This small, athletic lizard probably hitchhiked over to Southwest Florida in the root balls and canopies of the many ornamental palms imported from the Miami area when the region was experiencing the rapid growth of the early 1970s. Once here, it quickly became the most prolific lizard in the area. An invasive species, its sheer numbers now prohibit any viable attempts to contain its spread or effectively remove the species. Its range continues to expand across the Southeastern U.S.
The brown anole has a number of subtle color and pattern variations, but its dewlap, the throat fan you can often see the male extending when announcing its territory to other males, is always yellow or reddish-orange. It is one of the easiest reptiles to find in SW Florida, occurring around condominiums, homes, pools, screen enclosures, and the bike path - virtually every habitat harbors at least a few, if not scores of brown anoles.
It feeds mostly in the daytime and prefers foraging on the ground where it eats beetles, grasshoppers, spiders, and roaches. The brown anole is a favorite food for white and cattle egrets, as well as great blue herons. An injured lizard often succumbs to overwhelming attacks of fire ants, and it is also favored by many of the islands' indigenous snakes. When grabbed by a predator from the tail, it is able to release just its long, slender tail and survive the attack. The tails re-grow in a month or two.
This is an excerpt from Living Sanibel-A Nature Guide to Sanibel & Captiva Islands by Charles Sobczak. The book is available at all the Island bookstores, Baileys, Jerry's and your favorite online sites.
In the Know:
Brown Anole (Anolis sagrei)
Other names: Cuban anole, Key West anole
Status: FL-Invasive, still expanding its range, IUCN=LC
Length: Length: 6-8 in. (15-20 cm)
Weight: 0.05-1.5 oz (1.5-4 g)
Life span: to 5 years
Reproduces: lays its two eggs in early summer, generally on the ground
Found: invasive species, All Counties, coastal, near coast, inland
Months found: JFmamjjasOND (lower case indicates breeding and nesting season).