Florida's Anoles

Anyone who visits Florida is almost certain to encounter a large number of small lizards, scurrying among the shrubbery or racing across the trails and walkways. The green anole (also called the Carolina anole) is native to the State and has long been sold in American pet stores, where, due to its color-changing abilities, it has been incorrectly labeled a chameleon.

Over the past century, the brown anole, a native of Cuba and other Caribbean islands, has been introduced to Florida and has rapidly spread across the State (and throughout other regions of the Southeast and Gulf Coast). Similar in size, diet and habits to the green anole, this exotic species appears to be more comfortable in disturbed areas and, in light of ongoing "development" across Florida, now appears to be more common than the native, green anole. Both feed on insects and other small invertebrates and are known to consume eggs or hatchlings of their own or other anole species. Adult males aggressively defend their territories, using their inflatable, red dewlaps to attract mates and intimidate rivals. Females are able to store sperm and lay a single, fertilized egg in the leaf litter every week or so, from mid spring through late summer.

Wary of herons and egrets (which consume them) and human children (who like to catch them), anoles are remarkable acrobats, climbing trees, vines and a wide variety of man-made structures. Fascinating to watch, they are surely the most common wild vertebrate in the Sunshine State.