Green anoles are great lizard pets, fit for beginners and advanced pet keepers alike. However, it’s worth noting that green anoles aren’t as ‘educated’ as most gecko species available in the reptile trade. That’s because they are generally more feral and haven’t been domesticated to the level that other reptiles have.
Even so, they can live happy and long lives in captivity (longer than in the wild) and can reproduce in captive conditions. Most importantly, they can be kept in groups, either harems with one male and several females or female-only societies.
Today, we’ll discuss the primary differences between green anole males and females, which is especially important given the males’ aggression towards each other.
Male vs. Female Green Anole – What is the Difference?
Fortunately, male and female anoles display different physical appearance and temperament characteristics. Understanding these differences is critical because you don’t want to house 2 males in the same habitat, no matter how much space there is available. Anole males are notoriously territorial and dominant and cannot accept the presence of another male on their territory.
Unfortunately, though, these differences are sometimes confusing, so you may need to use your gut instinct occasionally. Asking more knowledgeable opinions can also help, but do so before purchasing your anole, not after.
So, let’s assess the core differences between male and female green anoles.
Adult female anoles only grow up to 5 inches, while males can reach 8 inches in optimal conditions. This being said, you should never use the size metric to establish your lizard’s gender. There are several reasons for that. One is the age problem.
Comparing lizards of different ages will lead to conflictive results. In other words, a younger male is typically smaller than a full-grown female. So, you need also to understand how to establish your lizard’s age before deciding whether it has reached its full natural size.
Also, keep your eyes open for exceptions. While males can reach 8 inches, not all of them will. Some remain smaller for a variety of reasons like diet, genetics, and even hierarchical status; inferior males won’t grow as large as alphas. This can easily cause you to mistake the smaller males for females, which can have dire consequences.
The smaller males won’t be a threat to the alpha one; it’s the reverse that should concern you. While you may not be able to tell the difference between the smaller male and the females, the alpha male will. This can result in constant bullying and attacks, which can result in death due to overall stress and the injuries associated with these events.
This is a clearer indicator, given that males are generally more aggressive and territorial. You can often tell the lizard’s gender even if it lives alone. A male will often climb to the highest spot, expand its dewlap (we’ll get to that shortly), and bob its head sideways. This is a sign of territorial dominance that only males engage in.
Those who don’t display this behavior are usually females or beta males, which gets us to the first point – the risk of gender confusion. As you will soon come to understand, you should always rely on several metrics to determine your anole’s gender instead of just one.
The dewlap is an almost-male-specific physical characteristic used for dominance display and breeding purposes. The dewlap is a piece of skin located under the lizard’s chin that can expand like a sail. The dewlap is rather large and clearly visible, especially thanks to the red coloring, and it is generally present in males.
The problem is that some females can also have a dewlap, although it is a lot smaller than that of males and not as colorful. Males use this physical characteristic to warn trespassers of their territorial boundaries, state their hierarchical status, and attract the attention of their future partners.
Females have a white stripe coming down the middle of the back, covering the entire length of the spine. This feature is female-specific, but all anoles, regardless of gender, have it during their juvenile period. So, to rely on this metric, you must first determine that the anole is an adult.
If it is, and the white stripe is clearly visible, that’s clearly a female.
Check out the area under the anole’s tail. You should see 2 distinct scales near the cloaca, at the base of the tail. These are only present in males. As with the previous signs, these may not be visible in juvenile males.
There are also other signs to go for, including breeding behavior and overall dominance. Males court females and fight among each other for hierarchical position, territory, females, and food. The problem is that you can only observe these signs once you’ve already purchased your anoles. And you want to learn your reptile’s sex before purchasing it.
At What Age Can You Sex Green Anoles?
Green anoles are considered juveniles for the first year of their lives, so you should only sex them after this threshold. Most of the physical and behavioral characteristics will become visible after this age, but be wary of it, this isn’t always the case. Exceptions will always exist, so there’s always a risk of misgendering your anole.
To circumvent that problem, always ask for more knowledgeable opinions and assess your anole(s) behavior for a while. If they seem aggressive towards one another, consider separating them until you figure out the cause. They can both be males, with one, or neither of them, showcasing any clear male-specific traits.
Or they can just display aggression due to other reasons like insufficient food and space or high stress.
Green anoles are generally easy to sex once they’ve reached maturity. Learn the sex-specific signs and traits to look for and always rely on several of them to sex your anole more accurately.