Recently, our lab group was discussing what can be inferred from calculating tail loss rates in anole populations. It was pointed out that tail loss doesn’t necessarily result from predators and that, in fact, males may bite off the tails of other males in fights, and the victor or vanquished may even eat the tail. Someone pointed out that the older literature certainly pointed this out with examples*, but we haven’t seen much of this in more recent literature. So, we then asked, has anyone ever actually seen a tail lost in a fight? No one had. I then got online to look for photos. I could find plenty of males fighting, usually locking jaws or sometimes biting the body or a limb, but I found no photos of an anole biting another’s tail, much less biting off a tail. So, I ask you, fair AA reader, have you ever seen this? Can you provide a photo?
*By earlier literature, we were thinking 1960’s and 1970’s, but here’s a quote from the 1870’s, referring to A. cristatellus. Can you name the author? “During the spring and early part of the summer, two adult males rarely meet without a contest. On first seeing one another, they nod their heads up and down three or four times, and at the same time expanding the frill or pouch beneath the throat; their eyes glisten with rage, and after waving their tails from side to side for a few seconds, as if to gather energy, they dart at each other furiously, rolling over and over, and holding firmly with their teeth. The conflict generally ends in one of the combatants losing his tail, which is often devoured by the victor.”