Information Sought on Anole Playing Dead Behavior

My name is John Phillips. I am an undergraduate in Kirsten Nicholson’s lab at Central Michigan. Kirsten and I were discussing some interesting behavior I observed by A. laeviventris and A. cupreus during our Nicaragua trip last summer. Multiple individuals upon capture appeared to ‘play dead’ until I stopped holding them securely, whence they suddenly sprang to life and escaped. Kirsten thought you may know of any related instances of such behavior in anoles, and she has encouraged me to write this observation up in Herp Review so I was wondering if anyone knew of related instances in other anoles.   If so, could you email me at:

About Jonathan Losos

Author and Professor at Harvard University
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6 Responses to Information Sought on Anole Playing Dead Behavior

  1. rglor says:

    I’ve seen plenty of anoles “freeze up” during handling, and this behavior seems particularly common among newly hatched babies. I’ve never been sure whether they’re playing dead as a strategy or are simply too stressed to move. In any case, you should be sure to reference the work of Lily Capehart in your Herp Review note, she’s done some innovative and highly influential work on the topic (

  2. Ludovic says:

    A picture for illustrate this behavior:
    picture took in Costa Rica (Hacieda Baru).

    If someone can identify the specie.
    Thank you

  3. Kirsten Nicholson says:

    Hilarious. I already showed him Lily’s website…Love the dressing up!

  4. Jonathan Losos says:

    That’s a tough one. Any Costa Rican experts out there? Looks like it has a yellowish-orange dewlap and a banded tail. Where is Hacienda Baru?

  5. Ludovic says:

    In the South West:

    For the specie I think it’s an Anolis polylepis but I would like have a confirmation

  6. marthamunoz says:

    Ooh! I’ve got one. In June 2010, I was in the xeric forest of the Jaragua National Park and had 2 male A. longitibialis on nooses. When they were brought close to each other, the smaller male flipped onto its back and looked as those it were playing dead. When I pulled the larger one away, the little flipped back over and tried to run away.

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