Cleaner Birds Removing Parasites From Anoles?

Here's a photo of a Carolina Wren that's caught a brown anole. But this story is something different. Photo from

Brian Langerhans, he of mosquitofish fame (but with some anole credentials, such as here  and here), writes from Raleigh, NC:

A strange interaction was observed this morning and I’m wondering if you know what’s going on. There are a number of A. carolinensis that live around our house, and today something weird happened. It’s a pretty cool morning, but a big male was on a ledge on our porch. Two Carolina wrens flew over to the anole, the anole sat still while one pecked on it’s body and tail, and then extended it’s dewlap and opened it’s mouth for a while (but was otherwise still) as the other wren pecked around and in it’s mouth. Do you know what might have been happening here? You’d think the birds were harrassing the anole (and maybe it’s too cold for the lizard to fight back), but it didn’t seem like it. There’s no way they could have been cleaning it (like removing mites), right?  Any thoughts?

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.

4 thoughts on “Cleaner Birds Removing Parasites From Anoles?

  1. How cool is cool? As far as I know, A. carolinensis can tolerate the cold pretty well, especially in North Carolina, and I will guess they can move around fairly well at 18C and higher.

  2. That’s really interesting. I recently saw a picture of a Carolina Wren predating a green anole, so at least in some cases, the relationship isn’t a mutualism.

  3. It kind of sounds like the behaviour described in short communication in a recent Herp Rev. where a sagrei got attacked by a grackle – when pecked it opened its mouth, humped its back and extended the dewlap. When it was pecked again it just ran. Maybe the wrens were doing the same but were more exploratory rather than predatory. It’s odd the anole didn’t run though. Perhaps the tongue in the opened mouth looked ‘worm-like’ which is why the wren pecked at it?

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