Functional morphology of dewlap extension in the lizard Anolis equestris (Iguanidae). Academic Article uri icon


  • The dewlap is an extendible flap of skin ordinarily folded under the throat. Lizards, particularly those in the genus Anolis, extend their dewlaps during interactions with conspecifics, other lizards, and potential predators. Dewlap extension is effected by movements of elements of the hyoid apparatus. This paper describes the anatomy of the hyoid and associated musculature in Anolis equestris, a large arboreal lizard with a prominent dewlap. A mechanism for dewlap extension is proposed based on results of morphological and experimental techniques. Specializations of the hyoid skeleton for dewlap extension include elongated second ceratobranchials and highly movable joints between the ceratohyals and the hypohyals and between the first ceratobranchials and the body of the hyoid. A well developed M. ceratohyoideus extends between the ceratohyals and the first ceratobranchials of the hyoid apparatus. During dewlap extension, the hyoid apparatus acts as a first order lever. Contraction of M. ceratohyoideus pulls the ceratohyals posteriorly causing the hypohyals and the body of the hyoid to rotate dorsally around the first ceratobranchial/body joints. This movement results in the second ceratobranchials swinging forward and down, unfolding the dewlap. The relative immobility of the first ceratobranchials provides stability to the hyoid apparatus during dewlap extension. A comparison is made of dewlap extension and other hyoid displays.

publication date

  • November 1990