Fruit and Nectar Noshing Anoles

Photo from

Vega-Castillo and Puente-Rolón in the December, 2011 issue of Herpetological Review report fruit consumption by A. gundlachi, A. stratulus and, most notably, the grass-bush A. krugi. This adds to recent reports of frugivory in three other Puerto Rican species, A. cuvieri, A. evermanni and A. monensis.

As I discussed in Lizards in an Evolutionary Tree, frugivory is quite common in anoles, but there are interesting ecological and biogeographical aspects:

“Many anole species are known to eat fruits at least occasionally, and in some species at some localities, frugivory is quite common (Herrel et al., 2004). Species known to be frugivorous are larger than those not known to eat fruits, and West Indian species are frugivorous more than mainland species (30% versus 0% in Herrel et al.’s [2004] survey). Among West Indian anoles, no grass-bush anoles and all crown-giants have been reported to be frugivorous; data for other ecomorphs is mixed. My hunch is that when more species are studied, almost all but the smallest species will be found to occasionally take fruit. For example, the fact that an A. evermanni, not definitively known to eat fruit, once jumped on my shoulder, ran down my arm, perched on my thumb, and bit at the red knob of the stop watch I was holding suggests to me that this trunk-crown anole will eat red berries, just like many other anoles. Seeds (Reagan, 1996) and “seeds or fruit” (Lister, 1981) have been reported in the diet of this species, so my prediction that it is frugivorous is not very daring.

Seed eating is also reported for a number of species (e.g., Wolcott, 1923; Reagan, 1996). In some cases, these seeds may have been ingested incidentally, but in other instances, seeds, which are digested more slowly than pulp, may be the last remaining trace of a fruity meal in the digestive tract of an anole.

Nectarivory has been reported in a number of West Indian trunk-crown anoles (Liner, 1996; Perry and Lazell, 1997; Campbell and Bleazy, 2000; Echternacht and Gerber, 2000; Okochi et al., 2006; Valido, 2006), a grass-bush anole (Perry and Lazell, 2006), and two Lesser Antillean species (Timmermann et al., 2008). The greater occurrence of frugivory and nectarivory among island species compared to those on the mainland agrees with a trend seen for lizards in general (Olesen and Valido, 2003).

The lack of frugivory in mainland anoles should not be overemphasized, because dietary data are available for few large mainland species. Moreover, frugivory is known for one mainland species, A. pentaprion (Perez-Higareda, 1997). Nonetheless, frugivory does seem to be rare in mainland anoles; a survey of herpetological books for different mainland regions (e.g., Savage’s [2002] authoritative compendium of information on the reptiles and amphibians of Costa Rica) revealed no additional reports of frugivory in mainland anoles, nor did Vitt and Zani’s (1998b) study of seven Nicaraguan species.”

A number of websites talk about feeding fruit mash, etc. to anoles for husbandry


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.

8 thoughts on “Fruit and Nectar Noshing Anoles

  1. A. maynardi definitely engages in nectivory and very probably in frugivory on Little Cayman. I’ve seen them licking nectar from red passion flowers and have also found them among the figs on wild fig trees, which suggests to me they were eating fruit or at the very least licking up drops of fig juice.

  2. Is A. carolinensis one of the species known to engage in nectarivory? I’ve seen one female licking palm flowers in Florida, and always regretted not taking a picture.

  3. At my institution we have several West Indian species and all will accept fruit in their diet. We were worried about Vitamin A for a little while and have even added steamed carrots into their diet (which they seem to love by the way). They do not eat these items as readily as live prey, but they definitely will climb all the way down to feeding dishes just to eat the carrots and especially strawberries. More colorful fruits and veggies seem to be preferred. I have experimented with baby food, but they are a very boring color typically and have not been very successful. I’ve thought about coloring the food to see if it is more attractive that way. When a lizard does decide to come check it out, they will usually eat it all. We are planning to try to offer nectar as an occassional treat as well. Actually we are probably going to experiment with it this week so maybe I’ll let you know how that goes.

  4. In my yard in Miami, Fla., I have 4 species of Anolis: equestris, carolinensis, sagrei, and distichus. I’ve observed frugivory in all of them, to a varying extent and have photographed and videoed various ones. Equestris will climb Ptychosperma palms to eat the red fruit. They’ll also eat mangoes that have been opened by other animals, as well as eating mulberries. Carolinensis will also eat mulberries and I feed a gang (as many as 10 at a time) of them cut-up mango, every afternoon. Distichus will also come to the mango, but will only lick the pieces. Recently, a sagrei or two seems to have been talked into joining the afternoon mango feast.

    1. Mike, that sounds incredible! Where abouts in Miami are you? I am also based here. Shoot me an email if you would like: jamesTstroud (at) – it would be great to hear some of your thoughts on the Miami anoles!

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