Green anoles are small-to-medium lizards found in the United States. Often called “the American Chameleon”, they are closely related to iguanas and under normal circumstances can only change their color from shades of green to brown. Besides its body color, it is also recognizable from its brightly colored dewlop.
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
It is popular in the US, as it is relatively easy to care for. This lizard is also referred to as the Carolina anole, the Carolina green anole, the American anole, the American green anole, the North American green anole, and the red-throated anole.
Size: Length: 4.9–8.0 in (12.5–20.3 cm) Weight: 0.11–0.25 oz (3–7 g)
Body and coloration: It is slender with a long and pointed head. There are several small ridges on the top of their head and a few larger ones in the area around the eyes and nostrils.
Sexual dimorphism exists, males being 15% larger than the females and having a bright red dewlap, i.e., a throat fan which is pink or white in females. Female anoles have a white stripe running down their backs, which the males don’t.
The green anole can change color with the help of three layers of pigment cells or chromophores. They are primarily found in different shades of green but can turn brown due to external or internal factors. Differently colored versions, like blue or yellow ones, have been spotted and are very popular among collectors but are rarer and tend to live for much shorter periods due to an inability to camouflage properly.
These lizards are found throughout North America. This includes the Atlantic Coastal Plains in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, the Gulf Coast in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, Orange County and San Diego County of southern California, and Tamaulipas, Mexico. They are also seen in the Pacific and the Caribbean islands, including Anguilla, the Bahamas, the Canary Islands, the Grenadines, Hawaii, Northern Mariana Islands, the Ogasawara Islands, Palau, and Saint Vincent.
Green anoles prefer brushy clearings and moist forests. They are common on roadsides, the edges of woods where shrubs and vines are present, and building sites with abundant foliage and sunlight.
Primarily insectivorous, these lizards consume beetles, butterflies, cockroaches, crickets, grasshoppers, flies, moths, spiders as well as mollusks. They will even eat grain and seeds.
A significant factor in their diets is availability. If anything edible is available in their environment and is smaller than their head, they will attempt to feed on it.
On average, green anoles live between 2 to 8 years in the wild and 4-6 years in captivity.
These lizards are diurnal, spending most of their time foraging during the day.
Males are highly territorial, fighting off other males entering their domain by biting and scratching them. Before fighting, they will try to intimidate the intruder by compressing their bodies, extending the dewlap, inflating a dorsal ridge, and bobbing their heads.
They are arboreal and sedentary, staying primarily on trees.
It is preyed upon by broadhead skinks, curly-tailed lizards, birds like American kestrels, pearly-eyed thrashers, and lizard cuckoos, and snakes like brown tree snakes. In human habitations, they are sometimes attacked by cats, dogs, and frogs.
Flesh flies will often infect anoles by laying their eggs in them, after which the larvae emerge from open wounds. This, more often than not, will kill the lizards, with mortality rates being close to 90%.
Similar to many other lizards, the tails of the green anoles are detachable. The tail breaks off to distract predators to get away. It grows back later but isn’t similar to the original.
They have the ability to change color, primarily from green to brown. This acts as an indication of stress or a drop in temperature. The default bright green coloration also acts as camouflage.
Green anoles have sticky, adhesive-like structures on their feet, allowing them to climb more easily.
It can also glide from high perches with the help of a membrane close to the legs.
Mating and Reproduction
The mating of the green anole is polygynous, with a single male mating with 2-3 females living in its territory. Their breeding season is long, lasting 4-5 months, generally starting as early as April and ending in late September.
Males will attract a female through a form of ritual courtship, including bobbing their heads up and down and extending their dewlaps. If she reciprocates, she will allow the male to approach her, at which point he bites on her neck and mounts her. Copulation lasts for a few minutes.
Females lay around 10 eggs per season, but only 1-2 at a time. The eggs hatch in about 5-7 weeks. Initially, the juveniles are 2.0–2.6 in (52–67 mm) and can be distinguished from adults with the help of the smaller ridges, wider head, and smaller tail. Newly hatched anoles are not cared for by their parents, fending for themselves until maturing in about 8 months.
The IUCN lists the Green Anole as “LC” or “Least Concern”.
The territorial behavior of some anoles is so extreme that they reach the point of trying to fight mirrored reflections of themselves.
Green anoles are very common pets. Though they do not like to be handled with proper conditions, they can live up to 10 years in captivity.