More Crazy Lizard Head-Bobbing

Even if you’re not interested in lizards, stay with me for a minute or two–because this is a mystery of nature.

This lizard is an Australian bearded dragon. He thinks his reflection in the mirror is another lizard, so he goes into a head-bobbing display to warn the stranger off his territory. He even has some idea of going behind the mirror to see if the interloper might be hiding there.

Travel halfway around the globe to, say, Florida, and you’ll find little green anoles performing the same display for the same reasons (courtship and threat). These groups of lizards are not related, and thousands of miles of planet lie between them. Behavior doesn’t show up in any fossil record. Why do these very different, widely separated lizards do this same ritual?

God’s work is endlessly fascinating: you never get to the bottom of it.

Meanwhile, I’ve had many different kinds of lizards as pets and by rights some of them should have head-bobbed (also known as lizard pushups)… but none of them ever did. I did have an anole who went totally ballistic when he saw his reflection in a hand mirror; I had to take the mirror away before he did himself a mischief.

Then there are the two large families of lizards, one in the Old World, the other in the New, who look just about exactly like one another but aren’t related at all. But that’s another post for later sometime.

Mr. Nature: Head-Bobbing Lizards

Jambo. You are about to see a little “pet store chameleon” (a green anole, actually: not a real chameleon) decide he’s in the mood for love. He’ll try to attract the female by showing his dewlap and doing a lot of head-bobbing.

These same gestures are also used to threaten rivals.

Head-bobbing intrigues me because so many unrelated lizards, thousands of miles apart geographically, do it–and for the same reasons: courtship, threat, defense of territory. This is an aspect of lizard life that has no way of being preserved in any fossil record. Which in turn is a reminder that we don’t know an awful lot about animals–especially prehistoric ones.

None of my lizards ever head-bobbed at me. I must be a nice guy.

Oddly enough, real chameleons don’t head-bob.

I know some of you have bearded dragons. Do they eventually give up head-bobbing–or do they always find some occasion for it?