Feeding ecology and diet

Teiids are opportunistic feeders, and they are very good at finding and taking advantage of concentrated patches of prey such as insect larvae, ants, and termites that they dig out of the leaf litter or other cover. An individual may find several food sources during a foraging bout, and their meals are made up of different kinds of prey. Across the family, prey size correlates with body size. The large species of Ameiva, Teius, and the tegus (Tupinambis) include large amounts of fallen fruit in their diets. Tegus are omnivorous, consuming vertebrate prey and carrion as they encounter it. Tegus also are known to be important egg predators and have been reported to be the most important predator of caiman nests in the Venezuelan Llanos. Tegus have heterodont dentition as adults with pointed teeth in the front of their mouths for seizing prey and molariform teeth in the back of their jaws for crushing hard prey. Exceptions to the rule of opportunism among teiids are the caiman lizards (Dracaena spp.). These very large (more than 12 in [300 mm] snout-to-vent length), spectacular teiids are aquatic specialists that live around streams and swamps and feed primarily on snails. They have laterally compressed tails for swimming and foraging in water. Caiman lizards are named for the enlarged dorsal scales that look like crocodilian skin. Caiman lizards have a blunt head and molariform teeth for crushing their molluscan prey.

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