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