The Anole’s Pajamas

Anolis gemmosus from Mindo, Ecuador

One of the reasons that spot-lighting for anoles at nights works so well is that many anole species adopt a lighter color in the evening. This was first noted by Reverend Lockwood in an article in the American Naturalist in 1876 who noted that his captive anoles were usually brown during the day, even when on a green leaf, and were green at night, even when sleeping on brown surfaces. He concluded (p.13): “The belief that the color of the contiguous object is mimicked for the sake of protection is, I think, not confirmed by the observed facts. The truth is that in this matter of animals enjoying life there is a higher law than that of mere intention. I shall call it the law of spontaneous expression, which has its base in another law, to wit, that a joy unuttered is a sense repressed. Why should green be the favorite night-gown of our sleeping Anolis? I timidly venture the suggestion that it is because the animal is disposing itself for the luxury of sleep, its color changes being the utterances of its emotions . . . Whether it be the expression of enjoyment of repose, comfort, or emotional joy, the highest manifestation is its display of green.”

About Jonathan Losos

Author and Professor at Harvard University
This entry was posted in Classics from the Literature, Natural History Observations. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Anole’s Pajamas

  1. Rich Glor says:

    Standards at the American Naturalist have certainly changed a bit over the years.

  2. 220mya says:

    Well, back when this was published, AmNat was basically the pet journal for Edward Drinker Cope. I think sometimes folks confuse “standards” for “selectivity”. Even today, every journal still lets some amount of bad science through, no matter how well respected it is. Thats not a specific comment on AmNat (a lot of great papers there!), just scientific journals as a whole.

  3. Pingback: All About Sleeping Anoles |

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