Anolis trachyderma Loses a Sleeping-on-Leaf Battle with a Snake

In January 2013 I was in the Amazon rainforest in Peru near Iquitos, looking for herps to photograph. This was my first significant visit to Amazonia and I was surprised at the dearth of anoles. I hadn’t (yet) caught up on enough anole literature to realize that the anole density in that area is so very much smaller than the anole density in the Caribbean or Florida. On a good anole-finding day, I only saw perhaps three or four during the day, and another five or six sleeping at night on leaves and twigs. Most of the anoles I encountered were Anolis trachyderma, such as these two sleepers. Alas, their leafy beds were perhaps not as safe as they might have hoped…

Anolis trachyderma sleeping on a leaf at night near Iquitos, Peru.

Anolis trachyderma sleeping on a leaf at night near Iquitos, Peru. 

The most commonly-seen snake on this trip was the notorious anole-eater Imantodes cenchoa, and I was lucky enough to observe one that had just nabbed a poor innocent Anolis trachyderma. It was unbothered by the three people watching it devour its hapless meal.

Just after nabbing a sleeping Anolis trachyderma


Imantodes cenchoa swallowing Anolis trachyderma

What big eyes you have, grandma

Imantodes cenchoa with just the tail tip of Anolis trachyderma still unswallowed

Just a tiny bit of tail left unswallowed

Now, being a sensible lizard-loving sort of person, I don’t really approve of this behavior, but it was definitely an interesting sight to see, and I thought the good folks at Anole Annals might enjoy seeing the photos.

About John Sullivan

I'm a herp fan who has spent my spare time in the past couple of decades traveling and photographing herps in the wild. My photographs end up on my website and, among other places.

4 thoughts on “Anolis trachyderma Loses a Sleeping-on-Leaf Battle with a Snake

  1. Assuming it’s true that anoles use their light-weight leafy sleeping pads as warning devices if a predator comes along the petiole (I have seen them jump into darkness when the leaf was visibly disturbed), part of what’s cool about Imantodes cenchoa is that by anchoring the stout posterior well up-plant from the target leaves, it can swing its head out like a crane, tongue-flicking for prey without touching the leaves, then snatch the anole from above.

    1. Very cool! Is that behaviour rare in snakes? Do most snakes move along branches in ways that would enable sleeping anoles to sense them coming? In other words, does the explanation for why anoles sleep on leaves and twigs make sense, assuming that snakes are their primary night-time predators?

  2. Ambika, see among others: Yorks, D.T., K.E. Williamson, R.W. Henderson, R. Powell, and J.S. Parmerlee, Jr. 2004. Foraging behavior in the arboreal boid Corallus grenadensis. Studies of the Neotropical Fauna and Environment 38: 167–172.

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