Anolis gorgonae is one of the only lizard species in the world that is blue in coloration. It is found only on Isla Gorgona, a small tropical island 56 km off the Pacific coast of Colombia. It feeds on insects and spends most of the time high in the branches of the trees. Little is known about this anole, and its conservation status is presently uncertain.
Distribution: Colombia (Gorgona Island)
Type locality: Gorgona Island
Anolis gorgonae is blue in all dorsal coloration, and its ventral surfaces are lighter and buffish. The dewlap of this anole, which is only present in males, is large and whitish, with lilac-colored lines and dots at the base. There are no color differences between males and females, except for the bright, white dewlap found in males. The body of A. gorgonae is very slightly dorsoventrally compressed. Its ventral scales are small and imbricate, but are considerably larger than the dorsal scales, which are very fine. The tail is slightly laterally compressed, and is covered with large, equal-sized, strongly keeled scales. The adhesive toe pads under the digits are considerably dilated. There are 16 sticky lamellae under phalanges II and III of the fourth toe. Anolis gorgonae has a medium-sized round ear opening. The lower surfaces of the thighs are buff with indistinct wavy bands of pale lilac (Barbour 1905).
Measurements from Barbour (1905):
Head: 16 mm
Width of head: 9 mm
Body: 51 mm
Fore limb: 33 mm
Hind limb: 60 mm
Tibia: 14 mm
Upon describing Anolis gorgonae, Barbour (1905) noted that it differs from Anolis gemmosus (previously known as A. andianus) in having five rows of loreal scales, no tricarinate supraoculars and six labials below the center of the eye. Its hind limbs are also longer than those of A. gemmosus. Anole specialists generally regard Anolis gorgonae as most closely related to A. chloris, an arboreal green anole found in the Pacific lowland and mid-elevation forests of Panama, Colombia, and Ecuador. Anolis chloris and Anolis gorgonae are nearly indistinguishable in body dimensions and scale characteristics, but differ strikingly in coloration - A. chloris is bright green while A. gorgonae is bright blue.
Anolis gorgonae is often found in large trees (typically 40 cm in trunk diameter or greater). They are located from 1 meter above the ground to more than 10 meters high in the canopy. These anoles prefer to stay on the side of the tree that is not in direct sunlight and are rarely observed basking (von Prahl et al. 1979). Typically, only one male may be observed on a single tree at a time, although occasionally, multiple males have been observed displaying or fighting.
Anolis gorgonae feeds on insects it obtains from surfaces of the trees in which it lives (von Prahl et al. 1979).
Life History and Behavior
Although Anolis gorgonae is typically found many meters up on tree trunks and branches, it may descend to the lower trunk in the morning where it will typically sit perched with its head facing down. This lizard is extremly wary and will rapidly ascend into the canopy if disturbed by humans. In the afternoon, it returns to the tree tops, where it remains during the night (von Prahl et al. 1979).
The male displays its large white dewlap to attract females and to signal to other males. Also during visual communication, the male may also erect a small, fleshy nuchal crest.
Evolution and Systematics
Anolis gorgonae is almost identical in morphology to Anolis chloris (Boulenger's Green Anole), which inhabits mainland Colombia, Ecuador, and Panama, but it is colored blue instead of green. This has led some to suspect that A. gorgonae evolved its characteristic blue coloration by losing the ability to express yellow skin pigments (D. L. Mahler, pers. comm.), but this hypothesis has yet to be tested. Also of relevance to the evolution of color in A. gorgonae is the fact that this species has a blue iris in addition to blue skin.
Von Prahl et al. speculated that logging on Gorgona Island may have caused Anolis gorgonae populations to decrease in number (von Prahl et al. 1979). In 1985 the island was designated as a national park (covering an area of 120,000 acres), and destructive land use effectively ceased at that point. Although some have suggested that Anolis gorgonae is at risk of extinction (Butler and Butler 2007), recent investigators have found the species to be relatively abundant, accounting for the difficulty of observing these animals high in the tree tops (D. L. Mahler, pers. obs.).
As of December 2010, the conservation status of this species has not yet been reviewed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and no quantitative data are presently available to indicate whether the abundance of this species has changed over time on Gorgona Island.
As the entire population of Anolis gorgonae occurs within a national park (Gorgona Island National Park), the entire range of this species is protected by the government of Colombia.
The removal of individuals of Anolis gorgonae from Gorgona Island is prohibited by law.
Both sexes of this anole are overall pure blue, which is very rare in lizards. The male's dewlap is pure white, which nicely contrasts with the blue skin. At least some individuals have a series of darker mottled spots on the head and neck.
Due to the animal's isolated environment and elusive nature, it has been difficult to accurately estimate its population, but experts agree that the animal is threatened. They commonly fall prey to the introduced Western basilisk lizards and are also threatened by deforestation. The largest amount of damage to their habitat occurred when a prison was built on the island in the 1950s. It has been proposed that some individuals could be captured for a captive breeding program.
- "World's only pure blue lizard at risk of extinction - mongabay - 7 March 2007". Mongabay.com. Archived from the original on 2011-01-31. Retrieved 2010-08-09.
- "Picture showing mottled head pattern". Mongabay.com. Archived from the original on 2011-01-31. Retrieved 2010-08-09.