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The Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis carolinensis) in the Wild and Captivity – Care in Captivity – Part 4

Click here to view Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of this article. If you’re looking for information on Green Anole Natural History, click here.

Candidates for the Mixed-Species Terrarium

I have kept green anoles with 5 lined skinks, house geckos, brown anoles, green, gray and squirrel treefrogs, southern and spadefoot toads, DeKay’s (brown) snakes, various millipedes and land snails (…and water moccasins, but that was at the Bronx Zoo.  As they say “don’t try this at home“!).

I once established a group of green anoles in the upper half of a 300 gallon aquarium housing tropical fish – they take readily to such situations if provided ample branches and live plants upon which to climb.

Captive Longevity

Captive longevity approaches 10 years, but averages 5-7.


Green anoles are high strung and do not take well to handling.  They are fast moving and make long, seemingly reckless leaps, so be careful when opening their terrarium.  Let them see you open the enclosure, and do so slowly – in time, the anoles will move to safe, elevated locations as opposed to coming towards you.  They will, however, watch you closely and may take an opportunity to flee if you turn your back, so close the lid or door when reaching for tools, etc.  A small net might be useful to have on hand.  Green anoles shed their tails readily when grabbed forcibly.


Please see also “Reproduction”, in Part I of this article, for notes on distinguishing the sexes.  Captive breeding has occurred spontaneously, but is most consistently achieved when the animals are exposed to cyclic changes in temperature, light and humidity levels.  Watch for young animals, as undetected eggs may hatch within the terrarium.

Green anoles originating from the northern portions of the range require longer and cooler “winters” than do those from the south.  In fact, southern-range animals are different, physiologically, from those in the north.  Experiments have shown that anoles living in south Florida are killed by the winter-time temperatures routinely tolerated by those native to northern Florida.  You can assume that pet trade animals are from the more southerly portions of the range (usually central/south Florida and Louisiana).

Cooling off periods of 60 days or so may stimulate reproduction.  Nighttime temperatures should be allowed to dip to 60-65 F for animals originating in the northern sections of the range, and 62-68 F for those from the south.  Daytime temperatures can rise to 81-83 F.  The daytime light cycle should gradually be reduced to 9-10 hours from the usual 12-14 (cover the cage during the day if it is located in a well-lit room).  Misting should be reduced to once daily.

Potted plants make ideal egg deposition sites.  Eggs incubated in vermiculite (1:1 vermiculite:water by weight) at 82-86 F will hatch in 32-46 days.

An interesting article on anole reproductive and social behavior, as well as a review of this species’ 100-year history as a laboratory animal, is posted at:


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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