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   Oct 01

Three Non-Native Brown Anole Species Now In Florida


The large-headed anole is very locally distributed in South Florida.
This is a confusingly variable, sexually dimorphic (males being the larger (to 8 inches) and bulkier) trio of anoles. Several anole species lack the ability to change colors from brown to green or vice versa, and these 3 are among the “unables.” Two of these, the Puerto Rican crested and the large-headed anoles may occasionally assume an olive gray blush, but they are unable to become the bright green that is so often associated with anoles.

The brown anole, Anolis s. sagrei, has become one of the best known lizards in the southeastern USA. Of Cuban/Bahaman origin, this persistent heliotherm was imported into the USA as both a pet and to be used as a food by the keepers of lizard-eating snakes. Many of these quick, agile, lizards had escaped their captors and were known to have acclimated and bred in extreme southern Florida in the 1950s. Today, after some 60+ years of freedom, the always expanding range of this blotched and striped brown lizard with a gray edged red dewlap now includes most of FL, some of GA, LA, and TX, locally in CA, widely in HI, and almost assuredly in locales not yet reported.

The Puerto Rican crested anole, Anolis cristatellus, is very similar to the Cuban brown anole in appearance, but the former is restricted to the Miami-Dade County region and is very often found in areas of deep shade. Body color may vary from pale gray (occasionally with a vague greenish tint) to charcoal, but it is usually of a variable brown. Individuals (especially males) may have broad darker lateral bands and a lighter vertebral stripe. Adult males usually have a fin-like tail crest and glandular nuchal and dorsal ridges may be seen. A light stripe may be present above the apex of each forelimb. The dewlap is yellow with a broad orange edging. Females and young males lack the cresting. This anole species is usually seen close to the ground on the shady trunks of large trees, fallen logs, railings, low cinder block structures or limestone boulders.

The large-headed anole, Anolis cybotes, is the most uncommon and localized of these 3 species. Except for a light gray or greenish-gray lateral line usually being visible, both the head and body of this anole are often a clear, unmarked, tan or light brown. The large dewlap is yellow with a variable amount of paler striping. When disturbed this anole has a tendency to bend its head downward and to arc its tail upwards.
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