Common Monkey Lizard
I have been working with monkey lizards since November of 2019, when I acquired two captive hatched babies of the species - the first lizards I had kept in over a decade. Within days of their arrival into my care, I found myself enamored with the species and perplexed as to why they were not better represented in herpetoculture.
Common monkey lizards (Polychrus marmoratus), commonly referred to as monkey anoles, are a wide ranging species (or species complex) distributed throughout the Amazon region of South America. The bloodlines that I am working with are descended from the Guiana Shield region, specifically Suriname, and according to recent genetic research, may represent a separate species from the marmoratus of the Amazon basin.
Not unlike the chameleons of the Old World, monkey lizards are generally slow-moving, sit-and-wait predators that prey upon a wide variety of invertebrates, including large insects such as phasmids, mantids, and katydids. They also consume berries, fruits, and possibly vegetation - though I've yet to see them accept the latter with any regularity in a captive setting. Although generally sedate, they can move with surprising bursts of speed to escape predators or pounce on an unsuspecting insect.
The genus Polychrus is the only extant genus in the family Polychrotidae. All members of the genus are capable of rapid color change, much like chameleons and anoles. The color change seems to primarily indicate mood, or is used for thermoregulation, rather than being a tool for camouflage. Healthy, happy monkey lizards generally express bright green coloration, sometimes accented by flashes of yellow, orange, or blue, whereas sick or stressed specimens express dark tones of purple, brown, gray, or black.
In captivity, marmoratus has proven to be a complicated species to acclimate and has largely eluded establishment in herpetoculture up to this point. That said, I have found the species to be relatively hardy once properly acclimated with a strong emphasis on hydration, security, and nutrition. Furthermore, I have found the major issues which plague wild-caught imported specimens to be entirely absent in captive bred and born individuals, which shows great promise for their potential as an excellent species for intermediate to advanced keepers.
After experiencing an equal measure of setbacks and successes in my first two years of working with them, I am now in the process of refining my systems for successfully keeping and breeding this amazing species. I am greatly encouraged by the 2021 season, which resulted in successful breedings of both my attempted pairings, followed by successful oviposition and recovery by the females.
All of the eggs from these clutches hatched successfully, with the emergence of healthy, robust neonates - an excellent step in the direction of establishing this species in captivity. Still, there is a long way to go!
The trio of adults are kept in a 4' x 2' x 4' (120cm x 60cm x 120cm) enclosure by Maximum Reptile, fully planted exclusively with species native to the Guiana Shield, and outfitted with a Universal Rocks background and ledges.
A separate 2' x 2' x 3' (60cm x 60cm x 90cm) enclosure is used to occasionally separate the male.
A combination of PAR38 halogens and Arcadia deep heat projectors.
Arcadia 6% T5HO bulbs and Arcadia LED bars.
Humidity on this setup is maintained by a MistKing automatic misting system.
For a detailed breakdown of my husbandry approach to this species, check out my article below:
Breeding Success with Common Monkey Lizards
So far, I've managed two years of consecutive success breeding monkey lizards, across three different pairings. Needless to say, there is still a long way to go before I can say that this is entirely replicable success, but it is encouraging, given the poor track record up to this point of maintaining (let alone breeding) this sensitive species in captivity. That said, I'm currently raising first generation captive bred juveniles and can say with confidence that they're vastly more amenable to keep than their wild caught counterparts. I think these lizards demonstrate considerable promise in herpetoculture, and have a lot of excitement about where this project may go in the coming years.