All the World's an Orchestra

All the World's an Orchestra

A Composition for the Anoles in the Caribbean

Think of a Caribbean mountain forest as a large orchestra of trees, plants, organisms, and animals. Enter the heart of the forest. Tall trees tower overhead. Vines and ferns wrap around the trunks and branches of the trees. Plants and shrubs blanket the ground. Hikers feel as if they are walking through a green cathedral. Stop and listen. The forest is quiet. 

A slight movement of leaves, then complete silence.

The silence is broken by the occasional call of a bird. 

The call of a bird.

Where are the growls of jaguars? The jabbering of monkeys? The buzz of mosquitoes? 

A slight buzz of a mosquito, then complete silence.

Who are the key players in the animal section of this orchestra? The Caribbean islands are far from the continents of North and South America. They do not have the large animals found in those tropical forests. The key players in the Caribbean’s animal kingdom are modest animals — small lizards and even smaller frogs. 

The two-note chant of a frog—ko-KEE, ko-KEE.

Lizards are “V.I.C.s” — very important creatures among the Caribbean animal community. First, they are very common. Second, they are found in so many different island habitats — the places or surroundings where a plant or animal normally lives. Third, they are near the top of the forest food chain. They eat animals that are lower on the food chain. Only birds are higher up the chain, but birds are not as common as lizards.

The buzz of a mosquito. The sound soon stops.

Anoles (pronounced uh-NO-lees) are tree or grass lizards of medium size. Some are brightly colored. They are typically found in North and South America. With more than 400 known species, or types, of anoles, they make up one of the largest groups of reptiles. Their name refers to the way the French pronounced a local Carib Indian word for the animal. Similar lizards that live in other tropical regions are known as chameleons. Many scientists have studied anoles.

The sounds of scientists’ footsteps on leaves.

Puerto Rico has many kinds of lizards. In addition to anoles, there are geckos, small lizards that are incredible climbers. There are also strange “snake” lizards with four legs and two heads. The anole community has 11 different species on the island. Five of these live in the heart of El Yunque. Three of them — Anolis gundlachi, Anolis evermanni, and Anolis stratulus — are small and common. They are closely related. Most likely their ancestors came here from Hispaniola (the larger island to the west, today’s Haiti and Dominican Republic).

Anoles produce an occasional squeaking sound when they are captured or when they are fighting. 

Several minutes of silence. A squeaking sound. Several more minutes of silence.

We hope you have enjoyed the Composition for the Anoles in the Caribbean.