The green anole (Anolis carolinensis) is an arboreal lizard native to the Caribbean and Pacific islands, as well as the southeastern United States. Other common names include the Carolina anole, the red-throated anole, and the American anole. The species is sometimes referred to as the American chameleon, as it can change its color from bright green to dark brown. However, the color-changing abilities are not as sophisticated as a true chameleon.
Adult males in captivity reach sizes between 5 and 8 inches and weigh anywhere from 3 to 7 grams. Wild individuals can grow much longer depending on environmental factors. Anoles are related to the much-larger iguanas, as both belong to the suborder Iguania. There are over 400 closely-related anole species that belong to the Anolis genus, with each species occupying a different ecological niche or location. Green anoles are the only species that is native to the United States.
The green anole is often kept as a pet and is regularly sold in exotic and big-box pet stores. There is no difference between wild and pet-store anoles—in fact, many lizards sold as pets were caught in the wild. The species may live over 8 years in captivity if well-cared for, making it a big commitment for new pet owners.
The Green Anole Diet: What Do Green Anoles Eat?
The green anole eats a wide variety of insects, including beetles, cockroaches, worms, ants, and flies, as well as other arthropods like spiders. They are considered an insectivore. Their hunting style is attuned for moving prey, so stationary insects may go unnoticed. Anoles bask in the sun for hours at a time, often only moving when unsuspecting prey comes by. Their eyes move independently from each other, allowing them to scan their surroundings without needing to move.
Green anoles that are kept as pets should be fed as close to their natural diet as possible. A mixture of crickets, cockroaches, grasshoppers, and other insects is recommended. These bugs should be dusted in a calcium supplement, as the lack of sun makes pet green anoles deficient in vitamin D and calcium. Mealworms and wax worms can also be fed to anoles, but they are loaded with fat and contain little nutrients. These should be fed sparingly as a treat (or not at all).
The dew on plants supplies most of the water needed for green anoles. Water bowls should be avoided when providing moisture for a pet green anole. Instead, mist the terrarium to create a dew-like effect.
What Eats Green Anoles?
The green anole falls prey to birds, snakes, and even larger lizards. In areas with human populations, cats are a dangerous predator for green anoles. Cats have an unfair advantage, as the two species did not evolve together.
Like many lizard species, the green anole can detach its tail when threatened. The tail is left wriggling on the ground, which confuses the predator as the anole makes its escape. A new tail usually grows back, but it won’t grow as long and may not have the same color. The same phenomenon happens with their toes, as well.
Certain species of flies are known to have a parasitic relationship with green anoles. The insects will lay eggs on a live lizard, allowing the larvae to live and grow inside the anole. Eventually, the larvae exit from a wound, causing the lizards to contract infections that are almost always fatal.
Are Green Anoles Poisonous?
Green anoles are not poisonous to humans or pets. Some people are brave enough to keep poisonous animals in their home—like the Gila Monster, scorpions, and toxic fish are relatively common pets that can be dangerous if not properly cared for. While green anoles may bite if neglected or mishandled, they do not have any toxic properties. However, they may carry diseases, so always take precautions and thoroughly wash your hands if you come into contact with one.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Chad Robertson Media/Shutterstock.com
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
What is the Ideal Green Anole Habitat?
In the wild, green anoles can be found basking in trees and vegetation. They are sun-loving creatures and will spend their summers soaking in the heat. During cooler months, anoles can be found hiding inside of logs, under tree bark, and other warm locations. They are native to the southeastern United States, including North Carolina.
When kept as a pet, care should be taken to simulate their preferred environment. The more space a green anole is given, the happier they will be. Heat lamps can be provided to simulate the warm sun of the South. The enclosure should provide vertical space and ample amounts of branches and foliage.
How Can You Tell If An Anole is Male or Female?
Male green anoles are around 15% larger than females. Both sexes have a fan-shaped protrusion attached to their throat called a dewlap. The female dewlap is white, while the male dewlap is red and around three times the size. When males are “displaying”—the green anole’s method of showing off—they will have a crest centered along the top of their head and back. Females feature a white line that runs down their back.
What Temperature Do Green Anoles Prefer?
Green anoles live in a wide range of climates and can tolerate some cold, but they are at their best in warm, humid environments. A day-time temperature of 80 ºF is ideal, and they can tolerate nightime swings into the high 60s. A warmer basking spot is necessary—anoles enjoy temperatures above 90 ºF, but they always need a shaded spot to cool off as desired.
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