All posts by Emily Folk

Anolis Lizards Have Their Own Homing Device

Carolina Anole

Lizards are active creatures, often running around in new territories to explore and find food. Sometimes they encounter challenges that keep them from running too far. When they wander away from home, how do they get back? It’s a question that’s led researchers to study this topic.

After watching the daily routines of Anolis lizards by using tracking devices placed on their backs, researcher Manuel Leal learned that they return to the same home again and again. This established the next question which was to find out how the lizards knew how to get back. Birds have a similar ability to find their way home. Although the exact method has not been discovered, it’s possible that lizards have similar abilities and functioning as birds in finding their own again.

They Claim Their Homes

Anolis lizards, especially males, claim trees as home territories, fighting to keep any newcomers off their bit of land. They’ve proven that they remember exactly where they stake out their claim, and like all animals, they like structure in their environment, including the location of where they spend their days and nights. Some studies prove that after disorienting the lizards and placing them a far distance from their home, they can still find their way back within 24 hours.

Then They Listen

U.S.  Geological Society geologist John Hagstrum proposed that in order to get back home, pigeons use sounds wave; extensive studies on pigeons show that they use low-frequency sound waves to create an acoustic map of where they are. This way, they can identify predators and safe spaces to land. Some have wondered whether  Anolis lizards might have similar capabilities that are advantageous for homing.

It’s hard to argue that lizards use any other method to get where they came from. Tests have proven shown results that indicate that lizards don’t have the ability to use any magnetic senses or distinguish polarizing light. Still, they manage to baffle scientists who wonder at their complex societies and developed capabilities.

If you want to learn a little more on the topic of how Anolis lizards find their way home, you can see a short film done by Days Edge Productions that follows Leal as he conducts his study.