Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis)

Male green anole displaying dewlap | Photo credit: Ken Slade

Often mistaken for chameleons, the green anole is a tree-dwelling lizard that is native to the southeastern United States and Caribbean islands. Green anoles are also found in warm climates throughout North and South America.

Often seen in parks and residential areas on walls, fences, trees, and low bushes, green anoles reach a maximum length of six to eight inches. Their bodies are slender, with a long, thin tail. Like true chameleons, green anoles have the ability to change color; this ability is limited in anoles, however–coloration is usually green, yellow, brown, gray, or a mixture. Most healthy, non-threatened anoles are bright green in appearance. The male anole has a large pink fan of skin on its neck, called a dewlap, which can be extended for courtship or territorial display.

Active and agile creatures, anoles have specially adapted pads on their feet which permit them to climb, cling, and run on virtually any surface. Another adaptation of the anole is its extremely fragile tail which drops off its body when grabbed, allowing the anole to escape from predators; in time, the anole will regrow a new (although generally shorter) tail. Anoles feed on small insects such as crickets, cockroaches, spiders, moths, and grubs.

Your backyard is perhaps the best place to view wild green anoles. Active during daylight hours, green anoles often sun themselves on walls and branches. Green anoles can also be observed in pet stores where they are sold. Like all lizards, green anoles require special care and a controlled environment if they are to survive in captivity. To see more anoles, view our anole slideshow.

Can You Find the Anole?

Green anole in green grass | Photo credit: Shannon Blackburn

Try to find the green anole in this photo!

American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)

American alligator at Brazos Bend State Park.Photo © Justin W. Moore

American alligator at Brazos Bend State Park
Photo © Justin W. Moore

Attaining a length of six to eight feet at adulthood, the American alligator is North America’s largest flesh-eating reptile. The alligator’s thick and powerful tail, used for propulsion and defense, accounts for half its body length. Similar in appearance to the endangered American crocodile, the American alligator has a stockier build and broader head and snout; unlike crocodiles, alligators’ teeth are not visible when their jaws are closed. [Read more…]