Edit: many of these photos were taken by my wonderful girlfriend; those photos shall be marked with M: in front of them, the ones which were taken by me have J: in front of them.
Well, those of you that know me personally do know that I went to Costa Rica in December/January of last/this year with my girlfriend and her family. Many photos were taken, and I have some very special natural history to talk about relating to a few of these animals, namely, a frog, a gecko, an iguana, and a snake. I also have a few tangents which ran through my mind when thinking about the natural history of some of these animals…
This is the neotropical green anole (Anolis biporcatus) is the only green anole species found in Costa Rica, with the others varying in color from brown, to black and yellow. Anolis is actually monophyletic at the moment, but the clade is very diverse and it has been recommended by several taxonomists that it should be divided into multiple clades (four were suggested, but more would be necessary as I shall explain). Norops was one of the proposed clades which would become the new genus for Central American anoles. The problem with this is it makes U.S./Caribbean anoles (Anolis) paraphyletic as Caribbean anoles are closer related to Central American anoles than to U.S. anoles. In order to break down groups of anoles into smaller groups, much more information need to be gathered before we can accurately do so without risking paraphyletic groups arising as a result. A similar example of paraphyly can be seen with the Agkistrodon genus which once included many other paraphyletic species now grouped into Deinagkistrodon, Gloydius, and others.
Tangent: Why is monophyly important?
Classifying organisms based upon familial lineages rather than morphological traits enables us to better understand how these organisms evolved. It also allows us to understand which traits are examples of convergent evolution and which are passed via heredity to the clade. This allows the distinction between homologous and analogous traits far easier than with morphological classification alone.
Tangent to tangent: What’s wrong with morphological classification?
It does not allow a definite family lineage the same way genetic classification allows for. With genetic classification, we can know to a far higher degree of certainty how related two organisms are whereas with morphology, we must rely upon chosen characteristics for comparison which are, by nature, arbitrary and do not take into account molecular differences between the organisms. The drawback to genetic phylogeny stems from the instability of DNA which renders phylogenetic classification of fossils impossible.
Enough of that, how about more pictures?
This is just one of the friends I made while there. This is an invasive species of gecko native to Southeast Asia. This one is Hemidactylus frenatus also known as the House Gecko. Cute, but invasive.
Spiny-tailed iguana (Ctenosaura similis) has a nasty temper, they also get to be rather large. This individual appears to be a female judging by size and appearance. Males have a much more pronounced crest and females are much smaller. Making them much less dangerous to catch:
Tangent: these things are really mean, and those scales on the tail are very sharp. What you don’t see is that immediately after taking this picture, I grabbed the tail higher up again to prevent it from lashing me. And of course, like all of the photos you see here, the wild animals were released no worse for the wear.
This is the Eyelash Palm Pit Viper (Bothriechis schlegelii) and this photo allows you to see the “eyelashes” above the eyes which are actually just protrusions of the supraorcular scale. This species varies in color more than my shirt colors vary. They range from green/brown to yellow to pink with mixing among all of them. Some have speckles, others do not. This snake is really, really variable in coloration. Now you may begin to understand why I hate using color as a means of identification.
This is an unusual species known as Homo sapiens which wraps itself in woven plant matter and sometimes in various petroleum based materials. Oh, and there’s also red-eyed tree frog (Agalychnis callidryas) in that photo.
The rest are just for fun:
J: Hey, Mike, a little help identifying this one?
That’s all for now, I’m saving one photo for this week’s mystery animal…