Lizards eating an orange?!

Many lizard species are known to bolster their diet with vegetation. The practice is particularly common among species that live on islands, given how scarce food resources often are. It was a bit surprising then that Podarcis erhardii, a lizard found plentifully all through the small aegean islands, hadn’t been observed eating plants.

This summer, while in the field, I came upon a farmer’s orange tree. Several of the fruits had fallen on the ground, and I was extremely surprised to see a lizard excitedly digging into the mostly-eaten fruit. As soon as I approached for a picture the lizard ran away, so I took another of the freshly-downed oranges, cut it open, and set it out with my video camera on a tripod watching it. Here’s the video I got (sped up a bit):

Over the next half hour, three lizards visited the orange, and two males even fought over it, suggesting that when it’s available, fruit may be a valuable resource. I mentioned this to a Greek colleague who has spent a great deal of time studying a sister species to erhardii and he related a very similar story, this time with scavenged watermelon and apple cores.

As luck would have it, the same day I saw the lizard eating the orange, Kinsey videotaped a male lizard eating a just-laid lizard egg. This was the first recorded observation of erhardii cannibalism, another trait seen in many other island lizard species.

After all these firsts, we decided we wanted to publish the sightings. In November, our paper “Novel records of frugivory and ovophagy in Podarcis lizards from East Mediterranean Islands” was accepted by the North West Journal of Zoology. I’ll post a PDF once we get proofs, but here’s one of our figures for your enjoyment.

Lizards eating fruit

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