Tag Archives: centipede

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When a Meal Can Bite Back

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A Brown Anole (Anolis sagrei) attempts to make a meal of a large centipede.

Anoles eat a wide variety of food items present in their environments, including all sorts of arthropods, and, occasionally, smaller anoles! We might expect that anoles would choose safe, appropriately-sized prey that would reduce chances of injury and guarantee a meal. However, some anoles, including brown anoles (Anolis sagrei), have been seen taking on potential prey that are either quite large (enough that we might foresee trouble actually swallowing the prey item) or poisonous or venomous, such as caterpillars and centipedes.

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Another attempt at subduing the centipede.

Margaret Griffis O’Brien, a contributor to iNaturalist, recently observed just such a showdown on the mean streets of Miami between a brown anole and a centipede nearly its own body size. The anole made repeated attempts to take down the centipede before it was scared away from its potential meal by an intervening automobile. The centipede was injured enough from the battle that it was unable to leave the road and later in the day was found flattened by the continued traffic. The centipede, either an eastern bark centipede or the invasive Rhysida longipes, was a member of the family Scolopendridae, a group of centipedes known to possess powerful and painful (to humans, at least!) venoms.

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The anole’s predation attempt was characterized by a lot of waiting for opportune moments to attack followed by quick strikes at the centipede.

Given that large, venomous centipedes have been documented in the diet of A. sagrei previously, it would be interesting to know if anoles are able to consume centipedes without being envenomated, how susceptible they are to centipede venom, and whether consuming these large, potentially dangerous prey items is advantageous for these lizards.

All photos by Margaret Griffis O’Brien.