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The Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis carolinensis) in the Wild and Captivity; – Natural History – Part 2

Click:The Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis carolinensis) in the Wild and Captivity; – Natural History – Part 1 to read the first part of this article.

Introduced Anoles
Green AnoleThe green anole is the only anole native to the USA, but eight other species, originating as escaped or released pets, have established breeding populations here. The most common and widespread is the brown anole (A. sagrei), now found throughout Florida and in southern Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas and Hawaii. In many areas it is now more commonly encountered than the green anole.

The knight anole (A. equestris), bark anole (A. distichus), large-headed anole (A. cybotes), Hispaniolan anole (A. chlorocyanus), Cuban green anole (A. porcatus) and Jamaican giant anole (A. gormani) are limited to the vicinity of Miami and Miami-Dade County at this time.

Ill Fated Pets
Green anoles were sold by the millions at carnivals, circuses and through the mail in the 1960’s and early 70’s. Termed “chameleons” due to their color changing abilities, most were fed “sugar water” and expired in short order.

Color Change – not as obvious as it seems
Color change in the green anole has little to do with the background upon which the animal rests (although the colors it exhibits are usually cryptic). Cool or stressed anoles are brown in color, while warm, resting individuals are pale green and warm, active animals are bright green. Anoles involved in aggressive displays develop a black patch behind the eyes.

Unique Climbing Aids
Green anoles are assisted in climbing by transverse lamellae on the bottoms of the toes and feet. These thin structures are divided by thousands of grooves, and provide excellent traction against tiny irregularities in the surface upon which the lizard is moving. Utilizing the lamellae, anoles can even grip dirt particles lodged on glass, and hence climb window panes and aquarium sides easily.

Cold Tolerance and its Conservation Implications
Research has demonstrated that anoles from south Florida lack the cold tolerance exhibited by those in north Florida, and could not survive the winters there. Information such as this is vital in planning reintroduction and captive breeding programs for animals with large ranges. Inter-breeding animals that originate in widely different parts of their range can have disastrous consequences, despite the fact that they are of the same species.

In one case, ibex (mountain dwelling goats) from several European countries were released in the Pyrenees Mountains, to bolster the local population. The animals reproduced, but the offspring resulting from the crossing of native and non-native ibex were genetically programmed to give birth in mid-winter, and the population eventually became extinct.

An interesting summary of research being conducted on free-living green anoles by students at UT Knoxville 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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