Discover 10 Incredible Lizards in Florida

What Do Anoles Eat - Brown Anole
© Natalia Kuzmina/

Written by Hailey Pruett

Updated: October 4, 2023

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Thanks to its uniquely warm, humid, borderline tropical climate, Florida is home to a wide range of animals that would normally not thrive in the United States’ more temperate regions. Florida’s reptiles are especially diverse and impressive, with the state being home to more than 100 colorful, distinct, and incredible lizards, tortoises, snakes, and more! In fact, lizards in Florida make up more than half of the state’s resident reptiles.

Let’s take a look at 10 of the most amazing lizards in Florida that you’re likely to come across at some point in the famed Sunshine State. Some are native, some are not–but all of them have made themselves right at home and are here to soak up the sun.

1. Florida Scrub Lizard (Sceloporus woodii)

Florida Scrub Lizard

While female Florida scrub lizards are mostly brown in color, males of the species have bright blue patches on their bellies and throats.

©Phillip W. Kirkland/

The first lizard on our list is one that, as its name suggests, is primarily found within Florida’s dry, sandy, forested scrub regions. While it is native to the state and fairly widespread, the Florida scrub lizard is also currently threatened by habitat loss.

Its scientific name is after Nelson R. Wood, a taxidermist who collected the first Sceloporus woodii specimen to be studied extensively in 1918. 

This little brown reptile maxes out at around 4 to 5 inches from snout to tail tip. Its body is light brown to light grey in color with a darker brown stripe running vertically down each side of its back. It is also a slightly sexually dimorphic species. Only the males have bright blue patches on their bellies and throats. Male scrub lizards are also slightly larger than females.

2. Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis)

Green Anole lizard (Anolis carolinensis) showing off his bright pink dewlap.

As seen here, male

green anoles

have bright pink dewlaps.

©Leena Robinson/

While the green anole is native to much of the Southeast United States, it is perhaps most abundant throughout Florida! These vibrant little lizards are bright green from head to tail with a light green to white underside. They range in size from around 4 to 7 inches long, with male anoles being slightly heavier and longer than females on average.

Additionally, males of the species have bright pink to red dewlaps, or flaps of skin under the chin used primarily for territorial and courtship displays. To make themselves look larger and more intimidating, male green anoles will extend their brightly-colored dewlaps outward from their bodies.

Interestingly, this species has become quite popular in the exotic pet trade. Its success in captivity can be attributed to its small size, hardy nature, manageable care requirements, and fairly mild-mannered and non-aggressive (if somewhat skittish) temperament.

3. Reef gecko (Sphaerodactylus notatus)

Reef Gecko (Sphaerodactylus notatus)

This tiny


is Florida’s only native gecko species.

©John William Bailly / Creative Commons – Original / License

Another one of the most widespread and recognizable lizards in Florida is the reef gecko. It is also sometimes known as the Florida reef gecko or the brown-speckled sphaero. In addition to being Florida’s only native gecko, the reef gecko is endemic to much of the Caribbean islands.

Like most gecko species, the reef gecko prefers damp, humid, densely forested habitats, particularly those in coastal areas. Its small size (roughly 2 inches long) and dark brown body color with light brown, irregular spots provide it with excellent camouflage amongst the surrounding tree bark and leaf litter. What’s more, the reef gecko is extremely agile, making it a challenging meal for most of its natural predators.

Sadly, the reef gecko is likely one of the United States’ only native gecko species. Historically, there has been much debate amongst herpetologists as to whether or not the species should be considered truly native to the area. For many years, little was known about how and when the reef geckos first arrived in Florida. 

Today, reptile experts largely believe the geckos arrived in South Florida via oceanic dispersal, or “rafting.”

4. Eastern Fence Lizard (Sceloporus undulata)

eastern fence lizard sitting on wood


eastern fence lizards

have bright blue scales on their bellies and throats.

©Isabel Eve/

These hardy little lizards are widespread throughout much of the Eastern United States. In fact, you can find them from Pennsylvania all the way down to Florida! Because they prefer fairly temperate climates, though, they’re far more abundant in Northern Florida than in the more tropical southern half of the state.

The typical eastern fence lizard is a mottled gray and brown in color with darker brown markings running vertically down its sides. A fully-grown individual can range from roughly 4 to 7 inches long from snout to tail tip. Its keeled scales splay outward from its body, particularly around its legs and tail. 

This species is also sexually dimorphic, with males having bright blue markings on their bellies. Their colors can also shift slightly depending on certain factors like their body temperature or health conditions. Notably, the males’ blue markings become more vibrant during courtship displays with female eastern fence lizards.

5. Six-lined Racerunner (Aspidoscelis sexlineatus)

Six-lined racerunner lizard

The six-lined racerunner is a speedy lizard with a top speed of 18 miles per hour!

