Who can't feel a twinge of affection for those cute little lizards commonly spotted sprinting across our sidewalks,
hanging out on our potted plants and amusing us with their head bobs and mini-pushups.
These anoles are found everywhere in the Tampa Bay watershed. They are not only fun to watch, but can
be considered do-gooders as they consume large amounts of insects like cockroaches and spiders, and are
themselves a readily available food source for many Florida snakes and birds.
While hardly a pest, the main problem with our little friend lies in the fact that the most common species - the brown anole
(anolis sagrei) - is an unwelcome guest in this state. The brown anole is native to Cuba and the Bahamas, and is thought to have
entered Florida through various seaports during the 1940s. They quickly found a home away from home in the warm climate, spreading
into north Florida and beyond. They can be found practically anywhere from coastal uplands to barren lowlands, in urban and suburban
areas, backyards and gardens.
On the other hand, the less common green anole (anolis carolinenses) is actually native to the southeastern
United States. They are often called chameleons because they can change color from emerald green to brown or gray. Usually their
change in color is due to stress but also to temperature and mating. Males have a pink or red extendable dewlap or throat fan. If you see a
green anole bobbing up and down and showing his dewlap, look around - there may be a female nearby.
Another interesting thing about anoles is that their tails can break off quite easily if caught by a predator. It's
a mechanism that allows them to escape, and later they just grow another one!
Many times brown anoles are confused with the native green anole when the green anole has turned brown.
But brown anoles have obvious patterns on their backs and sides. Green anoles typically have no pattern. Both
average 6 to 8 inches in length.
Anoles are active during the day and love to bask in the sun on tree trunks, fence posts, decks or walls. During
cool weather they lay low often hiding under logs or rocks. And unlike the British "Geico Gecko" lizard seen on
television commercials, they don't get around in miniature red sports car convertibles.