Anoles are fascinating lizards that have always drawn a lot of interest. Most species are able to change their color, though they can usually only switch between two or three colors. Males have bright, colorful, large dewlaps on their throats that they display as part of the matting ritual. And they’re relatively big, often 8 or 9 inches long. These characteristics make them some of the most interesting and easily recognizable lizards in the United States, and Florida has more of them than any other state. Here’s everything you need to know about the 11 types of anoles in Florida.
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11 Different Kinds of Anole in Florida
The 11 different kinds of Anole in Florida are the Cuban brown anole, Puerto Rican crested Anole, Knight anole, Jamaican giant anole, bark anole, large-headed anole, Cuban green anole, Hispaniolan green anole, Carolina green anole, Barbados anole, and the Morne constant anole.
1. Cuban brown anole
Scientific name: Anolis sagrei
Size: up to 9 inches long
Cuban brown anoles are native to Cuba and the Bahamas, and have been introduced not only to Florida but to every other Gulf state, largely by importing plants that had anole eggs laid in the potting soil. This is a highly invasive species that has had a hugely detrimental effect on native lizard populations.
Brown anoles are large, mottled brown lizards that can change color from brown to black. Males have a bright orange-red dewlap that they display when trying to attract a mate. They have a distinctive flap of skin that runs along their backs and makes them easy to identify. They eat insects and other lizards.
2. Puerto Rican crested anole
Scientific name: Anolis cristatellus
Size: up to 3 inches long
A relatively small anole native to Puerto Rico, this species has also been widely introduced on the mainland. Males have a distinct crest running down their backs that’s larger and more noticeable than that of the Cuban brown anole.
These smallish lizards frequently tackle surprisingly large prey like snakes and other lizards, although their main diet consists of insects.
3. Knight anole
Scientific name: Anolis equestris
Size: up to 20 inches long
The largest of all the anoles, the knight anole is native to Cuba and is sometimes called the Cuban giant anole or the Cuban knight anole. It’s been introduced to Florida but hasn’t spread to the rest of the continental US. They can’t handle cold weather, which means they’re restricted to South Florida.
These big lizards are bright green with yellow stripes on their head and a pinkish-white dewlap. Like most anoles they can change color, primarily to a dark black color. Although they’re big enough to eat small birds and other lizards, they rarely do this. Instead, they eat mostly insects and snails, along with a surprising amount of fruit.
4. Jamaican giant anole
Scientific name: Anolis garmani
Size: up to 10 inches long
Yet another introduced species, this lizard is native only to Jamaica. During the day, they’re bright green, and they turn brown at night. Males have a yellow dewlap with an orange center.
Their diet is typical of anoles- lost of insects and invertebrates.
5. Bark anole
Scientific Name: Anolis distichus
Size: up to 5 inches
This species is interesting because of it’s highly variable color. In its native range in the Caribbean it can be found in bright greens and creamy grays, but in Florida almost all of them are gray in color with a gray dewlap.
6. Large-headed anole
Scientific Name: Anolis cybotes
Size: Up to 8 inches
Named for the unusually large heads of the males, this species is native to the island of Hispaniola (home to Haiti and the Dominican Republic), and has been introduced to Florida where it has a small but stable breeding population.
Juveniles and females tend to be gray or brown with a pale stripe running down their backs, while mature males are solid brown, sometimes black during the breeding season, with a yellow dewlap. They eat mostly insects, with an apparent preference for dragonflies and cockroaches, and occasionally other lizards.
7. Cuban green anole
Scientific Name: Anolis porcatus
Size: up to 3 inches
This species is easily confused with the Carolina green anole, to which it is closely related. In an odd turn of events, while the Cuban green anole is an invasive species in Florida where it poses a threat to the native Carolina green anole population, in Cuba the reverse is true: Carolina green anoles have been introduced and are outcompeting the native anoles. In fact, in Cuba, the native species now only inhabits the eastern half of the island, it’s been replaced in the west with the invasive Carolina anole.
8. Hispaniolan green anole
Scientific Name: Anolis chlorocyanus
Size: Up to 8 inches
The Hispanionalan green anole is almost indistinguishable from the native green anoles, with the primary difference being that it’s dewlap is blue rather than red. Native to the island of Hispaniola, they’ve been introduced to South Florida.
9. Carolina green anole
Scientific Name: Anolis carolinensis
Size: Up to 8 inches
Of all the anoles in Florida, this is the only native species. While they’re typically bright, emerald green, they can change their color to a dull brown when needed or desired. They’re often called American chameleons, but they aren’t true chameleons and the range of colors they can change to is limited.
Their native range includes most of the Southeast United States, and they’ve been introduced to many Carribean and Pacific islands. Unlike many of the other anoles in Florida, Carolina anoles almost never feed on lizards or other vertebrates, and eat insects almost exclusively.
10. Barbados anole
Scientific Name: Anolis extremus
Size: Up to 3 inches
A smallish anole native to the island of Barbados, these anoles have a distinctive blue-green coloring that fades to gray on the head, with dark coloring around the eyes. This unique coloring makes them fairly easy to identify.
Barbados anoles have been spotted in the wild in Florida, but it’s not clear if they’ve managed to establish a breeding population yet. They aren’t seen with the same frequency as other species and are still quite rare in Florida, so it’s possible that sightings are all the result of escaped pets rather than an invasive population.
11. Morne constant anole
Scientific Name: Anolis ferreus
Size: Up to 4.7 inches
This is very rare lizard is native only to the small island of Marie-Gallant in the Lesser Antilles islands, at the far edge of the Caribbean. They’re yellow-green in color, with gray heads and yellow around the eyes. males have a prominent crest on the tail.
Like the Barbados anole, these lizards have been spotted in Florida, but are so rare that it’s unlikely they’ve established a breeding population yet.