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The Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis carolinensis) in the Wild and Captivity; – Natural History – Part 1

The green anole has long been a pet trade staple, but these active, attractively-colored little lizards have quite an interesting natural history as well. Today we’ll take a look at how they live and cope with people, and point out some of their special traits. Next week I’ll cover their care in captivity. Classification

Family Iguanidae, Subfamily Polytrotinae.

Note: some authorities have reclassified certain Anolis species as Norops.

Green AnoleAt least 370 anole species range throughout southern North America, Central America, South America and the Caribbean. All are fairly small, slender, egg-laying lizards. Males possess a large, colorful throat fan (dewlap) that is used in territorial displays and other forms of communication; depending upon the species, the female’s dewlap is smaller or vestigial.

The foot pads of most are equipped with lamellae (please see below) to assist in climbing. Nearly all are arboreal, with the tails of the “bush anoles” (Genus Polychrus) being prehensile. Several species, however (i.e. Genus Pristidactylus), are largely terrestrial.

Anoles feed mainly upon insects, spiders and other invertebrates. Several species have been observed to lap nectar and sap, and the Puerto Rican anole (A. cristatellus wileyae) sometimes consumes fruit.

The green anole is the only species native to the USA, although a number of others have been introduced here (please see below). The green anole population in southwestern Florida has recently been designated as a distinct subspecies, the pale-throated green anole, A. carolinensis seminolus.

Physical Description

The green anole is slenderly built, possessed of a long tail, and reaches 6 -7.5 inches in length. The color of each individual varies from light and dark brown to pale and bright green (please see below).

Males are larger and stockier than females and have a thicker tail base and a wider, more colorful dewlap (throat fan). The dewlap of the male is pink to pale red in color (white or cream-colored in A. c. seminolus), and is vestigial or absent in females.

Anoles clad in various shades of blue are sometimes available in the pet trade. Arising from a genetic mutation, they are quite striking.


Green anoles are found from southern North Carolina west to eastern Texas and southeastern Oklahoma and south to the Florida Keys. They also live in the Bahamas, Grand Cayman Islands, Anguilla and Cuba. There are disjunct populations in Mexico.

Green anoles have been introduced to Belize, southern Japan and Hawaii, and have established breeding populations in those areas.


Woodland edges, pine-palmetto scrub, cypress swamps, open forests, overgrown fields, farms, parks, backyards and gardens; highly arboreal.

Status in the Wild

Green anoles adapt well to some human disturbance and may even be drawn to gardens by high insect populations and the humidity generated by frequent plant-watering. They are, however, declining across parts of their range due to over-collection and to the effects of introduced Anolis species that occupy the same habitats and compete with (the brown anole) or prey upon (the knight anole) them.


Caterpillars, tree crickets, grasshoppers, flies, beetles, moths, ants, roaches, spiders and other invertebrates; they occasionally lap over-ripe fruit, nectar and sap.


The breeding season extends from April to September, although it is shorter in the northern part of the range. Males are highly territorial and battle interlopers. The male’s courtship display consists of vigorous head-bobbing with continued extensions of the dewlap. The dewlap reflects ultraviolet light and is perceived by the female as brilliantly colored.

Males chase females about and grasp them behind the neck during copulation. The first eggs, 1-2 in number, are laid 2-4 weeks after mating occurs. They may be buried in soil or secreted below leaf litter or even left the surface, along a log or other structure. Eggs are sometimes deposited in substrate that has accumulated among air plants or in tree knot-holes above-ground. Additional clutches of 1-2 eggs are laid throughout the breeding season, to a total of 8-10 eggs per female. The eggs hatch in 30-45 days.


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