A new lizard species was discovered by a team of researchers led by the University of Toronto in the Dominican Republic.  The species is named Anolis landestoyi, a lizard that strongly resembles the Chamaeleolis anoles, which incidentally is only found in Cuba.

Like the Chamaeleolis anoles, the Anolis landestoyi looks more like a chameleon than a typical anole. These two related species are big lizards that move slowly and prefer to hold on to very high lichen-covered branches.

The online study published on June 17 in the journal American Naturalist states that the Chamaeleolis anoles and Anolis landestoyi are closely related but not next of kin. However, since the two types of lizards are from different areas but still strikingly look like each other, this suggests that related animal species can actually evolve into similar sets when occupying the same type of environment.


The chameleon-like Anolis landestoyi. Credit: University of Toronto

“Our immediate thought was that this looks like something that’s supposed to be in Cuba, not in Hispaniola — the island that Haiti and the Dominican Republic share,” points out the study’s lead author Luke Mahler of the University of Toronto’s Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology. “We haven’t really seen any completely new species here since the early 1980s.”

The research team is now planning to solve what exactly caused the Anolis landestoyi to evolve with very strong similarities with Cuba’s Chamaeleolis anoles.

“We don’t know if it’s convergence or the fact that it’s pretty closely related to Chamaeleolis, which may have colonized Hispaniola from Cuba,” adds Mahler. “But either way, things are more similar across these two islands than we thought.”

Unfortunately, Anolis landestoyi is at risk of disappearing. The habitat the new lizard species occupies is a small one but is quickly deteriorating thanks to illegal deforestation. Mahler hopes that this discovery can give the needed attention the animals deserve.