Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Anole – Shedding skin

First and foremost, in putting together this article, I learned several things about Anoles. Until I enlarged these photographs, I had not realized what a nice pattern they have running down the spine. It shows up best in the photo of the shedding anole while he is in the brown phase. It looks a bit like a zipper, maybe for removing the skin quickly? Secondly, they can strip off the skin really quickly and eat it. I have seen a lot of snake skins but never an anole skin lying around. I assume they remove the skin as quickly as possible for camouflage purposes. And only recently have I come to realize how many of these little fellows there are. When you look for them, they are everywhere.

Anole lizards are frequently and incorrectly called chameleons or geckos, although they are not closely related to either of those groups. In fact, they are more closely related to iguanas. These misconceptions are likely due to their ability to alter their skin color and run up walls, respectively.

Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis)
Photographed at the Ft. Worth Botanical Garden

They are small and common lizards that can be found throughout the southeastern United States, the Caribbean, and various other regions of the Western world. A large majority of them sport a green coloration, including the only species native to North America, the aptly named Green anole. However, the green anole can change its color based on its mood and surroundings. Anoles are an exorbitantly diverse and plentiful group of lizards. There are currently well over 300 known species. The knight, green, bark, and Cuban brown anoles can all be found in the United States, primarily in Florida. The most prevalent of these species by far is the Cuban brown anole, which has pushed the native green (or "Carolina") anole population farther north.

Interestingly, when green anoles and brown anoles co-habit the same area, the brown anoles are primarily terrestrial or restrict themselves to the lower branches of bushes, while the green anoles stay higher. Brown anoles have also spread here into East Texas. At a local nursery in the Heights neighborhood of Houston, Texas, a stable population has established itself, hatchlings having been observed in the spring of 2005.

All species of anole in the U.S., except the green anole, were introduced through eggs nested in imported plants. It is notable that while nearly all anoles can change their color, the extent and variations of this ability differ wildly throughout the individual anole species. For example, the green anole can change its color from a bright, leafy green to a dull brown color, while the Cuban brown can only change its shade of brown, along with the patterns on its back.

Many anoles are between 8 and 18 cm (3–7 inches) in length. Some larger species, such as the Knight Anole, can surpass 12 inches. Some males of the Knight Anole species can even reach 20 inches in length.

Anoles thrive on live insects and other invertebrates, with moths and spiders being some of the most commonly consumed prey. Anoles are opportunistic feeders, and may attempt to eat any attractive meal that is small enough. The primary food for captive anoles is small feeder crickets that can be purchased at most pet stores.

These subtropical lizards are semi arboreal. They usually inhabit regions around 3–6 m (10–20 feet) high. Shrubs, walls, fences, bushes, and short trees are common hiding places

Anole shedding skin
(Click on photo to see skin pattern)

I turned away to photograph some butterflies and was back in just a couple of minutes. By then he had stripped off the skin and had only a small piece of the evidence sticking out of the side of his mouth. He also returned to a green color in just a few minutes.

Most anoles are said to live between 3 and 5 years. Even anoles captured from the wild can live for several years if given acceptable living space and cared for properly. A healthy anole in captivity, being free from predators and natural disaster, may live well beyond seven years. Breeding occurs for several months beginning in late spring. Males employ head bobbing and dewlap extension in courtship. 1–2 small, soft-shell eggs are laid among leaf litter. More clutches may be laid before mating season has ended.

Anoles have many features that make them readily identifiable. They have a dewlap, made of erectile cartilage that extends from the neck/throat area. For example: If an intruder approaches, the male will compress its body, extend the dewlap, and bob its head. Their toes are covered with structures that allow them to cling to many different surfaces. Also, their tails have the ability to break off at special segments in order to escape predators or fights. The tail itself continues to wriggle strongly for some minutes after detaching. This ability is known as autotomy. Anoles are also diurnal, which means that they are active during the daytime.

Anoles, though defensive and territorial, are usually shy. They will often flee when faced with overwhelming danger. They are also very easily stressed. For these reasons, as well as others, it's highly recommended that any keeper avoid handling his/her anoles as much as possible. Often one will notice small dark spots forming on the anole's skin, commonly around the eyes, when handled. This is a sign of stress.

Anoles, though relatively inexpensive themselves, are costly lizards to keep and raise. They require somewhat intricate setups to mimic their subtropical habitats. It's often difficult for most people to imagine such an inexpensive lizard as being such a responsibility. This is why many pet anoles are considered to be neglected.

Troy and Martha

Click on the comments to see more information about pigmentation.

Reference : WikiPedia


Texas Travelers said...


Generally, the typical coloration for a green anole ranges from the richest and brightest of greens to the darkest of browns, with little variation in between.

There are a few exceptions, however, which are caused when a lack in one of the pigment genes occurs. There are three layers of pigment cells – chromatophores that make up the green anole color spectrum: the xanthophores, responsible for the yellow pigmentation; cyanophores, responsible for the blue pigmentation, and melanophores, responsible for the brown and black pigmentation. The combination of the xanthophores and cyanophores are what make up the different arrays of green seen in the green anole, whereas the melanophores are responsible for its change to brown when the anole is cold or stressed.

When there is a lack of one of these pigments, color mutations also called "phases," can occur. In particular, this can lead to the incidence of the rare and beautiful blue-phased green anole, which lacks xanthophores, or the yellow pigment that makes up the green hues of the green anole's color spectrum. What results is a blue, often baby or pastel blue, anole.

These rare beauties have become a recent popularity in the trade market, yet are often sold for quite a hefty price due to their rarity. When the anole is completely lacking xanthophores, however, it is said to be axanthic. Such specimens are often completely pastel or baby-blue in hue. However, such specimens are extremely rare, usually produced in 1 out of every 20,000 individual anoles in the wild.

Other color phases can also occur, such as the yellow-phased green anole, which lacks cyanophores, which are responsible for the blue pigment in the green anole color spectrum. However, none are as popular or as brilliant as the blue-phased green anole. Colonies of these rare color-phased anoles have been reported, but anoles with these color mutations rarely live for long, since the green anole relies on its green and brown camouflage to hunt down prey as well as hide from predators.

photowannabe said...

Quite fascinating and informative. The picture of the shedding skin is wonderful.
That's what I love about blogging. I learn so much. Thank you.

dguzman said...

Nice to see a blog from Fort Worth; I lived there for 13 years before moving to Central PA. I sure do miss the Botanical Gardens (not to mention the Mexican food). Next time you're at Lucile's on Camp Bowie, have a small margarita for me!

Anonymous said...

very educational post. thank you

This Is My Blog - fishing guy said...

Troy: Well done with some great pictures.

Cicero Sings said...

That picture of it shedding its skin is too cool!