Green anole on a fence

When they aren’t hanging from the ears of little kids, the green anole spends a great deal of time devouring moths, doing push-ups and flaring it’s throat fan…I’ll explain.

Also know as Carolina anoles (Anolis carolinensis), these critters are very common backyard dwellers in the southeastern U.S. and are the only native anole species in the country. Their coloration ranges from bright green to dark brown (nearly black) and they can change their colors along this spectrum for camouflage, to better regulate body temperature and when stressed.

The green anole diet consists of cockroaches, moths, crickets, grubs, flies, spiders and just about any insect it can catch.  They eat cockroaches people! What’s not to love about that?!?

Spring and summer is the anole mating season and in these times, they are particularly active, abundant and easy to observe.

Males are highly territorial and can often be seen chasing one another away from their territory, fighting and doing mating and territorial displays. These displays consists of the males bobbing up and down (the push-ups) and flaring out their bright red throat fan.

This sexy throat fan dance scares rivals and attracts females, who the males pursue aggressively. Once the female is receptive, mating takes place (in the pic below, it’s taking place on top of an old outside grill in my backyard). The female will lay around 10 eggs that hatch 5-7 weeks later.

Green anoles mating

Around my house, it’s common to see two males chasing each other and fighting on a fence line. One will throw the other one completely off the fence, and the throwee usually hurries right back up to resume the battle. The green anole is a very agile creature, able to jump great distances and fall even greater ones. When they fall, they can use their tails to stay right side up. When they land, they flatten their bodies to increase their surface area; which distributes the force of the fall and protects the lizard from internal injury. They can easily survive the fall from small to medium sized trees.

Green anoles are typically 5-7 inches as adults (snout to tip of tail) and some individuals can reach lengths over 9 inches. Despite their size, they are harmless to humans.

One curious habit of the green anole is that they lock on to on to things when they bite. In combat with rivals, the little guys bite each other and wrestle and in mating, the male bites the female to hold on *cough* during… This locking trait is often exploited by children in the South who catch these lizards then present thier ear lobes to the terrified creatures. The lizard reacts by biting the ear lobe and locing on, thus providing the child with a living earring.


Q: Are there other anoles in the U.S?

A: Yes, there are many other species that have been introduced. Some were exotic pets that were released in the wild, while others hitched rides in cargo and on ships.  Unfortunately, the brown anole is one of these stoyaways. They are natives of Cuba and the Bahamas and have been out-competing the native anoles for some time now. It is unclear how this will ultimately affect the green anoles populations. Where I live, we have both species, but the green ones seem to outnumber the brown ones by about 4:1 (based solely on non-scientific observation).

Q: What eats green anoles?

A: These poor guys are predated on heavilly by birds, cats, snakes and other larger reptiles. They have limited defenses other than agility and the ability to detach  regrow the end of their tails if necessary.


Sources and Credits:

Photo: “Green anole on a fence” – © Dml231 | – Green Anole on Fence