©Mike Wilhelm/

True to its name, the six-lined racerunner has six equally-spaced yellow stripes running vertically down the length of its body from the base of the neck to the tip of the tail. Its base body color is typically dark green or dark brown. Much of its 6-to-9-inch body length is composed of its long, slender tail.

The six-lined racerunner is also an incredibly fast-moving lizard! It is capable of running up to a whopping 18 miles per hour when threatened. Its agile, speedy nature is a helpful defense mechanism from its many natural predators in the wide range of habitats it occupies throughout Florida. It’s hardy enough to tolerate living in the driest of rocky outcroppings as well as dense forests and even very hot and humid coastal regions, too.

In addition to being native to the Sunshine State, this lizard is also common throughout the Southeast United States as well as northern Mexico.

6. Florida Sand Skink (Plestiodon reynoldsi)

Sand Skink

Due to their tiny, weak limbs, Florida sand skinks look more like snakes from a distance.

©Public Domain – Original / License

True to its name on all accounts, the Florida sand skink is native to Florida, lives in the sand, and is most certainly a member of the Scincidae family! At first glance, though, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a snake–or even an overgrown earthworm of some kind.

These truly bizarre lizards’ legs are so tiny they’re almost invisible to the naked eye. Fortunately, they don’t need limbs, as they mostly wiggle around underground in the sand using their shovel-like heads and long, muscular bodies. Their typical body color is a light brown, sandy hue with tiny, mottled darker brown spots throughout.

Modest in size, Florida sand skinks measure only around 4 to 5 inches when fully grown. Despite this, they are exceptionally hardy. The species is perfectly suited to living underground in Central Florida’s driest, sandiest scrublands.

7. Green Iguana (Iguana iguana)




are one of Florida’s most destructive invasive species.

© Acevedo

Although it is one of the most abundant lizards in Florida by far, the green iguana is sadly not native to the US third-most populous state. However, this invasive and destructive species seems to be here to stay–at least until the state’s wildlife authorities’ conservation efforts manage to catch up to them. The first green iguanas were likely brought to Florida via ships transporting goods from the Caribbean as well as Central and South America.

Since they arrived in the 1960s, the number of green iguanas numbers absolutely exploded in Florida (and, later, Texas and Hawaii). At around 4 to 6 feet in length and weighing 10 to 20 pounds on average, these strong, agile, and intelligent herbivores are capable of easily decimating crop supplies and devouring various other native animals’ food sources.

What’s more, they are quite hardy, prolific breeders and Florida’s climate has proven to be just right for them to reproduce en masse. They commonly hijack and destroy other animals’ burrows and nests and are occasionally even territorial and aggressive towards humans, as they have become less fearful of human interaction over time.

One rather sad and morbid factor that has helped to lower their numbers, though, is the winter “iguana showers” observed yearly by Florida residents. Essentially, green iguanas brumate in the tops of tall palm trees when temperatures drop for the winter, which leads to them falling out of the trees–often to their death–in massive numbers.

8. Broadhead skink (Plestiodon laticeps)

Broadhead skink

These stout, hardy lizards mostly inhabit Northern Florida.

©Mike Wilhelm/

The broadhead skink is a substantial reptile with a bulky body and a wide, triangular head. It’s native to much of Northern Florida as well as the Southeast United States in general. In fact, its impressive geographic range stretches eastward from Texas to North Carolina and south from Pennsylvania down to Florida.

From snout to tail tip, the average fully-grown broadhead skink is around 6 to 13 inches long. Its body color is mainly brown with a white or light tan underside. The species is slightly sexually dimorphic. During the skinks’ mating season, the males’ heads will become bright orange in color. Females also have five thin, white stripes running down their backs, while males are solid in color.

These semi-arboreal lizards are surprisingly capable climbers despite their heavy, wide bodies and small limbs. They fare best in warm yet temperate climates. Because of this, they primarily live in Central and Northern Florida rather than the more tropical southern half of the state.

9. Cuban Brown Anole (Anolis sagrei)

What Do Anoles Eat - Brown Anole

The male brown anole’s dewlap is more orange in color compared to the green anole’s pinkish-red dewlap.

©Natalia Kuzmina/

Native to–you guessed it–Cuba, the highly invasive Cuban brown anole has managed to spread far beyond its original home. Small yet exceptionally hardy in nature, these unassuming brown lizards have migrated all the way to parts of Mexico, the Southeast United States, and even parts of Asia! They’ve accomplished this feat primarily by laying their tiny eggs in the soil-filled pots of plants that were exported from Cuba and the Bahamas to various locations.

The Cuban brown anole is small and slender, usually measuring around 5 to 8 inches from snout to tail tip. Aside from its mottled dark brown color, it is similar in appearance to the aforementioned green anole. Additionally, the males’ dewlaps are more of an orange or yellow color than the green anoles’ pinkish-red dewlaps. Finally, brown anoles’ tails have a slightly raised ridge that stretches up the body to the base of the neck.

