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Green Anole Intelligence – Researchers Shocked by Lizard Brainpower

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.  I’ve been fascinated by Green Anoles, Anolis carolinensis, since childhood – way back when they were sold as “American Chameleons”.  Although they are often ignored by experienced keepers, I have long featured Green Anoles and related species in zoo exhibits, where they never failed to intrigue visitors (and yours truly!).  Now, it seems, they are also impressing herpetologists with learning abilities that rival those of some birds.  The performances of anoles (two of which did so well that they were dubbed “Plato” and ‘Socrates”) tested at Duke University have challenged the stereotype that small lizards have limited intelligence and problem-solving abilities. 

Learning, Adapting and Remembering…

Green anole

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by IraEskins

The species studied was the Emerald or Puerto Rican Anole, Anolis evermanni.  It seems likely that Green Anoles and others sharing similar lifestyles will be found to possess like abilities; further research is in progress.

The anoles were presented with a problem that would not be faced in the wild…relying upon instinct would not provide a solution.  The challenge presented was to retrieve an insect that had been placed beneath a plastic lid.  Emerald Anoles figured out how to lift the lid more quickly than did the birds that were tested, requiring three less trials.  What’s more, the anoles had only one test each day, compared to the given the birds, so the lizards had less experience, and needed to remember their successes or failures for a longer period of time.

When multiple caps of different colors were added, the savvy anoles always chose the correct cap, apparently having associated the color or brightness with a reward.  The researchers then switched tactics, placing the insect beneath a lid of a different color, and leaving the original correct choice bare.  All of the anoles made initial mistakes, but ‘Socrates” and “Plato”, the individuals mentioned earlier, quickly learned to ignore their earlier lesson and consistently chose the correct lid. Read More »

The 10 Best Ways to Prepare for a Career in Herpetology – Part 2

Frank with AnacondaHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  While pet-keeping suffices for many herp enthusiasts, some with particularly deep interests can only be happy when working with reptiles and amphibians full time.  My own path to career in herpetology, while twisted (even “tortuous” at times!), was well worth the struggle…as you can see by the attached photos, I’m very fortunate (please also see this article).  In Part 1 I highlighted several important steps one can take to lay the foundation for a career in herpetology.  Following are some further thoughts. Read More »

A Monitor First – Male Rosenberg’s Monitors Cover and Guard Nests

Water MonitorHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  I remain awed by the learning abilities and complex behaviors evidenced by the Water and Lace Monitors I cared for at various zoos…spend time with any species and you’ll quickly see why.  Despite being popular study subjects, monitors are constantly surprising us.  For example, the current issue of The Journal of Herpetology (V44, N3, Sept 2010) documents an entirely new behavior for any monitor species – cooperative nest building and nest guarding in Rosenberg’s Monitor (Varanus rosenbergi).

Nest Defense by both Sexes

A 16-year-long study of this species on Australia’s Kangaroo Island has revealed that females guard their nest sites for up to 3 weeks after egg deposition, a behavior that has not been documented for any other monitor (3 species, including the Komodo Dragon, may return to the nest site on occasion, but seem not to remain nearby).  Amazingly, in 8 instances a male joined the female in protecting the eggs. Read More »

African Rainbow Skinks Now Breeding in Florida – Giant Ameivas Spreading

Rainbow SkinkHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  A breeding population of African Five-Lined or Rainbow Skinks, Trachylepis (formerly Mabuya) quinquetaeniata, has been discovered in Port St. Lucia, Florida, bringing the total number of exotic herps known to be established in the USA to 66.  The Giant or Green Ameiva, or Jungle-Runner (Ameiva ameiva), known to the state since 1954, seems to be expanding its range.

Florida’s Newest Exotic

Rainbow Skinks, which are native to a broad belt of Sub-Saharan Africa stretching from Senegal to Kenya, are the newest of Florida’s many exotic animals.  Well-known in the US pet trade, the recently discovered population seems limited to a weedy lot near a now-defunct reptile importing business.  Past reports of dead and dying skinks found on the importer’s property point towards the all-too-common source of the new arrivals.  Read More »

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