Cuban Brown Anole Green Anole
Q: We haven’t seen any of the cute green lizards which were abundance ever since we have lived in Florida. Now all we have are the gray brown black lizards. Some have ruffles down the back and don’t seem to be afraid. We’re hoping you can clear up this mystery. What happened to our green lizards? We miss them.
A: What you are seeing is the exotic Cuban brown anole. Unfortunately they like to eat young green anoles. You’re witnessing a “battle” taking place and you are seeing the winner! The combat for supremacy is between our “somewhat” native green anole (Anolis carolinensis) and an introduced lizard to our area–the Cuban brown anole (Anolis sagrei).
The following information the the Cuban brown anole is provided by Ray Zerba, retired UF/IFAS Extension Agent from Clay County.
Unlike the green anole, Cuban browns cannot turn from green to brown with environmental challenges but are able to turn from brown to black. Unlike the green, their back often sports highly marked stripes and triangles, while greens never show this. A big difference in color is the “dewlap” (throat pouch) display. The greens’ is orange to red with no border. The Cuban browns’ is orange to red with a distinct yellow-edged border. They are slightly larger than the green (up to 8 1/2 inches verses 8). But the defining feature that is giving the Cuban brown the upper hand in the fight for dominance is their very much higher reproductive rate. Cuban browns probably arrived here in nursery pots that had leaves atop their soil, which is a common place for both greens and Cuban browns to lay their eggs.
Both will aggressively attack each other for territory and they seem evenly matched in a fight. Both will eat smaller versions of their opponent. For the last decade, this pitched battle has been taking place in North Florida. Some herptile experts have predicted that because of the greater reproductive successes of the Cuban brown, within the next decade, we may no longer see the green anole in urban landscapes and only find them in more rural settings where Cuban browns are still less common.
Thankfully, both are very effective and beneficial predators to have around so we are not suggesting you try to control one over another–it’s just too bad they can’t live in more harmony. It’s another example of where an “exotic intruder” is sadly changing the natural habit it invades.