What is an Anole?

Sheri Cyprus

An anole is a lizard that is native to parts of the Caribbean and the Southern United States. There are at least 200 species of the anole. The only species found wild in the United States is the green anole.

A globe showing the Caribbean and Southern US, where anoles live.
A globe showing the Caribbean and Southern US, where anoles live.

The anole is sometimes confused with a chameleon. The Carolina anole, or Anolis carolinensis, does change color, but is not a chameleon and changes only from green to brown. The environment, temperature and the amount of darkness or daylight all affect whether the anole will be green or brown, but stress is also a factor.

Anoles are said to be highly sensitive to stress and anoles experiencing stress may be brown in color most of the time, except with no light at night, and/or display lethargy. Some species of anoles do not change different colors, but only shades of the same color such as the Cuban brown anole that always stays a shade of brown.

Anoles are arboreal which means they like to be in leafy areas. Sometimes they can be found on branches or rock walls. Anoles eat many types of small insects, except some types of beetles.

The anole lizard has an interesting fan-like appendage on its throat called a dew lap. You can't really see the dew lap unless the anole chooses to show it such as during mating rituals or when defending its territory. The displayed dew lap can be very colorful such as red with yellow spots.

Although anoles are different from chameleons, both have eyes that don't necessarily have to move together. Like other reptiles, the anole sheds its skin. Anoles may also eat their shed skin.

The anole has the ability to defend itself by detaching its tail to distract their predators while they run to safety. Another tail grows back, but it usually looks noticeably different and is less functional that the original tail. Anoles also protect themselves by biting. Their bite is not poisonous, but may be fairly painful. Anoles are not usually aggressive unless provoked.

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