Cuban Anolis porcatus introduced to Brazil

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Today, Diario de Cuba printed an EFE report—“Un lagarto cubano invade Sao Paulo”—on how a Cuban anole, the Anolis porcatus, has invaded Brazil, namely the area of São Paolo. The invasive species has been identified as potentially dangerous for Brazilian fauna. Here are excerpts from an earlier article from Anole Annals (by Iván Prates, CUNY Carnaval Labs); “Cuban Anolis porcatus introduced to Brazil (perhaps through Florida?)” sheds light on the trajectory of the Anolis porcatus from Cuba to Brazil:

Several anole species have become established outside of their native ranges as a result of human-mediated transportation, being introduced to JapanSingaporeTaiwanHawaii, the continental U.S., and beyond. Alien anoles can have major impacts on the ecological communities that they invade, for instance leading to local extinction of arthropod taxa and displacing native anole species. It is therefore key to detect and report instances of introduction by these potentially aggressive invaders, as well as to document their geographic spread in colonized regions. In a recent paper, we report on the presence of Anolis porcatus, a species native from Cuba, in coastal southeastern Brazil, using DNA sequence data to support species identification and examine the geographic source of introduction.

Perhaps embarrassingly, this study started with Facebook. On August 2015, Ricardo Samelo, an undergraduate Biology student at the Universidade Paulista in Santos, posted a few pictures of an unknown green lizard in the group ‘Herpetologia Brasileira.’ A heated debate about the animal’s identity took place, with people eventually agreeing on Anolis carolinensis.

[. . .] To our surprise, local residents knew the lizards well, with some people quite fond of the ‘lagartixas’ due to their pink dewlap displays. People could often tell when the anoles were first noticed in the vicinities – ‘six months’, ‘nine months’, ‘one year ago’ –, suggesting a rather recent presence. Guided by these informal reports, we sampled sites in the municipalities of Santos, São Vicente and Guarujá, where we found dozens of lizards occupying building walls, light posts, fences, debris, trees, shrubs, and lawn in residential yards, abandoned lots, and alongside streets and sewage canals. It was clear that the alien anoles are doing great in human-modified areas; the high density of individuals across multiple sites, as well as the presence of juveniles with various body sizes, seem to suggest a well-established reproductive population.

By reading and bugging experienced anole researchers about the Anolis carolinensis species group, I learned about paraphyly among species, hybridization, and unclear species diagnosis based on external morphology. As a result, my PhD supervisor, Dr. Ana Carnaval, and I decided to recruit Leyla Hernandez, by the time an undergraduate student in the Carnaval Lab at the City University of New York, to help generate DNA sequences to clarify the species identity, and perhaps track the geographic source of introduction in Brazil. To our surprise, a phylogenetic analysis found Brazilian samples to nest within Anolis porcatus, a Cuban species that has also been introduced to Florida and the Dominican Republic. Brazilian A. porcatus clustered with samples from La Habana, Matanzas, and Pinar del Río, which may suggest a western Cuban source of colonization. Nevertheless, Brazilian specimens are also closely related to a sample from Coral Gables in Florida, which may suggest that the Brazilian population originated from lizards that are exotic elsewhere. [. . .]

To properly evaluate the potentially invasive status of A. porcatus in Brazil, we hope to continue assessing the extent of its distribution and potential for future spread, as well as to gather data about whether and how A. porcatus will interact with the local species – especially native Brazilian anoles. [. . .]

For full article, see http://www.anoleannals.org/2017/02/09/cuban-anolis-porcatus-introduced-to-brazil-perhaps-through-florida/

For article in Spanish (and source of photo above), see http://www.diariodecuba.com/cuba/1487432836_29062.html

See more images at http://www.anoleannals.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/fig1.jpg

Also see previous post on another Cuban species to have moved into new territory—the brown anole in Bermuda: https://repeatingislands.com/2015/12/17/invasive-cuba-lizard-settling-down-in-bermuda/

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