Brown anole, Houston Chronicle columnist Gary Clark, Institute for the Study of Invasive Species, native green anoles (Anolis carolensis), non-native
While taking pictures for a blog I want to do about bromeliads I noticed a little lizard. I see more and more of these and less of the green lizards I am used to in Houston. So I did a bit of research.
Do you see the little brown gray lizard? It is a brown anole, Anolis sagrei. Native to Cuba and the Bahamas. They are considered an invasive species to the United States according to the Institute for the Study of Invasive Species. These little lizards can grow to the length of 5 to 9 inches with the males being larger than females. They were first reported in the Florida Keys in the 1880s and by 1940s they became common in all of south Florida. They have been documented as being in Houston since 1987.
Houston naturalist and columnist for the Houston Chronicle Gary Clark explained. “We have fewer green anoles now due to the drought we had in our area.” He also believes that there may be less because they are being displacing in their native habitat. Our native green anoles (Anolis carolensis) are still here but fewer in number. Now that we are having wetter weather perhaps the green anoles will return or as feared continue to be displaced.
There can be a bit of confusion when identifying anole becasue the Green Anole while preferring to be green can turn brown when wanting to be camouflaged. Brown Anole are always brown and never turn green. Below is a more detailed description.
“The coloration in males can even become black. In comparison to the green anole, Anolis sagrei has a shorter head and marking such as yellowish spots, triangles or lines running down dorsal side of the lizard. Females are lighter in coloration and have a dark diamond-back or scalloped pattern running down their backs. When males are defending territory or trying to court a mate they flash their bright red or orange dewlap. When collapsed, the brightly colored skin is hidden and appears as a pale, vertical streak along the neck. Both sexes have a dewlap, but it is smaller and rarely extended in females.” From The Institute for the Study of Invasive Species
There is no current strategy for managing the spread of these non-native lizards. And they continue to spread because people consider them ideal pets. It is suggested that preventing pet stores from selling them would help but it doesn’t seem to be on anyone’s radar. They are also know to hitch rides on truck that cross state lines. Sadly often as not non-native species take over and run natives out of their own habitat. This may prove to be the case here in Houston because the brown anoles are far more adaptable than our little green friends!
I miss the little green anoles out doing their pushups on my fence!
Bug Woman said:
This little chap looks like a pet anole that I had about thirty years ago….I only saw him display once, but when he did it was wonderful – the red throat flag was such a surprise. These days, I don’t keep reptiles as pets, both because of the difficulty of looking after them properly, and the issues around their capture and transport, but at the time he was the apple of my eye….thanks for letting me see an anole in his natural habitat, Laurin. Such a treat!
Laurin Lindsey said:
I had a pet lizard once too that I won at a fair! I think I actually kept him alive quite awhile. I don’t do cages any more, except for crate training puppies : )
hmmm. Just when I thought all those little Southern lizards were doing just fine I find out they’re actually all non-native invaders 😦
I bet I’ve never actually seen a real green anole! I’ll need to pay close attention next time. My attention is always thrown off by all the Cuban tree frogs making such a racket.
Laurin Lindsey said:
I did read that the Green Anole are moving higher up and living in trees. So harder to spot. Our frog population and even the squirrels are not back in numbers that we had before our long drought, so I am hopeful.
I LOVE his throat display.
Laurin Lindsey said:
Me too! I love my little bit of paradise!