The brown anole, Anolis sagrei, is an invasive species in the United States, originating from the West Indies. They have become established all throughout Florida and in neighboring states – even in Texas and Hawaii.
When I was in Florida, I saw A. sagrei absolutely everywhere. The first picture at the bottom of this article is one of many brown anoles along City Walk in Orlando. I saw them with at least one green anole at Osceola Schools Environmental Study Center and I managed to catch one at a putt-putt course.
Most populations of brown anoles are observed in heavily populated areas and around road sides, leading some to think they are spread by traveling vehicles. Other causes of the distribution of this species are thought to be shipments of lumber, plants, and building products.
Brown anoles occupy the same niche as our native anole, the green anole, and are therefore competing for food and habitat. It has been observed that green anoles retreat to habitat with more vegetation while A. sagrei stick to densely populated areas. Research done by Todd Campbell, a biology professor at University of Tampa, said that brown anoles can displace green anoles by preying on their young and out-competing them for food sources.
An anole behavior I’ve really wanted to see was performed for me by a brown anole at Ready Creek Swamp. It had zoomed out of reach when it looked me in the eye and displayed its dewlap. The dewlap display can be to attract mates and to declare territory. When this was preformed to me, I took it to be the anole saying, “Come at me bro,” but I couldn’t scale a tree to come at my anole bro, as it well knew!
Thank you for reading! I used “Lizards and Crocodilians of the Southeast” by Whitt Gibbons, Judy Greene, and Tony Mills and “Endangered and Threatened Animals of Florida and Their Habitats” by Chris Scott for this article. Edited by Matthew Anthony.
The Green Anole, also known as the “American Anole” or the “Carolina Anole” is a small little lizard, maxing out around 7-8″ long. There are a few documented cases of these guys reaching 9″ in some of the large males. They are the only species of Anole native to the United States. A few invasive species are taking hold in the USA, threatening the Green Anole. These little lizards are diurnal, or day time active. They can be found green, brown and green, or brown and some have a stripe going down their back. They are able to change color based on temperature and activity. Some specimen have a stripe only when in the brown form and some have the stripe in both their brown and green form. This species has a dewlap used in mating and territory guarding.
This species is sexually dimorphic with the males being larger in overall size and girth. Males typically will have a slightly larger head to body ratio. The “dewlap” in males are larger and more brightly colored. Females have rarely been observed using the dewlap in any kind of demonstration. In the populations I have personally studied, the stripe on the back is found to be strongly correlated to the female sex. Juveniles look just like miniature versions of the parents.
Anoles feed on insects and spiders. They can easily be observed scouting for meals on porch railings, fences, sides of buildings, and trees. Moths, butterflies, and grasshoppers seem to be a favorite.
The Green Anole is a feisty little lizard. Males are very territorial and will display a claim of breeding spots with head-bobbing and presenting the dewlap. If demonstration does not scare off a challenging male, fight will break out. I have watched two males fight for 20-30 minutes, to the point of exhaustion, just to have a well rested male come in and chase off both tired males. Fights typically involve biting and wrestling. Many males have tossed challengers off of trees. The fallen lizard will many times run back up the tree and try to avenge his honor. Many males, during a heightened state of arousal, have even demonstrated a claim of territory to other lizard species, other animals, and even passing Herpers. I must admit, I find it entertaining when an Anole is attempting to scare me off with a head-bob and a dewlap.
The range of the Green Anole is the southeastern USA. They can be found throughout Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. The coastal plains of Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. Coastal Plains and Piedmont of North Carolina, and southeastern Virginia also have a healthy population.
The Anole has successfully adapted to a variety of habitat. Being able to scale buildings with adhesive toe-pads have allowed them to take up residency in suburbs and even towns. The Anole has gotten very good at living in backyards all over the southeast USA.
Anoles can regularly be seen basking in the sun on the side of buildings. They can be found on the side of barns and outbuildings, fences, porch railings, and wood piles. Naturally, they prefer trees and shrubs. They are good jumpers and can easily move from one tree to another without ever leaving the tree tops. They can be found on the ground as well. Many sightings on the ground are lizards that are in transit to a new perch.
Anoles begin mating early spring and females will lay a single egg every few weeks until late summer to early fall. Females lay the egg in moist locations such as mulch, rotten logs, or the inside of hollow spots in trees. Young will hatch within a few weeks of being laid. There is no parental care for the eggs or the young. As mentioned before, males are highly territorial and will defend prime breeding ground.
I love to use these guys as a gauge when looking for other herps. They are a primary food source for reptile eating snakes such as kings, racers, and pigmy rattlers. They are the first to become active when spring arrives and the last to leave when fall sets in. Many times, I have observed them active on occasional warm days during winter.
Look for them along the side of buildings such as barns.
They love to run along fences and fallen trees.
They are regularly found on porches and step railings.
Anoles love to get behind vinyl siding.
They are a guide to lead you to other reptiles as they are on the menu of many other reptiles.
One of the first Herps of spring and last to go in late fall.
Extra care should be taken not to grab the Anole by the tail. It will regularly drop it’s tail in an attempt to get away. Although it will grow back, you should be careful not to injure it.
When attempting to catch one, it may be helpful to slowly wave one hand in front of the lizard to distract it while you catch it with the other hand.