April 20, 2014

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Text and photos by Lucas Bustamante-Enriquez and Alejandro Arteaga

www.tropicalherping.com

It took me more than two years of constant visits to Mindo, a cloud-forest town in the Western Ecuadorian foothills, to finally encounter the Horned Anole (Anolis proboscis)! I always felt it was a mythological reptile, not only among Ecuadorian herps but throughout the world. Can you imagine a lizard with a long appendix on the tip of its snout, a variety of colors throughout the body, a prehensile tail and even spines on its back? It is difficult not to speak mystically when we refer to Horned Anole. For over 50 years it was listed as “Possibly extinct”, until 2005, when a group of Ecuadorian scientists “rediscovered” it. But it was not until two years ago that the global and local anole experts, led by Jonathan Losos, Steven Poe and Fernando Ayala, started several expeditions to investigate everything about its morphology, phylogeny and natural history.

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The Horned Anole is a diurnal and slow-moving lizard that usually is found perched between 4-8 meters above the ground. Although most records are in vegetation by roadsides, highways and near open areas, it can be very difficult to find due to its excellent camouflage, which blends perfectly with twigs, mosses, lichens and epiphytes. But what is the use of its proboscis? Sexual selection, defense of territory and fights between males are the first hypotheses that leap to th.e mind. Science will tell us soon. Whatever the case, we are left to enjoy its beauty and unparalleled mystique.

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