Tongue Protrusion in Battling Male Anolis limifrons

limifrons displaying doc frogDoc Frog (a.k.a. Cesar Barrio Amorós) has the most amazing balcony anywhere. Previously, we posted photos of Anolis biporcatus mating and A. charlesmyersi being beautiful, taken from that overlook. Now the good doctor reports photographs of anoles taken not from his balcony, but on his balcony. Specifically, two male A. limifrons in a tense encounter.

We’ve had posts in the past of other anoles sticking their tongues out in male-male encounters (e.g., A. fuscoauratusA. stratulus). I wonder how widespread it is in the anole kingdom. I am unaware of any review of this topic, but the first place to start would be Schwenk and Mayer’s paper, “Tongue display in anoles and its evolutionary basis,” published in Anolis Newsletter IV.

Who else can report tongue use in anole displays?

limifron males combatting doc frog

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 “Tongue Protrusion in Battling Male Anolis limifrons

  1. I have seen Anolis cupreus and A. kunyalae do this. With A. cupreus it seems rather uncommon but I do not have any solid data. I used to watch them display and interact while laying in my hammock in Costa Rica from my porch. Once in a while a male would stick its tongue out, but I never thought much of it. One visitor nicknamed the resident and dominant hammock male Michael Jordan. As an aside, the females did like placing eggs in my pant pockets though!

    Regarding A. kunyalae, I have seen them display and do the tongue protrusion in an unnatural setting. On a trip with Steve Poe we once caught a few and let them loose in a research station (these were to become specimens). After a little while they started displaying (and spacing out) and showed the tongue protrusion behavior.


  2. Jonathan et al.—thanks for these observations. In face, we have a manuscript ‘in prep’ on this very topic, extending the work Greg and I did way back when. Lots of new data. There are actually at least two distinct, different displays (‘tongue-bunch’ and ‘tongue-protrude’ or ‘tongue-point’), and possibly others that are gradations. Both basic displays occur in agonistic encounters, usually as display modifiers coupled with dewlap extension. One or both behaviors is extremely wide-spread among anoles and does not appear to be restricted to any single clade, but there are lots of missing data at the species level, so any new observations would be appreciated. The cool thing is that we now have nice high-speed video showing identical tongue conformations in anoles during feeding behavior and chemosensory tongue-flicking, so the argument is that we can derive the two basic lingual displays through ritualization of ancestral, universally distributed, motor patterns. As such the static displays evolved from phenotypic variation hidden by the fact that in the ancestral motor patterns, the two tongue conformations are very briefly manifested (microsecs) as transient components of a rapid kinematic sequence (lingual prehension and transport of prey for ‘tongue-bunch’; and tongue-flicking for ‘rogue-protrude’). Since other iguanians share both fundamental/ancestral motor patterns, perhaps the most interesting question for Anolis biologists is why THEY evolved the ritual use of these lingual displays and not other lineages?

    1. Beautiful pictures Cesar! I am very envious. The A. proboscis and other anoles shown in the posted link are doing the ‘tongue-bunch’ display, as opposed to the ‘tongue-point’ display seen in the A. limifrons, above. Any distinction in the ‘message’ conveyed by these lingual displays is poorly understood. They occur in similar contexts.

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