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Last Update 08/29/12
Florida Garden Critters

 Anolis equestris equestris - Western Knight Anole
 

Western Knight Anole -- Click to Enlarge

Western Knight Anole -- click image to enlarge

Garden Godzilla!

Florida has only one native species of anole (pronounced: uh'no-lee) -- Anolis carolinensis, popularly known as the Green Anole. The impressively large fellow above is a Western Knight anole which is not a species native to Florida, but one of several species of anole which have been introduced here from Cuba by exotic animal collectors. 

Identification

Knight anoles are the largest of the Anolis species. They grow in length from 13" to 19-3/8". They have a large and bony head which gives the lizard a profile reminiscent of the knight in chess, hence the name "equestris" which means "knight." Their eyes can move independently. The tail is often longer than the entire body and has a jagged upper edge which at first sight reminds people of an iguana (for which they are often mistaken), this is not such a surprise as they are from the same family (Iguanidae).

 

Knight anoles have special adhesive lamella on their five clawed toes that allow them to stick to surfaces making it easier for them to run. This adhesive pad is located on the central part of each toe. Their body is covered with small granular scales with two white or yellowish stripes below each eye and over each shoulder. They are a bright green color, which can change to a light brown with yellow markings. Their color change depends on their mood, temperature, or other types of stimuli. Yellow areas may appear and disappear around the tail. Males are usually larger than females and have a dew lap, or throat fan. It is attached to the throat and displayed by means of a flexible rod of cartilage which can be swung downward and forward, thereby revealing a brightly colored patch of skin. Males display their dew lap during courtship and when defending territory. This display is often accompanied by a series of head-bobs and push-ups.

Anolis-equestris-equestris

Anolis equestris equestris  photographed 10 June 2006 climbing a large Black Olive Tree in the Mounts Botanical Garden, West Palm Beach Florida.

Like all anoles if a Knight Anole loses its tail, it has the ability to regenerate a new one. However, a new tail is never the same as the original in size, color, or texture.

Food Habits

Knight anoles are active during the day rarely leaving the trees they live in. They will hunt and eat almost anything smaller than themselves such as insects and spiders, other lizards, tree frogs, nestling birds and small mammals. While they do not have large teeth, their teeth are sharp and the lizard has very strong jaw muscles. Knight anoles can inflict a painful bite if carelessly handled and aggravated. Knight Anoles only eat live prey as the prey must move to be detected by the lizard.

Reproduction

Knight anoles are egg layers. Breeding occurs anywhere from late March to early October. When courting, the male starts bobbing his head rapidly and turns towards the female to display his dewlap. He then grabs the female by the neck. In order to start mating, the male will force his tail underneath the female to bring their cloacas into contact. Females can lay one or two eggs every two weeks. These eggs, which look like smaller, leathery versions of a chicken egg are buried in the soil. The eggs hatch after anywhere from 5-7 weeks.

 

Predators

Cats, children, snakes and birds are the biggest threats in the life of a Knight anole. While you may be tempted, taking them as pets is not recommended. Knight anoles are relatively slow, shy lizards and can be caught by hand, but they do have strong jaws and sharp teeth and will bite if caught. When caught, their first reactions will be to open their mouth and poop. If you do not drop them after that, they will swiftly turn their head and bite onto any skin on your hand they can reach. Do not try to pull them off if they do this as their sharp teeth will cut the skin. Just quickly put them down and they will let go and run away once they feel they are no longer being held. While Knight anoles have up to a 16 year life span, in Florida, most do not survive cold winters.

Be sure to wash your hands with soap and water if you have contact with these lizards (or any reptile for that matter) as they may possibly harbor salmonella.

SOURCE: Animal Diversity Web Anolis equestris by Jennifer Niederlander

 
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