Cuban brown anole

Anolis sagrei sagrei

Taxon biology 6

Norops sagrei, the brown anole, is a small, highly invasive lizard native to the Bahamas and Cuba.  Scientists estimate that it invaded peninsular Florida 6 separate times in the 1940s.  By the 1970, the brown anole was well established in urban areas all over Florida.  They are now one of the most abundant lizards in Florida.  In the US, the brown anole spread to Georgia, Texas, Southern California and Hawaii.  They have also been introduced other Caribbean Islands, Central America.  Most recently they have been documented in Taiwan, spreading from a founding population in an agricultural area near a plant nursery.

The generalist habitat of the brown anole allows populations to grow large and densely.  They live in open habitats, on the ground or low tree trunks, and readily adapt to disturbed and urban areas.  In the time since brown anoles arrived in the United States they have outcompeted the North American native green anole, which has significantly declined in numbers as a result.

A light brown in color, the brown anole has black markings on its back, light lines on its sides, and a ridge along the back of the males, running from head to tail tip.  This ridge distinguishes them from the similar green anole.  Brown anole skin coloration camouflages them against tree bark, and their skin can darken to match their surroundings.  Males grow to about 7-8 inches long (18-20 cm) and are aggressively territorial.  In mating and territorial displays, they show off a dramatically orange-red dewlap (throat fan).  Smaller, the females reach 3-6 inches (7.5-15 cm) long. They also have a smaller dewlap, which they do not use. 

Brown anoles move fast.  When pursued or threatened, brown anoles can detach their tail, which wiggles to distract their predator while the anole escapes.  Their tail subsequently regenerates, although as a smaller version of the original.  Their multiple predators include snakes, other lizards, birds and even large spiders. 

Carnivorous, brown anoles are opportunistic and will eat almost anything they can find.  Meals include insects, grubs and mealworms, spiders, other lizards and their eggs, aquatic invertebrates and fish, their own molted skin and detached tails.  They also cannibalize their own hatchlings. 

Brown anoles breed March-September, although in some tropical areas they breed year round.  Each breeding season a female lays a total of 15-18 eggs, 1-2 at a time every 1-2 weeks.  She covers them with moist soil or leaf litter then leaves them to hatch on their own.  The hatchlings are independent and develop fast, becoming mature before one year of age.  The immature lizards resemble, and are difficult to distinguish from, adult females.  Their average lifespan is about 4 years. 

Brown anoles are regularly found in the pet trade. 

(Casanova 2004; Gerrut et al. 2002; Masterson 2007; Norval et al. 2002; Uetz and Hallermann 2016; Wikipedia 2015)

Sources and Credits

  1. (c) 2011 Todd Pierson, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC),
  2. (c) Jason Weckstein, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA),
  3. (c) Anita, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA),
  4. (c) 2012 Vicente Mata-Silva, some rights reserved (CC BY),
  5. (c) David R, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA),
  6. (c) Dana Campbell, some rights reserved (CC BY-SA),

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