- Where: Everywhere, particularly on trees
- Identification: 3-6 inch lizard, wide color range
- Best Time of Year: Any
- Fun facts: The exotic brown anole has driven the native green anole higher up in the trees to eat and live.
Florida is home to two special lizards, the Green Anole and Brown Anole. Their names refer to their most typical colorations but these lizards are often confused for one another. While the Green Anole (sometimes called the Carolina Anole, American Anole, Red-Throated Anole, or American Chameleon) are native to the U.S., the Brown Anole is originally from Cuba and the Bahamas. Both residents and visitors will have no problem spotting either of these lizards throughout Florida thanks to the state’s warm and humid weather that makes a perfect habitat for them. Both Green and Brown Anoles in Florida are also often found in urban areas, sometimes even sneaking into homes.
Although both lizards can look similar at times it is possible for the dedicated observer to distinguish them. Green and Brown Anoles are very similar in size, with the males of both species reaching sizes of five to eight inches long, and they are both characterized by their long and slender bodies. The Green Anole is of course known for its color that can range from vibrant bright lime to subdued pea green. Green Anoles, like many other types of lizards, are also capable of changing their color and can often be seen as brown or gray. Their ability to display this range of coloration has earned them the nickname of American Chameleon although they are more closely related to iguanas than actual chameleons. When they are brown, the Green Anoles can be easily mistaken for Brown Anoles. Brown Anoles can also change color, going from a light brown color with darker markings on their backs and tan markings on their sides to dark brown or black. These lizards change color depending on their mood, temperature, health, and the humidity in their environment.
The males of the Green and Brown Anoles possess throat flaps, or dewlaps, that are used in territorial displays or when attracting a mate. They can be seen bobbing their heads up and down in what looks almost like a push-up motion while flaring their dewlaps. In the Green Anole, the dewlap is often bright pink although in southwest Florida, their throat flaps may be white, light gray, or green. The Brown Anole’s throat flap is orange or pale yellow with a white edge. Another way that these anoles can be distinguished aside from coloration and markings is that the Brown Anole has a tail ridge that travels all the way up the body, stopping just behind the head. Green and Brown Anoles in Florida can often be seen together sharing the same environments so it can be hard to tell which is which, at least when Green Anoles are actually brown, but it can actually be quite easy to learn to identify their differences.
It’s quite common for Brown and Green Anoles to be kept as household pets and with the proper care, they can live happily for several years. The Green Anole is one of the most commonly purchased lizards in the pet trade and the minimal care that both Green and Brown Anoles require make them suitable beginner pets for those interested in adding reptiles to their family. In both cases, captive bred lizards are the best to purchase because they are used to captivity and will experience less stress and illness when transitioning into their new homes. For one or two lizards, a minimum of a 10 gallon tank with a screened top is necessary and for each additional lizard another 5 gallons should be added to provide adequate space. The ideal substrate for lizard tanks is soil and for Green and Brown Anoles a semi-tropical temperature of 75 to 80 degrees fahrenheit with a humidity level of 70%. They will also enjoy and appreciate a variety of plants and branches for basking and sheltering. Live crickets are a common food choice for Brown and Green Anoles.
Both Green and Brown Anoles in Florida enjoy the lush greenery, the abundant shade, the moisture, and the humidity of the state. These lizards are commonly found in suburban and urban areas, hiding in home gardens or scuttling along city buildings. The Green Anole prefers to spend its time above the ground, in trees, shrubs, fences, and walls while the Brown Anole are typically found on the ground or on low vegetation. While the Green Anole is native to Florida and much of the southeastern portion of the United States, the Brown Anole is actually an invasive species, originally from Cuba and the Bahamas to be sold as pets. The Brown Anole is now one of the most abundant lizards in Florida and can be found throughout the state and has expanded its territory into other southern states like Georgia and Texas. Because the Brown Anole is so resilient and pervasive, their conservation status is considered secure. The Green Anole’s conservation status is considered of the least concern although there is some speculation that the invasion of Brown Anoles could threaten the native Green Anoles in the future. Currently, both lizards can be found living side by side in Florida’s year-round greenery.
At first glance these two lizard species might seem nearly identical if the Green Anole is not displaying its signature bright lime color. Although one is native and the other is invasive, they have learned how to share their habitat and coexist, at least for the time being. Thanks to Florida’s abundant plant life and perfect weather, the Brown and Green Anole seem to find plenty of space for themselves, with the Green Anole up high in trees and on walls and the Brown Anole on the ground. They even seem to thrive in increasingly urban areas as long as there is some foliage and shrubbery for them to enjoy. These lizards are delightful to observe outdoors with their range of colors and sometimes comical displays of their dewlaps and can even be enjoyed as pets. Green and Brown Anoles in Florida are part of the diverse wildlife and landscape of Florida.