when searching in the right habitat and is mostly absent in residential areas.

Bearded anoles have a special appearance which can differ between individuals. “Some individuals have a turquoise colored spot around the eye, others have a dorsal stripe or dark bands across the neck and body and some have all characteristics. The reason why there is so much difference in pattern and coloration is that they use their appearance for camouflage and communication purposes. The bearded anole can also use the dewlap, a flap of skin that hangs beneath the lower jaw, to communicate. Although both genders have a dewlap, the one on the female is usually much smaller and less colorful then the one on the male. The male extends his dewlap mainly to attract females during mating season or to confront other males when they enter his territory” explained Merjenburgh.

Their diet, like other anoles, consists mainly of small arthropods. “For example, cockroaches, crickets and spiders are their favorite foods and occasionally flowers and fruits. Of course, this species also falls prey to predators sometimes. One of those predators is the mongoose, which is and introduced species. The mongoose eats every native reptile species on the island and is probably the reason why the only native snake, the leeward island racer, has probably become extinct on Sint Maarten” concluded Merjenburgh.

Photo caption: Bearded anole with a dorsal stripe, dark bands and a turquoise spot around the eyes foraging on St Maarten, photo credit: Joost Merjenburgh.