Anole Lizard

Last updated: February 23, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
Image Credit Leena Robinson/Shutterstock.com

There are just under 400 species, several of which change color.

Anole Lizard Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Reptilia
Order
Squamata
Family
Dactyloidae
Genus
Anolis

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Anole Lizard Conservation Status

Anole Lizard Locations

Anole Lizard Locations

Anole Lizard Facts

Prey
Insects
Name Of Young
hatchlings
Fun Fact
There are just under 400 species, several of which change color.
Biggest Threat
Other reptiles
Most Distinctive Feature
On most species, the brightly colored dewlap on the neck of the males
Other Name(s)
American green anole, Carolina green anole, American anole, Carolina anole, North American green anole, red-throated anole, American Chameleon
Litter Size
1 - 2 eggs
Predators
Snakes , other Reptiles , Birds
Diet
Omnivore
Type
Reptile
Common Name
Anole Lizard
Location
The Americas
Group
Territorial

Anole Lizard Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Brown
  • Red
  • White
  • Tan
  • Green
Skin Type
Scales
Lifespan
2 - 7 years
Height
0.5 in. - 2 in.
Length
4 - 20 in.
Age of Sexual Maturity
18 months

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The name Anole Lizard refers to one of over 400 species of mostly color-changing lizards located primarily in South and Central America.

There is a single species, the Green Anole, Anolis carolinensis, native to North America, which is sometimes called the American Chameleon. Though many anole lizards can exhibit color adaptations to their environment, the anole lizard differs from true Chameleons in many ways, not least in their very limited ability for color change. In most species, the male and female differ in some way, most commonly because the males have a brightly colored dewlap on the necks, but males and females may also by size and sometimes nose length. Another species, the Brown Anole (A. sagrei), can be found in parts of the United States, but is considered an invasive species and has a negative effect on local ecosystems. A few other species, including the Knight Anole (A. equestris) are also found in Florida but are introduced species and not native to the area.

Anole Lizards facts

  • Most anole species can change color to some degree.
  • Most anole males have a brightly colored dewlap, which is used for mating and also marking territory.
  • There are around 400 species of anole, with about 150 of those found in the islands of the Caribbean.
  • Some anole lizard species can reach up to 20 inches long.
  • The males and females of the anole species almost always differ in appearance in some way, including but not limited to the existence of the male’s dewlap.

Anole Lizards Scientific name

Anoles come from the family Dactyloidae under the Class Reptilia. Because there are over 400 species, it would be impossible to list all their scientific names here. Collectively, they are called Anolis. Some of the subspecies are Anolis caliensis (Green Anole), Anolis sagrei (Brown Anole), Anolis equestris (Knight Anole), Anolis allisoni (Cuban Blue Anole, one of the more brightly colored of the anole species), and Anolis allisoni (Horned Anole).

Anole Lizards Appearance

The size and color of each anole lizard species will differ depending on habitat, climate, and diet. Depending on where they live and how they hunt, they may have physical adaptations such as large hind legs for jumping large distances for prey, or short stubby legs if they live higher up in trees and creep up slowly on prey to avoid detection by their predators when hunting. They come in many colors, though the most common colors are a range of greens and browns, with yellow and sometimes blue variations. Most male anole lizards have a dewlap, which is a piece of erectile tissue on the neck, which can be collapsed and extended into a semi-oval shape. The dewlaps of the male can be almost any color, and usually, the color differs greatly from the lizard’s body.

Male brown Anole lizard with throat fan expanded.
Male brown Anole lizard with throat fan expanded.

Steve Bower/Shutterstock.com

Anole Lizards Behavior

Anoles are mostly solitary. They may live near each other but are not generally found in groups. Males aggressively defend their territory during sexual maturity, otherwise, they are typically docile and tolerate humans to varying degrees. Various behavioral adaptations occur depending on the environment in which they live.



