Brown anoles are one of the most populous species of lizards in Florida. Distinguished by their brown/gray color, these quick little lizards are easy to spot sunning themselves or running through low vegetation. The brown anole was introduced to Key West in the 1880s, but by the 1940s they occupied all of Florida. Anoles are most active during the daytime when the sun is out—as the weather slowly changes from hot to mild, brown anoles will find themselves hiding under fallen branches or brush for insulation and heat. As reptiles, brown anoles are known for being coldblooded creatures, meaning they require the heat of the sun to raise their internal temperature. Having a higher body temperature allows them to remain limber for hunting and avoiding predators.
Brown anoles reproduce in the summer months, with females laying a single soft-shelled egg in 14 day intervals. The eggs are left to incubate for about seven weeks before hatching, and then their survival is dependent on instincts. For protection against predators, the brown anole has the ability to drop its entire (or almost entire) tail. The detached tail will flop around, distracting the lizard’s predator while the anole itself flees. The tail can partially grow back, but can only do so a few times before the growth is permanently stunted.
To communicate with other lizards, the brown anole can use head bobbing, neck biting, or gender-specific tools. The male brown anole is most commonly spotted when using its dewlap; the dewlap is a piece of loose skin on the throat that can be extended. The dewlap is usually a bright orange-red color. To ward off other brown anoles, males will present the dewlap and do push-ups. This show of dominance will usually ensure that only one or two males will be found in the same area.
The brown anole is one of the most recognizable animals in Florida, but they are originally from the Caribbean. Even though they are considered an invasive species, these small lizards have thoroughly ingrained themselves into the ecosystems of SWFL. You’ll be sure to see them wherever you venture, snacking on small bugs or running wildly around your back lanai.