SOURCES
Arlington James, Forestry Division, Botanical Gardens, Roseau, Dominica
Robert Powell, Avila University, Missouri, USA

PHOTOS COURTESY
Arlington James, Forestry Division, Botanical Gardens, Roseau, Dominica
Robert Powell, Avila University, Missouri, USA
Fr. Alejandro Sanchez, www.kingsnake.com, Puerto Rico
Wikimedia Commons, Hans Hilleweart

You've seen them, scurrying along the wall or sunning themselves on a rock. Some flee as we approach, while some others cause us to dash off in fear.

Everybody is familiar with iguanas, abòlòs and zandolis, having come across them at some point but not many of us are even aware that there are several other members of the lizard family living in Dominica. Some let the lesson begin!

The Cabrits has the most diverse and dense lizard population on island—about 7 native species can be found there plus the invasive crested anole.

Click on the sections to view the information

Lèza

Iguana Photo courtesy Robert Powell Local name: Lèza
Scientific name: Iguana delicatissima
Common name: Iguana
FACTS:
  • Young iguanas are bright green.
  • They are almost exclusively vegetarians. They especially love hibiscus and kapi.
  • They live in the rainforest but also in residential areas like Canefield, Elmshall and Goodwill. Some have been found in homes; under beds and even in an oven.
  • During the nesting season (about April to June) many iguanas get crushed on the roads, usually while migrating to or from their nests.
  • Dominica has the world’s largest population of Lesser Antillean iguanas.
  • They play an important role in seed dispersal. The seeds they eat pass undamaged through their digestive system and then germinate after being eliminated.
  • Iguana is derived from Iwana, a Spanish form of the Arawak word. Its species name delicatissima is Latin for "extraordinarily delicious". The species was first officially described in 1768 by Austrian naturalist Josephus Nicolaus Laurenti.

Abòlò

Ground lizard
Photo courtesy Robert Powell
Local name: Abòlò
Scientific name: Ameiva fuscata
Common name: Dominican Ground Lizard
FACTS:
  • They are endemic to Dominica.
  • They are omnivores: they eat mostly plant matter and some animal matter.
  • The love zabocas (avocados), and have been known to dig up iguana nests to eat the eggs.
  • They are the second largest lizard on Dominica.
  • Local lore says that abòlòs die on their backs facing the sky.

Zanndoli

Tree lizard
Photo courtesy Robert Powell
Local name: Zanndoli
Scientific name: Anolis oculatus
Common name: Dominica Tree Lizard
FACTS:
  • They are endemic to Dominica.
  • They vary widely in size and colour throughout Dominica. Syndicate Trail, in the west, has the largest population on the island
  • Their average length is 15 cm (6 in.): length is measured from snout to tip of tail.
  • They extend their throat fan (dewlap) when mating and in defence of territory. The males are very territorial.
  • They eat moths, cockroaches, grasshoppers and termites. After moulting they will eat their own skin.

Mabouya

What Dominicans call the mabouya is known formally as the gecko. There are 4 species on island. They have tiny hooks on the scales under their wide toes that allow them to climb vertical surfaces even on glass.

Mabouya Kai
Photo courtesy Hans Hilleweart
Local name: Mabouya Kai
Scientific name: Hemidactylus mabuya
Common name: House Slave or House Gecko
FACTS:
  • Their average length is 12 cm (5 in.): length is measured from snout to vent.
  • They live in houses: are rarely seen in natural settings.
  • They are nocturnal and hide behind items like curtains during the day.
  • They eat insects like spiders, cockroaches, grasshoppers and crickets. They frequently eat the insects that are attracted to house lights.

Mabouya Hazyé
Photo by Mel Jose Rivera, courtesy Fr. Alejandro Sanchez
Local name: Mabouya Hazyé
Scientific name: Thecadactylus rapicauda
Common name: Turnip-tailed Gecko, Thick-tailed Gecko
FACTS:
  • They make a noise.
  • They are nocturnal.
  • If its tail breaks, it will grow back; it grows back thicker than before which is how it got the name thick-tailed and turnip-tailed.

Vincent's Least Gecko
Photo courtesy Arlington James
Local name: (no local name)
Scientific name: Sphaerodactylus vincenti
Common name: Vincent’s Least Gecko
FACTS:
  • They are smaller and less seen of the geckos.
  • They live in the rainforests.
  • They are dark brown with a big black "blob" on their sides and a diamond shape on their backs.

Fantastic Gecko
Photo courtesy Fr. Alejandro Sanchez
Local name: (no local name)
Scientific name: Sphaerodactylus fantasticus fuga
Common name: Fantastic Gecko
FACTS:
  • They live under the leaf litter in the dry zones.
  • They are approx. 3¾ cm (1¼ in) long and are very quick.
  • They lay only one egg at a time.
  • Their heads are black with white spots, their bodies are brown with patterns.

Pygmy Gecko

Pygmy or dwarf geckos are rarely seen because of their small size and secretive habits.

Zanndoli Kléwant
Photo courtesy Fr. Alejandro Sanchez
Local name: Zanndoli Kléwant
Scientific name: Mabuya mabouya
Common name: Golden Skink
FACTS:
  • They climb shrubs and small trees.
  • They are shiny with very fine copper scales.
  • They have very short legs that when in motion make them look like snakes.
  • They lay only a few eggs at a time.

Pygmy Skink
Photo courtesy Fr. Alejandro Sanchez
Local name: (no local name)
Scientific name: Gymnophthalmus pleii
Common name: Pygmy Skink or Worm Lizard
FACTS:
  • They are generally copper brown with shiny scales and a black band along each side.
  • They have no local name because they have been mistakenly believed to be young zanndoli kléwants.
  • They don't climb. They are found in grassy areas and on estates
  • They have 4 toes on their front legs.
  • A second species of the Worm Lizard may exist on Dominica but it has not yet been confirmed.

Crested Anole

Puerto Rican Crested Anole
Photo courtesy Fr. Alejandro Sanchez
Local name: (no local name)
Scientific name: Anolis cristatellus cristatellus
Common name: Puerto Rican Crested Anole
FACTS:
  • A foreign predatory species of lizard.
  • An introduced species, suspected to have stowed away on container ships from Puerto Rico.
  • They prey on zanndolis and young mabouyas.
  • They compete with the zanndolis: zanndoli populations have declined in areas where the crested anoles have entered.