During a visit to New Orleans last month , I came across this little fellow.

Young male Anolis carolinensis, Washington Square, New Orleans, 30 December 2010

He was about 2 feet up on some broad-leaved plants planted around a tree in Washington Park, at the corner of Frenchmen and Royal Streets in Faubourg Marigny, just east of the French Quarter. Here’s an overview of the Square looking east, taken from about where the lizard was found.

Washington Square, New Orleans, 30 December 2010

I was actually a little surprised to find carolinensis, rather than sagrei. Anolis sagrei is well known as a good colonizer, both natural and introduced, and is now known from Florida, Texas, Georgia, and Louisiana, with stragglers reported as far north as Virginia. I was once given a tiny baby anole that was caught on a windowsill in Cambridge, Massachusetts (!) that I believe was this species; it had probably arrived as an egg in the soil of a houseplant.

Sagrei has been in New Orleans for close to 30 years, and was the first place in the US it became established outside Florida. I was thus expecting that in New Orleans I might see the same thing that’s occurring in Florida: sagrei being more abundant, and occupying the trunk-ground position, while carolinensis would move higher in the vegetation, into it’s ancestral trunk-crown position. It would be like recreating a bit of the Cuban ecomorph sequence, just as has happened in the Bahamas. I didn’t get to spend much time looking for anoles in New Orleans, so this may still be the case, despite my contrary observation (perhaps an instance of Ernest Williams’ principle of an Unsympathetic Nature).

It’s also possible that the reason I didn’t find them is that NOLA sagrei, have had a hard time in the last two winters, which have been unusually cold, and their numbers have been knocked down. I was also in coastal Mississippi during last month’s trip, and spent more time looking for anoles there, in Long Beach and Gulfport, including in better habitat than city streets, but found none. I was hoping to see if sagrei had spread there. Local residents did report that “chameleons” and lizards with throat fans (as well as geckos) occurred there, but that they would not be seen this time of year. And the temperatures were very cold– it was 27 F one night in Gulfport (a record low, I believe). (It was a warm 72 F in New Orleans the day I visited there.)

If any Annals readers have observations on what’s happened to sagrei in its more northern haunts the last couple of years, please report them here. There have been other introduced herps that have flourished for a while, only to be adversely affected by winter conditions which, while not typical, occur every one to a few decades. An introduction of Eleutherodactylus coqui in Miami was wiped out by a cold winter, and the pythons in Florida were hard hit last winter (2009-2010).


8 thoughts on “NOLA ANOLE

  1. Anolis sagrei is doing fine in New Orleans, but with a spotty distribution. At this time, Anolis carolinensis is still the more common species and it has had a good few years – really abundant right now. Bob Thomas, Loyola University (

  2. I saw this little guy in the Sculpture Garden outside the New Orleans Museum of Art in City Park the day before Thanksgiving 2012. I have lived in Algiers, on the New Orleans West Bank for 30 years, but I had never seen Anolis sagrei before and had no idea what it was. I am familiar with the three lizard species that frequent my neighborhood, Anolis carolinensis being the most common. Carolinensis, the lizard I fondly remember catching and releasing as a boy in Alexandria, LA frolics in my garden in great numbers on any warm day, but for all I knew sagrei was a species new to science.

      1. Thanks. Good picture. I now see both species regularly in my Algiers yard. Last year sagrei seemed dominant, but so far this spring I have seen more carolinensis. Maybe the cold winter favored carolinensis? Of course, they do tend to be more visible than their brown cousins, as they perch in the open high on walls, fences and branches, while sagrei I mostly see scurrying on the ground under the cover of bushes.

  3. I am curious if there is credible evidence of Anolis carolinensis having its natural wild range being in the Virginia Beach area? I have found Anoles even here in Northern Virginia, but I know they came up on plantings. Also, I understand they have been introduced to parts of Southern California with some success.

  4. I live in Cross Lanes, WV (the largest unincorporated city in the USA) and in early May, 2013, my dad and husband found a Brown Cuban Anole Lizard in our recently purchased fern. We believe after researching that our “Lazurus” must have hopped a ride on the fern from the Carolinas or Florida. He seems to be doing fine in captivity; we made a terrarium for him in a huge fish tank. The first time we saw his dewlap, we were very curious about his heritage. I appreciate the info provided and wanted to share that the Anoles are alive and well in wild and wonderful West “by God” Virginia.

  5. I grew up in Alexandria, Louisiana where carolinensis is very common. However, freezing temperatures are fairly common in winter, and my mother had a lot of potted plants she would bring indoors. As a result (I speculate) we often found tiny, newly hatched carolinensis running around our house, which my mother or I would careful catch and put outside. Many more must have hatched outside, once the weather warmed up.

    Is it possible that carolinensis has can recognize tropical vegetation as a suitable nesting site? If so, they could artificially increase their range to places gardeners protect tender plants, and by extension their young during occasional cold snaps that would otherwise decimate the population?

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