Compared to their green cousins, brown anoles also differ slightly when it comes to their preferred habitats. While green anoles are very arboreal in nature, brown anoles prefer living lower to the ground. The lizards’ dark, irregularly patterned coloration helps them blend in well with the surrounding tree bark and leaf litter.

10. Nile Monitor (Varanus niloticus)

A Nile Monitor Lizard (Varanus niloticus) making its way through a pond choked with lily pads

That’s right: the ferocious Nile monitor has made its way to Florida!

©Dave Montreuil/

Didn’t expect to see a monitor lizard–much less a Nile monitor–on this list, did you? Thankfully, this gigantic, fearsome lizard isn’t actually native to Florida. However, in recent years, it has unfortunately arisen as an invasive species in the Sunshine State’s more swampy, humid regions. 

Just like its name implies, the Nile monitor is native to Sub-Saharan Africa’s harshest, most remote forests and savannahs. Here, it is commonly spotted lurking along the Nile River, where it hunts, bathes, and hydrates itself daily. 

At an enormous 4 to 7 feet in length, the typical Nile monitor is long, heavily muscled, and surprisingly swift. Its body is dark brown in color with a lighter, yellowish underside. On its back are many small, irregular yellow spots, while its tail is marked by yellow bands.

Since the 1990s, experienced reptile hobbyists have kept Nile monitors as pets. It is believed that, over time, the lizards were unintentionally introduced to the wild via the pet trade. They have been spotted throughout South Florida since the early 2000s. 

In particular, Nile monitors have established small yet increasingly destructive populations in the Everglades and its surrounding swamps.

Summary of 10 Incredible Lizards in Florida

The Sunshine State is home to a variety of amazing lizards!

1Florida Scrub Lizard
2Green Anole
3Reef Gecko
4Eastern Fence Lizard
5Six-lined Racerunner
6Florida Sand Skink
7Green Iguana
8Broadhead skink
9Cuban Brown Anole
10Nile Monitor

Honorable Mention: Other Lizards That Live in Florida

madagascar giant day gecko

The Madagascar day gecko is the largest living diurnal day gecko and is endemic to eastern Madagascar.

©Kurit afshen/

Florida is home to around 49 species of lizards – 15 of which are native and are generally found in certain habitats like pine flatwoods and hot, dry scrubs, and around 34 exotic and/or invasive species, which can be found throughout the state. Exotic is not usually considered an invasive species, but some may say it’s the same thing. An exotic species may not be native, they don’t necessarily harm the area, whereas an invasive species can cause harm. These are a few additional lizards that can be found in the state:

  • Madagascar Day Gecko (Phelsuma madagascariensis madagascariensis) – this is not only an exotic species, but it is also one of the largest living day, or diurnal, geckos. Endemic to eastern Madagascar, it is more recent to Florida, having arrived in the 1990s, and can be found in the Southern portion of the state. Their colors can range from bright green to a more muted bluish green and they can reach a length of up to 12 inches.
  • Mediterranean House Gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus) – also known as the moon lizard and the Turkish gecko, this old-world nocturnal lizard is an exotic species that is native to Southern Europe and Northern Africa. Believed to have been introduced to Florida in the early 20th century, this little lizard can grow between four to five inches and ranges in color from light brown to dark brown.
  • Tokay Gecko (Gekko gecko) – this little gecko belongs to the family of true geckos and is endemic to Asia and some Pacific Islands and prefers to live in the rainforest, although it also adapts to human habitats. This large, nocturnal gecko can reach lengths of 10 to 12 inches, although there are some that have been 16 inches. They are usually blue-grey or green-grey in color with orange or red dots and males are brighter than females.
  • Argentine Black and White Gecko (Salvator merianae) – also known as the Argentine giant tegu, the black and white tegu, or the huge tegu, this exotic lizard is the largest of the Teiidae family. They are often kept as pets due to their high intelligence and are even able to be housebroken or house-trained. This lizard is native to South America, specifically Argentina, but also Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Their color starts as emerald green and eventually turns to a mottled black and white. Males are, on average, about three feet in length but can grow up to 4.5 feet. Females can grow up to three feet.

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About the Author

Hailey "Lex" Pruett is a nonbinary writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering reptiles and amphibians. They have over five years of professional content writing experience. Additionally, they grew up on a hobby farm and have volunteered at animal shelters to gain further experience in animal care. A longtime resident of Knoxville, Tennessee, Hailey has owned and cared extensively for a wide variety of animals in their lifetime, including cats, dogs, lizards, turtles, frogs and toads, fish, chickens, ducks, horses, llamas, rabbits, goats, and more!

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