Anolis proboscis, showing the male-specific proboscis. Photo by D. Luke Mahler.
A long–time favorite here at Anole Annals, the Ecuadorian Horned Anole (Anolis proboscis) made an appearance at SICB. Diego Quirola and colleagues from Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador described the use of the proboscis during social interactions. They captured male and female anoles and videotaped staged male-male and male-female interactions. From the videos they were able to quantify behavioral patterns of these fascinating lizards. They did some very anole-like behavior, but they definitely have a flair all their own! With such a fascinating, chameleonic appendage one would expect some important functions of the proboscis, and one would not be disappointed. Watching videos that Diego had on display revealed social behavior very reminiscent of chameleons, with males puffing up, curling their tails, and swaying while doing the more typical anole dewlap extensions.
Then there’s the proboscis. This structure, much like the dewlap, is used during both courtship and agonistic interactions. In both contexts, males actually lift the proboscis. Yes, they can move the proboscis up and down, something not seen in chameleons with rostral appendages (no, we don’t know how they do it!). Diego suggests that the proboscis is lifted to either stimulate females or allow the male to bite the nape as other lizards do while copulating. Males also display a behavior called “proboscis flourishing” where the proboscis is prominently displayed while moving the head side to side. During agonistic interactions it may serve as a dominance indicator, though they are still working on those analyses. Proboscis anoles seem to be at the low end of aggression for anoles, but males occasionally fight and lock jaws. During male fights the proboscis likely gets in the way, and it appears to be purposely lifted during these fights. It’s possible that they lift it to keep the rival male from latching onto their snout, or it could be moved so that they can get better bites in. I was very much looking forward to learning more about these anoles, and I was not disappointed. As more work is done on these fascinating anoles we’ll be able to better understand why it has evolved such an interesting, and un-anole-like appendage, as well as the unique behavior that is associated with it.