Quantifying Attack Rates on Anoles in the Wild

The green thing on the left doesn’t look like a real anole to me.  But apparently it’s convincing enough to both predators and other anoles, because both attack them, as evident by the bite marks they leave on these clay doppellizards.  McMillan and Irschick deployed these faux lizards in trees in two areas in New Orleans, on the Tulane campus and in a wilder area outside of town.  In the wild area, the models had bites marks clearly identifiable as belonging to lizard jaws (photo on right), and others that were from birds or other presumed predators.  By contrast, perhaps not surprisingly, on the lovely grounds of Tulane, models were bitten by anoles, but not by predators.  Also not surprisingly, there were no bites of any kind in either locality in the winter, and many more in the spring and fall.  You might say to yourself: maybe lizards and predators just like to bite clay or anything new that shows up in their environment.  How do we know that they actually thought they were attacking a lizard?  Well, we don’t, of course, but the researchers did put out cubes made of the same material, and none of these were attacked, which lends some credence to the possibility that these models, cartoonish as they seem, may have passed for the real thing.  McMillan and Irschick, following others, suggest that these models may serve as a proxy for levels of predation and intraspecific aggression.

About Jonathan Losos

Professor and Curator of Herpetology at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University. I've spent my entire professional career studying anoles and have discovered that the more I learn about anoles, the more I realize I don't know.

2 thoughts on “Quantifying Attack Rates on Anoles in the Wild

  1. Count me among those who simply do not believe that these clay models are adequate proxies for lizards. What if the predators and other lizards just see these models as giant, juicy caterpillars?

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