|Photo by Miguel Landestoyi|
Well-studied ecologically, Greater Antillean anoles are a textbook example of a phenomenon known as replicated adaptive radiation, where related species evolving on different islands diversify into similar sets of species that occupy the same ecological niches. Although most Greater Antillean anoles may have a matching counterpart on another island, scientists have long known that a sizeable fraction do not. About one fifth of the region's anole species are 'exceptions to the rule' so far.
Most noticeable among these unique lizards are Cuban anoles from the Chamaeleolis group. Chamaeleolis anoles look less like typical anoles and more like chameleons: large, cryptic, slow-moving, and prone to clinging to lichen-covered branches high in forest canopies. Scientists believed there was nothing like these Cuban lizards on the other Greater Antillean islands.
However, Anolis landestoyi was found in the Dominican Republic by anaturalist who first spotted and photographed it. The species was named after him (Miguel Landestoyi).
For the experts: We report a new chameleon-like Anolis species from Hispaniola that is ecomorphologically similar to congeners found only on Cuba. Lizards from both clades possess short limbs and a short tail and utilize relatively narrow perches, leading us to recognize a novel example of ecomorphological matching among islands in the well-known Greater Antillean anole radiation. This discovery supports the hypothesis that the assembly of island faunas can be substantially deterministic and highlights the continued potential for basic discovery to reveal new insights in well-studied groups. Restricted to a threatened band of midelevation transitional forest near the border of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, this new species appears to be highly endangered.