Anoles Adopting Funny Postures II

Anolis cybotes. Photo by Miguel Landestoy

A while back, we had a post that featured a photo of a male brown anole sticking its leg off the ground and out to the side in an odd manner. Readers speculated that this was to get the body and leg off the hot surface of the ground. AA contributor Miguel Landestoy has sent in a photo of A. cybotes doing more-or-less the same thing, although less awkwardly, and Miguel, too, speculates that this is for thermoregulatory purposes: “the guy may be avoiding the heat on the very reflective surface on the banana/plantain leaf (see that also fingers are also lifted).” This is, of course, reminiscent of the famous dancing behavior of the African lacertid lizard Aporasaura anchietae, which lives in the Kalahari desert and stands on two legs, rhythmically alternating which feet are in contact with the hot sand (check out the remarkable BBC video).

Maybe so, but I’m not convinced. I’ve seen behavior like this many times, and it didn’t necessarily seem to occur in ultra-hot conditions, though maybe I just wasn’t paying enough attention. Thoughts, anyone?

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 “Anoles Adopting Funny Postures II

  1. Geckoes lift toepads and sometimes whole feet to avoid ‘dust’.. But a bananaleaf isn’t ‘dusty’ as far as I know.

  2. I’ve seen this quite a lot too. I always assumed it was when a gecko/anole was getting ready for a quick getaway and didn’t want the toe lamellae to slow it down. When walking normally with the lamellae ‘engaged’, they almost seem to ‘peel’ them off starting from the tip of the toe before lifting the foot. Maybe they can’t do this fast enough if they’re about to bolt…?

  3. The toes curled up does look like a thermoregulatory posture. I have noticed Anolis apletophallus adopting strange postures – often with their legs in the air. In many cases the lizards also look at their foot or leg – but not always. I think most of the time it is related to the lizards removing/eating their shedding skin, but I think they are also looking for ectoparasites. I assumed that they feel something on their skin and are having a look to see if they can eat it.

  4. I have 4 green females and 1 big Brown male. I’ve seen them all do it and wondered the same thing. But today after feeding I watched 3 of the females doing this on their hammock. Then the big male jumped up there, did a little of the same, flexed his dewlap (the females then became still with legs up), and he picked one to mount. It seemed almost to be a little dance they’re doing. Keep in mind the heat lamp wasn’t on, they were cool, and it wasn’t on a reflective surface. I’ve seen this behavior at other times when trying to attract a mate wasn’t the goal. So I believe they’re are multiple reasons they do this, I just thought I would share one example.

    At first I thought it was to help themselves poo after eating 3 crickets :)

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