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Friends of the Garden

Many of you have seen these color change artists in your own gardens but do you really know what they are and how they help to limit plant pests?

The green anole, Anolis carolinensis, is a small to medium-sized lizard, with a slender body and a long tail.  Its head is elongated and has numerous ridges between its eyes and nostrils, and smaller ones on the top of its head.  Its toes have adhesive pads to facilitate climbing.  The males are 15% larger than the females, and the male dewlap (throat fan) is three times the size of the female’s and ranges in color from bright orange to a light pink, whereas the females dewlap is lighter in color.  The extension of the dewlap from the throat is used for communications.  Males can also form a dorsal ridge behind the head when displaying or when under stress.

The green anole’s body coloration can vary from dark brown to bright green and can be changed like many other kinds of lizards, but anoles are closely related to iguanas and are not true chameleons.  The anole changes it color depending on mood, level of stress, activity level and as a social signal, (for example, displaying dominance).  Although often claimed, evidence does not support that they do it in response to the color of their background.

Ever seen one with either no tail or a very short one? An interesting fact is that the anole, like many lizards, has an autotomic tail, which will wiggle when broken off to distract a predator and allow the anole to escape.

This species is native to North America, where it is found mainly in the subtropical parts of the continent.

An anole’s diet consists primarily of small insects such as crickets, grasshoppers, flies, moths, cockroaches, small beetles, and other arthropods, including spiders, as well as occasionally feeding on various mollusks, (think snails and slugs), grains and seeds.

Jon Maxwell, Dallas County Master Gardener

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