AskDefine | Define anole

Dictionary Definition

anole n : small arboreal tropical American insectivorous lizards with the ability to change skin color [syn: American chameleon, Anolis carolinensis]

User Contributed Dictionary





  1. any of the Anolis genus of arboreal American lizards (such as the American chameleon) from the iguana family which feature a brightly colored dewlap and color changing ability

Extensive Definition

Polychrotidae is a family of lizards commonly known as Anoles (). Some authorities (such as NCBI place the anoles in subfamily Polychrotinae of the family Iguanidae. Four genera are common: Anolis, Norops, Phenacosaurus and Polychrus.
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.


Anoles 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, although 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, although 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 cohabit 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 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 are small feeder crickets that can be purchased at most pet stores.
These subtropical lizards are semiarboreal. They usually inhabit regions around 3–6 m (10–20 feet) high. Shrubs, walls, fences, bushes, and short trees are common hiding places.
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, softshell 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. Their blood is purple and their bones are pink. If there blood is blue 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.


anole in Spanish: Polychrotidae
anole in French: Polychrotidae
anole in Hungarian: Polychrotidae
anole in Dutch: Anolissen
anole in Norwegian: Anoleøgler
anole in Portuguese: Polychrotidae
anole in Romanian: Polychrotidae
anole in Russian: Анолисовые
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