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Last Update 08/29/12
Florida Garden Critters

 Anolis carolinensis - Green Anole
 Anolis sagrei sagrei - Cuban Brown Anole

Florida Green Anole, ďAmerican chameleon", Anolis carolinensis

Leapin' Lizards!

You have no doubt seen them clinging to your shrubbery, climbing your walls and  wolfing down all sorts of bugs and insects around your house. It's Godzilla! No, it's only a Green Anole (pronounced: uh'no-lee), one of Florida's true native lizards.

 

Identification

Like all lizards, anoles are equipped with moveable eyelids and external ear holes. Adults molt about every month, casting off skin in bits and pieces. Their feet differ from most lizards in that each toe has adhesive pads (lamellae) on its central portion, enabling the anole to climb and cling to vertical surfaces such as walls, fence posts, trees and leaves, on which they spend much of their time.

Green and Cuban Brown anoles are generally about 5 to 8 inches long. Females are usually smaller and can be under 5 inches long. The long, slender tail of the anole (which makes up about half of its length) may break off at the slightest pressure and continue to wiggle on the ground, distracting would-be predators. But, no fear, the lizard's tail grows back over several weeks to once again serve as a quick get-a-way aid.

Another striking feature of the anole is its 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.

Cuban Brown Anole. Click to Enlarge.

Cuban Anole flashing his dewlap. Click to Enlarge.

Cuban Brown Anole.
Click Image to Enlarge.

Cuban Anole flashing his dewlap.
Click Image to Enlarge.



Anoles are sometimes called chameleons. This is undoubtedly due to the green anoleís ability to change its skin color, much like its Old World cousin, the true chameleon. While the green anole isnít able to change colors as noticeably or rapidly as the chameleon, it is able to alter its color from green to gray to brown, depending on light, temperature and mood. The Cuban Brown Anole, on the other hand, is always some shade of brown.

Food Habits

Anoles eat small insects and bugs. They stalk them in shrubs, in vines, on walls and even window screens. It is not unusual to see them gobbling-up wood roaches or other bugs and insects that have been disturbed when we work in the garden. It is amazing to see these little lizards grabbing and swallowing prey almost as big as they are. Anoles only eat live prey as the prey must move to be detected by the lizard.

Reproduction

Green anoles breed anywhere from late March to early October. Females can lay single eggs every two weeks. These eggs, which look like smaller, leathery versions of a chicken egg (1/4-3/8") are buried in the soil and are often found while digging in the garden. If disturbed, please cover them back-up lightly with garden soil. The eggs hatch after anywhere from 5-7 weeks.

 

Predators

Cats, children, snakes and birds are the biggest threats in the life of an anole. While you may be tempted, taking them as pets is not recommended. Please leave them to their lives as one of Florida's Natural Pest Control Technicians. They do much better outside in the "wild" than they would do caged in the house.

By the way, if one of these little guys finds his or her way into your house, cornering them and gently capturing them in your hands to release them outside is highly recommended. They can live in the house for a short time, but will probably not find enough food, moisture or warmth to live very happily. The next time you see the little lizard it may be as a dried-up little skeleton next to the window. Also, when you do capture them, they will attempt two defensive moves, first they will open their little mouths to bite you, don't fear, if they do bite you you will hardly notice it, their teeth are too tiny to do any damage. In fact, when we were kids growing up in Florida we used to capture these little guys and latch them onto our earlobes as living-lizard-earrings. The anole's second defensive move will be to poop in your hand when captured. Don't worry, the poop is pretty tiny too, nothing too terribly disgusting, but be sure to wash your hands with soap and water after contact with these lizards (or any reptile for that matter) as they may possibly harbor salmonella.

Tailless Cuban Brown Anole

This Cuban Brown Anole has had a run-in with a cat. He lost his tail, but lives another day to help keep your yard free of bugs and insects.

 

Here is a story from a couple FG readers that I had to share, it is just too cute, enjoy!

"While you discourage trying to domesticate these little lizards, how about when one takes up residence voluntarily? People we have shared our experience with view the story with skepticism.

Last year (2005) about mid-June a little guy/girl got into our enclosed porch. I tried my usual method of encouragement to get him (I decided it is a him) back out - gently moving him toward the open door. He was not having any of it, so rather than chance hurting him I let him alone. We left town for about two weeks in early July. I fully expected to find him expired. Some days after we returned home in mid-July, my husband found him licking condensation from the outside of his glass of ice water! He found him doing that again. So, we started putting water out for him. We also have a small fountain on the porch from which he can drink.

Worried that not enough bugs were getting into the porch, I started putting out small pieces of scrambled egg. By now Him has a name: Ziggie.

 

Ziggie had by this time taken up residence in a basket which has a fake coleus in it and a small wooden garden angel fastened into a piece of oasis which is covered with sphagnum moss. Ziggie crawled up to the top of the angel, watched for breakfast, took a lot of time to decide it was safe to come down. He would take several minutes to do this. He would come down about half way and study some more. Come down to the floor and take some more time to approach the egg. He would then dash to the egg, study it, then make a quick grab - sometimes taking a bite, sometimes picking it up and tossing it several inches away!

We talked to him a lot and he would actually (sometimes) come down while we were sitting in our chairs close by. The garden angel has metal wings and it has always had a dried piece of Azalea branch stuck between one of the wings and the angel's back. Ziggie took to coming up at dusk and stretching out along one of the branches where we would find him - still there - at daybreak.

In mid-November, Ziggie disappeared. We were somewhat distraught that he might have passed on. Just after Christmas, my husband called to me to come in a hurry. There was Ziggie perched on the angel's head. He ran when I approached and we did not see him again until yesterday. I did not know, but hoped he was hibernating. I didn't mention that after we returned home in mid-July I again encouraged Ziggie to leave the porch. He went through the open door, out onto the stoop, and over the edge. I was sure he was gone. I called him, "Z-i-g-g-i-e, Ziggie, Ziggie came back up on the stoop and into the porch". By the way, we leave the door to the stoop/garden open often so that our little dog, Maggie, can go in and out -- so Ziggie has had many opportunities to 'escape'. We also leave the sliding glass door open when the weather is decent (most of the time on the Gulf Coast of Florida).

Ziggie has never to my knowledge entered the house. He has ventured about halfway across the porch toward the sliding glass door. We have also found him on the rocks at the base of the fountain and assume he is there to get a drink. WE HOPE WHEN THE WEATHER GETS WARMER ZIGGIE WILL JOIN US AGAIN!"

-- The Daugherty's

 

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