Anole Lizards Habitat

Most anole lizard species live in or near trees, though some live near the base and some prefer the smaller limbs near the top. Their hunting styles will differ depending on their locations. Anole lizards may be found in bushes, reeds, low limbs, tree trunks, and forest canopies. They are found in many ecosystems, including on farms, in residential yards, in rainforests, dry forests, arid scrub, grasslands, and in the riverside vegetation.

Anole Lizards Diet

Almost all anoles are insectivores, though some will also consume some vegetation and nectar. Anoles are hunters who feed primarily on insects, spiders, and other invertebrates, but may also consume nectar, tree sap, and occasionally rotted fruit. Larger species may consume smaller or baby lizards, snakes, and eggs.

Anole Lizards Predators and threats

One threat to anoles is other anoles. For instance, when they share a habitat, Brown Anoles will eat Green Anoles and their eggs. They are also prey for larger reptiles and snakes, as well as many predatory birds and a few small mammals. Their color-changing abilities afford them some protection from predators, but they are vulnerable during mating when they increase their movements and show off brighter colors.

Anole Lizards Reproduction and Life Cycle

Typically, when males reach sexual maturity, they will hunt for a mate by flexing their dewlap and sometimes doing what looks like push-ups. These pushups are also used as a show of strength to discourage other males from entering the mating territory. Both males and females are polyamorous, mating with multiple partners over their lifespan. Male anoles defend a singular territory so that they can have exclusive access to females that enter into or live within that territory.

However, the females wander outside the territories and mate with other males also. When a mate is found, the female will lay one or two eggs after copulation, often every day through the mating season. A baby will hatch at about 0.75 inches in size. A baby anole will reach sexual maturity at about 18 months and have a lifespan of two (wild) to seven years (captive).

Anole Lizards Population

Populations vary widely between species with Green Anoles being estimated at around 100,000 specimens or more and the Blue Anole so rare that it may be headed for extinction.

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Anole Lizard FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are Anole Lizards carnivores, herbivores, or omnivores?

Anoles are primarily insectivores, though they also occasionally consume vegetation and nectar.

Are anole lizards friendly?

Many anole lizards are friendly, many are not. Green Anoles are friendly and are often kept as pets.

Do anole lizards bite?

Yes, anoles can bite, though Green Anoles have tiny teeth and weak jaws.

What do anole lizards eat?

The anole lizard diet consists almost exclusively of insects.

Do anoles lay eggs?

Yes, the female anole lays one to two eggs per day during mating season.

How can you tell if an anole is male or female?

Female anoles are usually smaller in size. The males generally have a brightly-colored dewlap under their necks. The female Green Anole has a white stripe up her back, which the male does not.

Are anole lizards good pets?

Green Anoles are often kept as pets.

How long does an anole lizard live?

In captivity, anoles can live up to seven years, but in the wild, their lifespan is usually only a few years.

Sources
  1. Current Biology, Available here: https://www.cell.com/current-biology/comments/S0960-9822(09)00722-2
  2. The Spruce Pets, Available here: https://www.thesprucepets.com/green-anoles-pets-1236900
  3. New Floridians, Available here: https://newfloridians.com/florida-living/anoles-harmless-but-annoying
  4. Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dactyloidae
  5. Britannica, Available here: https://www.britannica.com/animal/lizard/Scales-and-colour-change
  6. Animal Diversity Web, Available here: https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Anolis_carolinensis/
  7. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, Available here: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fevo.2020.570810/full
  8. The Reptile Blog, Available here: http://blogs.thatpetplace.com/thatreptileblog/2014/03/25/anole-lizard-care-facts-behavior/#.YhUzw-hBy3B
  9. Science Daily, Available here: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/02/180221122925.htm
  10. Nature Serve Explorer, Available here: https://explorer.natureserve.org/Taxon/ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.106150/Anolis_carolinensis
  11. Mongabay, Available here: https://news.mongabay.com/2007/03/worlds-only-blue-lizard-heads-toward-extinction/

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