Brown Anole (Cuban Anole)

Location

In the Zoo

Scientific Information

Scientific Name: Anolis sagrei sagrei
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Family: Polychrotidae
Genus: Anolis

Size

Male

Female

Height:
Length: 7 inches 3-6 inches
Weight: 2-6 grams 2-6 grams
Maturity: Approximately one year old Approximately one year old

Lifestyle and Lifespan

Diet: Carnivorous
Activity Timeframe: Diurnal
Interactivity: Social
Sexual Dimorphism: Yes
Gestation: 7 weeks
Lifespan in the Wild: 4 years
Lifespan in Captivity: 8 years max

Geographic Range

North America, United States, southern Georgia and Florida to the southern tip of Mexico and the Caribbean (extending throughout Cuba, the Bahamas and the surrounding islands, and throughout the Caribbean.)

Conservation

Status in the Wild:
Threats:

Characteristics

Brown Anoles are medium-sized and quite robust with a short wide head, and covered in small scales. It has a notably short snout compared to other anoles, long claws and a long tail. Its long toes and reduced toe-pad surface area help the brown anole to run and jump. Furthermore, its feet pads contain millions of microscopic fibers that allow it to attach to almost any kind of surface, whether smooth as glass or textured. (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 Green Anole. Brown Anole skin coloration camouflages them against tree bark, and their skin can darken to match their surroundings.)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 1940's. By 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. The generalist habit of this lizard 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 US they have outcompeted the North American native Green Anole, which has significantly declined in numbers as a result.*A good opportunity to interpret about non-native invasive species outcompeting and pushing out local native species.

Species Specifics

Sexual Dimorphism. Males exceed females in size. Mature adult males are generally 54 mm in snout-to-vent length and weigh 6-8 grams, where mature females are generally 43 mm in length and weigh 3-4 grams. Male coloration varies highly, from light grey to stark-black and from a uniform color to multiple colorations. Female coloration covers a wide range as well, however, they almost always have a dorsal white stripe with a dark triangular pattern that is very recognizable as a female brown anole trait.

Physical Characteristics

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Ecology

Habitat

'Trunk-ground' terrestrial species concentrated in areas with open vegetation as well as moist forested areas. However, at times, it can occupy the higher niches in trees, placing the species in the 'tree-crown' dweller category as well. The Brown Anole will also form its territory among the shrubs, vines, fences and trees.

Distribution

Brown Anoles are found from southern Georgia to Florida to the southern tip of Mexico and the Caribbean. They are native to Cuba, the Bahamas (and surrounding islands), and throughout the Caribbean, as observed beginning in the late 1800's. About 50-60 years ago, they came to southern Florida and Mexico and more recently, they have appearing in and colonized Hawaii and Jamaica. Brown Anoles were most likely introduced to those areas by escapes made by pets and as stowaways on planes and ships. They have most recently spread to southeastern states such as Georgia, with one isolated population even sighted in the Houston, Texas area. (Georgia Brown Anoles were most likely brought there by hitching rides on vehicles transporting landscaping plants and on boats.)

Diet

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; as well as their own molted skin and detached tails. (They are also known to cannibalize their own hatchlings, as well as the hatchlings of the Green Anoles.)

Ecological Web

Since the Brown Anole was introduced into southern Florida there has been a significant decline in the Green Anole population in rural and urban areas. The Brown and Green Anoles are similar in size with similar feeding habits. There is probably competition between the two related species in their habitat, as well as 'intra-guild predation,' meaning they eat each others' hatchlings. The full extent of the interactions between these two species, and the ecological effects of the invasion of Brown Anoles in southeastern North America is not known.

Activity and Behavior

Activity Pattern

Behavior

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Social Behavior

Communal, sharing a territory about the size of the area of a large bush.

Reproductive Behavior

The female moves to where the male can see her when she is ready to breed. She signals the male to approach by cocking her neck so the male can grab on with his mouth. These are brief encounters (1-2 minutes) when the male makes the final decision if he will copulate with her or not. 70% of the time the male lets go of the female to search for a suitable mate. When copulation does occur, it usually lasts between 30 and 60 minutes. The female anole then finds the right spot in moist soil, mulch or leaf litter to dig a small hole and lay her egg (usually a single egg, sometimes two.)*Males are aggressively territorial. In mating and territorial displays, they show off a dramatically orange-red dewlap (throat fan).

Offspring

Hatchlings are 15-18 mm long, and are usually seen in early June. They are independent at birth, very conspicuous and fast developers. The immature lizards resemble, and are difficult to distinguish from, adult females.Brown Anole hatchlings will reach sexual maturity before their first breeding season, the following summer (at approximately 1 year old.)

Conservation

Status

This abundant species is not believed to be in need of special conservation efforts. (US Federal List: no special status. CITES: no special status.)

Historical

Brown Anoles are found from southern Georgia to Florida to the southern tip of Mexico and the Caribbean. They are native to Cuba, the Bahamas (and surrounding islands), and throughout the Caribbean, as observed beginning in the late 1800's. About 50-60 years ago, they came to southern Florida and Mexico and more recently, they have appearing in and colonized Hawaii and Jamaica. Brown Anoles were most likely introduced to those areas by escapes made by pets and as stowaways on planes and ships. They have most recently spread to southeastern states such as Georgia, with one isolated population even sighted in the Houston, Texas area. (Georgia Brown Anoles were most likely brought there by hitching rides on vehicles transporting landscaping plants and on boats.)

Current Threats

Our Role

How You Can Help

Fascinating Facts

Brown Anoles molt in small pieces, unlike some other reptiles, which molt in one large piece. Anoles may consume the molted skin to replenish supplies of calcium.

As a result of invasive Brown Anoles, Green Anoles have had to perch higher and higher up in trees. And, generation after generation, their feet evolved to become better at gripping the thinner, smoother branches found higher up. As a result, over the course of just 15 years and about 20 generations, their toe pads have become larger, with more sticky scales on their feet. A great example of rapid evolution at work! (This latest study is one of only a few well-documented examples of what evolutionary biologists call 'character displacement,' in which similar species competing with each other evolve differences to take advantage of different ecological niches. A classic example comes from the finches studied by Charles Darwin. Two species of finch in the Galapagos Islands diverged in beak shape as they adapted to different food sources.)

References

Casanova, L. 2004. "Norops sagrei" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 04, 2017 at http://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Norops_sagrei/

Losos, Johnathon. "Rapid Anole Adaptation to Human Habitat Disturbance." February 27, 2011. (On-line). Accessed April 04, 2017 at http://www.anoleannals.org/2011/02/27/rapid-anole-adaptation-to-human-habitat-disturbance/

"Florida Lizards Evolve Rapidly Within 15 Years and 20 Generations." October 23, 2016. (On-line). University of Texas at Austin. Accessed April 04, 2017 at https://news.utexas.edu/2014/10/23/anole-lizards-evolution-florida#

Castro, Joseph. "Lizards Released and Stranded on Islands Show Evolution at Work." Live Science. (On-line). February 02, 2012. Accessed April 02, 2017 at http://www.livescience.com/18276-lizards-show-evolution.html

Norris, Scott. "Evolution's Driving Force, Shifts Based on Behavior, Study Says." National Geographic. (On-line.) November 16, 2006. Accessed April 04, 2017 at http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/11/061116-lizard-evolution.html

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