Brown Anoles Eating Fire Ants

My Backyard Birding posted this video on Youtube, stating: “Five Brown Anole Lizards feeding voraciously on venomous Fire Ants in the backyard. I’m not sure this phenomena has ever been filmed before. Amazingly the common, but invasive, Brown Anole Lizards living in the backyard have evolved to enjoy a treat of invasive fire ants, probably because they have been around together for many years now.”

Can anyone confirm that these are fire ants that the anoles are eating?


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.

10 thoughts on “Brown Anoles Eating Fire Ants

  1. This is great. Makes me less upset about the browns displacing my beloved greens. Maybe someone has seen greens eating fire ants, but I never have.

  2. Yes, that looks to be fire ants. Also see some introduced Phorid flies in a couple of spots. Could be a good food source to support their (Brown Anole) growing pops. I’d love to collaborate on a study of their interactions (I’m currently looking to grow our understanding of fire ant/ground-dwelling vertebrate interactions in the southeastern US).

  3. These certainly look like fire ants to me. It also looks like they are preferentially consuming the alates. Maybe reproductives don’t have the defenses of the worker caste (I seem to recall that stingers are reappropriated reproductive organs, but could be wrong). In my samples from Miami I have never seen fire ants (Solanopsis invicta) in brown anole stomachs despite their abundance, so this is indeed a cool video. I also like how tolerant the large males are of each other around this abundant food source . Cool video!

  4. Great video! We have actually observed brown anoles feeding on fire ants several times at my field site in Florida. My lab is currently in the process of quantifying the energy and nutrient contents of different invertebrate prey items (including fire ants) that these lizards target (and don’t target) at my site. I have upcoming plans to look at effects of different food items on growth, reproduction, etc, as well as effects of different maternal diets on offspring traits. So hopefully in the near future we will have some information about the effects of eating fire ants.

  5. I think Sean is right – they seem to be selecting certain ants, probably the non-stinging alates.

    Interesting how the lizards elevate their bodies and tails when standing or moving over the areas with lots of active fire ants. A couple of them even lift up at least one leg while standing around the ants. I wonder if they do that around all ant swarms or just the potentially dangerous ones, like fire ants. It could be an interesting behavior to explore.

  6. I agree with Sean and Nathan; they seem to be picking out the alates, which are undoubtedly chock full of fats, proteins and nutrients and lower alkaloid levels. Extremely interesting film, in south Florida the only Anolis I have observed with a preference for all ants are the distichus, however every year when the ant colonies begin to swarm with alates after the rains the sagrei come out in force and gorge themselves on them.

  7. In a diet study we did, we found that Anolis sagrei only preyed upon drones, queens and workers of the tropical fire ant (Solenopsis geminata). It thus seems that the lizards avoided the soldiers of this aggressive ant species.

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