The Green Anole

The Green Anole


*During the early 2000’s, Linda Adams, a former resident of TGO, wrote a series of articles for the TGO Nature Center titled “a Page From Nature”.  This article was a part of that series and was published sometime in 2002 – 2003.  The original article did not include any photographs so I added a photo (click on the photo to enlarge).  Enjoy!


TGO Nature Center, Nature, The Great Outdoors, Titusville, Florida, Education, Reptile, Green, anole, lizard, Photo Album

Photo Courtesy of Gary Wittstock


Although often called a “chameleon”, Florida’s Green Anole is not related to the true African and Madagascan chameleons whose tails coil into spirals and whose eyeballs move independently of one another. The native Florida Green Anole acquired the label “chameleon” only because, like a true chameleon, it can change its color quickly from green to brown.

Three factors stimulate the Green Anole to change color: camouflage, temperature, and emotions. When an anole is on green vegetation or a light background it is usually green. As it moves onto tree bark or another dark background, it turns brown. The prominent blue eye ring disappears when the Green Mole changes its color to brown. In weather over 70 degrees; the anole tends to remain green most of the time. Cold weather makes it turn brown. Strangely enough, emotions also enter the picture. If two males have a territorial dispute, the winner turns bright green and the loser turns brown. Green seems associated with positive behavior or feelings. Brown is “down”. The mechanism that controls the color change is the hormone intermedin, which is secreted into the blood by the pituitary gland. This hormone is carried by the bloodstream to special color cells where it causes changes in the concentrations of pigments. The pituitary gland is near the part of the anole’s brain responsible for emotions.

Both male and female anoles have a dewlap (throat fan), but it is much larger in the males. It is hardly noticed when folded up; but becomes prominent and flashy when extended by the lever action of muscles and bone. The dewlap is not inflated but is forced outward as the hyoid bone is stretched like a bow. This reveals colorful scales, usually pink or gray. This is an example of bright coloration that is useful for threats, courtship, and defending territory. A particular sequence of head bobbing and dewlap-extension displays is unique to each species and helps lizards recognize their own kind.

This beautiful lizard is usually seen in low foliage and on buildings and fences, rarely on the ground. The lifespan of the Green Anole is 2-3 years. They have long toes with adhesive toe pads and claws enabling them to climb easily on any surface, even glass. Their excellent vision helps them hunt insects. Lizards do not chew their food; but swallow it whole. Anoles shed their skin, but the old skin does not come off in one piece like that of a snake. It also has ear openings and moveable eyelids snakes do not.

The Cuban Brown Anole is an introduced species of anole that can only change color from brown to dark-brown or brown to black, never green. It is becoming more common in Florida due to the high reproductive rate and their eggs being transported with the shipping of tropical plants.

(Information Source: Florida’s Fabulous Reptiles and Amphibians)

(Column Prepared By: Linda Adams)

If you would like to see more photos of green anoles, click on Green Anole Photo Album.

TGO Nature Center – “Living in Harmony with Nature

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