Anole Done In By a Black Widow

This sad photo comes to us courtesy of arachnologist extraordinaire Sarah Crews, who snapped the unfortunate little lizard (or fortunate spider, depending on your perspective) in Parque del Este in the Dominican Republic. The offending spider is a member of the genus Lactrodectus, the black widows. What a way to go.

Such spider on anole predation is far from unknown. I myself have observed a baby anole dangling in a spider web in a limestone pothole in the Bahamas, and there are a smattering of reports in the literature, including an A. carolinensis taken by a wolf spider, an A. chrysolepis ensnared by a whip spider, and an A. limifrons overpowered by a jumping spider (photo below). Indeed, I vaguely recall a fine example of scientific entrepreneurship, when a spider guy and a lizard guy teamed up to produce two papers from one such observation, publishing in a herp journal a paper with the theme “anole eaten by spider” and an arachnological journal entry with the tag line “spider eats anole.” Now, that’s maximizing research output! Alas, I could not put my finger on the publications. Anyone remember those?

Photo by Harry Greene, from Lizards in an Evolutionary Tree.

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.

6 thoughts on “Anole Done In By a Black Widow

  1. Sarah Crews adds: “The picture of your “jumping spider” is a member of the Ctenidae – huge fuzzy things often pictured eating herps (frogs mostly). And I have observed Selenopids being eaten by anoles numerous times…after chasing the very fast spiders around a tree for 15 minutes, only to lose it in the mouth of an anole…infuriating. This one is chewing: http://www.flickr.com/photos/29845002@N02/3073919810/

  2. To follow up on Sarah Crew’s input (via Jonathan Losos): the ctenid spider pictured in Dr. Greene’s photo belongs to the genus Cupiennius – appearing to be C. getazi.

    Cupiennius spiders are nocturnal sit-and-wait predators; typically, they will leave their daytime refugia soon after sunset and establish themselves in head-down ambush positions on the trunks of trees and shrubs, waiting to nab anything climbing towards them. Naturally, as anoles are asleep by the time these spiders are active, it is unlikely that an anole would be caught climbing by one of these spiders unless it had been disturbed and had fled from its sleeping perch. I think it is highly likely that that is what occurred in the instance captured by Dr. Greene, in view of the fact that the anole is clearly freshly captured. All the same, anoles must certainly cross paths with these large and formidable spiders in the normal scheme of things and once detected their chances of escape would be poor.

    A caveat concerning images of predation: although photos of predation fairly met are occasionally captured, and I personally have no reservations concerning the validity of those shown here, an alarming number of nature photographers are in the habit of feeding one animal to another in the interest of capturing the most lurid imagery. Several well-known photogs operate this way and one famous Nat Geo contributor does it so often that I am amazed it has largely escaped comment. Beware the stage-managed example of invertebrate consuming vertebrate!

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