The 8 Types of Anoles Found in the United States! (ID Guide)
“How many types of ANOLES are there in the United States?”
One of the things people commonly want to know about anoles is how to pronounce their name! It was the first thing I tried to find out when learning about this type of lizard.
Across different parts of the world, people say the name in many different ways. The most common pronunciations are “AH-nole” with two syllables or “ah-NOL-ee” with three syllables. However you say their name, these creatures are some of the most fascinating lizards in our area!
Today, you’ll learn about 8 different kinds of anoles in the United States.
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#1. Green Anole
- Anolis carolinensis
- 5 to 9 inches long.
- This species has an elongated head, pointed snout, and round tail.
- The coloring ranges from all green to mottled green and brown to all brown with a white belly and lips.
- The dewlap, or extendable throat fan, is usually pink but ranges in color: white, light gray, magenta, blue, and purple are common.
Green Anoles are the ONLY species of Anole native to the United States.
They primarily live in trees and are excellent climbers. Look for them high in trees and shrubs in forested areas or on buildings and fences in urban settings. The introduction of the Brown Anole has altered their behavior, making them almost exclusively arboreal.
An invasive species, the Cuban Green Anole (Anolis porcatus), is so similar to our native Green Anole that DNA testing is the only way to distinguish between them! The two species interbreed in areas where they both occur. Cuban Green Anoles in the United States have a limited range, so if you find a Green Anole, it’s most likely native!
United States Geological Survey (USGS)
Anoles are sometimes called American Chameleons because of their ability to change color. Although they aren’t in the same family as chameleons, they adjust their coloring in response to many factors, including emotion, activity level, temperature, and humidity.
Green Anoles and other species of Anoles have dewlaps, which are colorful throat fans they can extend to communicate. This feature makes them look a bit like tiny dinosaurs! =)
#2. Brown Anole
- Anolis sagrei
- 5 to 8.5 inches long.
- Brown Anoles have a stocky build and a slightly flattened tail.
- The coloring is brown, sometimes with yellow spots – this species is never green.
- The dewlap is red-orange with white borders.
Brown Anoles are the most widely introduced anole in the United States!
Look for them on tree trunks and rocks close to the ground or in open grassy areas.
The Brown Anoles’ native range is Cuba, the Bahamas, and Little Cayman Island. They were introduced in shipments of cultivated plants in the 1970s, and their population and range exploded!
They established themselves so quickly that native Green Anoles had to change their behavior to survive. Because Brown Anoles eat Green Anoles and compete with them for food and territory, they have taken over ground habitats and pushed Green Anoles up into the trees.
#3. Crested Anole
- Anolis cristatellus
- 4 to 7 inches long.
- Coloring is light brown to grayish-green, sometimes with darker bands on the tail.
- This species has a crest along the back and tail, making it look like a little dragon!
- The dewlap is olive-brown to mustard-yellow and occasionally has orange edges.
Crested Anoles are a non-native species to the United States and only live in southern Florida. Look for this species on building walls or low on tree trunks.
They are sold extensively as pets and escaped captives make up a large portion of the population here in the U.S. The bony fan on the back and tail of Crested Anoles makes it look like a dragon, which is one reason they are so popular as pets!
#4. Hispaniolan Green Anole
- Anolis chlorocyanus
- 5 to 8.5 inches long.
- This species has an elongated head and pointed snout, and a round tail.
- Its coloring ranges from brown to green, and sometimes it is mottled with both. Males are most often bright green.
Look for the Hispaniolan Green Anole in the United States near trees, shrubs, and buildings in southern Florida. This species is native to Hispaniola, the island of Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
It was introduced to Florida by the import of cultivated palm trees that carried its eggs. You can easily identify a Hispaniolan Green Anole by its dewlap coloring! It’s the only species with a two-toned dewlap: the front near the face is pale grayish-blue, and the back, near the chest, is black to purple.
#5. Hispaniolan Stout Anole
- Anolis cybotes
- 7 to 8 inches long.
- This species is large-headed and stocky, with a round tail.
- The coloring of the Hispaniolan Stout Anole is light brown. Males have dark brown crossbands.
- The dewlap is pale yellow and sometimes has a pale orange center.
Hispaniolan Stout Anoles are sometimes called Large-Headed Anoles in the United States.
They are found low to the ground on tree trunks or human-made structures.
Like its cousin, the Hispaniolan Green Anole, this invasive species is only found in southern Florida here in the U.S. Its native range is Haiti and the Dominican Republic, also called the island of Hispaniola.
#6. Jamaican Giant Anole
- Anolis garmani
By Charles J. Sharp – Own work, from Sharp Photography, CC BY-SA 4.0
- 5.5 to 10.5 inches long.
- This species has a large head and short, tiny spines along the back.
- The coloring is leaf green, but Jamaican Giant Anoles turn dark brown at night.
- The dewlap of males is lemon yellow with an orange center; it is smaller and dusky beige on females.
The Jamaican Giant Anole prefers to live in treetops in heavily forested areas. Though they are huge and brightly colored, they can be tough to spot because they rarely come down to the ground!
As its name suggests, it is native to Jamaica. It was introduced via the exotic pet trade when captive individuals escaped into the wild. The hot and humid southern Florida climate was similar enough that the Jamaican Giant Anole had no trouble establishing a population!
#7. Bark Anole
- Anolis distichus
- 3.5 to 5 inches long.
- The coloring is gray, brown, or green with irregular spots or stripes.
- A dark line appears between the eyes, and the tail has dark crossbands.
- The dewlap is yellow and occasionally has an orange tint.
One look at a Bark Anole will tell you how it got its name! The unique markings on its back make it look distinctly like the bark of a tree covered in lichen or moss.
This introduced species is native to the Bahamas and Hispaniola, but it can be found in southern Florida and the Keys.
Bark Anoles are extremely variable in color, ranging from grass green to pale grayish-brown. There are 11 subspecies, although some of those may be classified as separate species in the future!
#8. Knight Anole
- Anolis equestris
- 13 to 19.5 inches long.
- Knight Anoles have a prominent, bony casque, or ridged indentation, on their head.
- The coloring is most often bright apple green, but some individuals are a dull green or brown.
- The dewlap of this species is very large and typically pink.
Knight Anoles are the largest anole in the United States!
They are native to Cuba but have established populations throughout southern Florida and the Keys. Knight Anoles prefer to live high in trees and rarely come near the ground.
In addition to being the largest species, the Knight Anole is also the most aggressive! It will turn to face any threat and perform a display of dominance, including doing “push up” type movements, unfurling its dewlap, and puffing up its body to appear larger. Interestingly, BOTH males and females will display these behaviors if they feel threatened!
Do you need additional help identifying anoles?
Try this field guide!
Which of these anoles have you seen in the United States?
Leave a comment below!