Miami Anole Safari II

Green anoles everywherer in All-America Park. Photo by J. Losos

The International Biogeography Society meeting over, I had part of a day on my hands before leaving Miami. Many opportunities presented themself in the herpetological magnificence that is South Florida, but I couldn’t escape the disappointment in failing to find the Jamaican crown-giant at All-America Park in South Miami two days previous. So into the rental ‘mobile I hopped and quickly traversed the Magic City.

Arriving at the postage-sized park, I immediately ran into South Miami mayor and renowned neuroethologist Philip Stoddard, who happens to live next to the park and keeps an eagle eye on all of its inhabitants. His Honor confirmed that extreme cold of the last several winters had dealt the Jamaican greens a heavy blow, but nonetheless said that he had recently seen several small individuals, indicating that the population was still extant.

A little green like this one was chased by a bark anole. How ignominious! Photo by J. Losos

After accepting a glass of water, I headed into the park on what was a sunny and beautiful day. Anoles (and also peacocks) were extraordinarily abundant, but what caught my attention was the enormous number of green anoles. Those who are concerned that A. carolinensis is disappearing as a result of the introduction of A. sagrei and others need not worry, they’re doing just fine.

Bark and brown anoles were also quite abundant (word has it that Puerto Rican crested anoles are on the move and now are only a few blocks away), and I made several interesting observations, including a small A. distichus (bark anole) chasing a small A. carolinensis and a small knight anole (A. equestris) running toward a female A. carolinensis, seemingly in an attempt to catch it, though it started from so far away (at least a meter) and was so obvious that it had no hope of succeeding (and so, perhaps, it was just running for the sheer joy of it, or to get away from me, though I was standing very still).

Female A. garmani. Photo by J. Losos

Still, no A. garmani, but then turning a corner, just in the part of the park to which the mayor had pointed, there was a mid-sized female green guana (as they call them in Jamaica), sitting on a branch, taking in the sun. Hooray! They do survive, and what a beauty!

Oddly enough, although the Jamaicans have been in the miniscule All-America Park for at least 40 years, they have barely spread beyond its tiny borders. Why this is so is not known, though one has to wonder whether the larger, earlier introduced, and more widespread knight anoles (A. equestris) have something to do with it. In any case, in years past, I have found A. garmani as far as a block away from the park (or perhaps two–my memory is a little cloudy), so I ventured away to look for more. My first find was not a lizard, but James Stroud, who had independently decided to come on a garmani quest, having just learned two days previous that he lived within a quarter of a mile of their redoubt.

After just a few more minutes of joint searching, we were rewarded with the discovery of this magnificent male perched vertically on a tree in a park neighbor’s front yard.

Male A. garmani. Photo by J. Losos

All-in-all, a fantastic visit: five anoles in an area scarcely larger than a baseball field! And a sixth–cristatellus–probably on the way. Definitely worth a visit next time you’re in South Miami. But be forewarned–the locals love their green anoles! But who wouldn’t? Many consider A. garmani the most beautiful of the beautiful, and it’s hard to argue with that assessment.

About Jonathan Losos

Professor and Curator of Herpetology at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University. I've spent my entire professional career studying anoles and have discovered that the more I learn about anoles, the more I realize I don't know.

25 thoughts on “Miami Anole Safari II

    1. When I have an opportunity, I would like to take and post some photographs of what I believe to be A. cybotes that have colonized further west than the existing two groups that I know of. However, I am not 100% sure they are cybotes; they could in fact be cristatellus.

      1. An excellent idea! A. cybotes lack the crest on the tail and often half a faint yellow flank stripe bordered by coppery flecks.

  1. Hi, Jonathan. I live a few blocks from the South Miami park, and have a lovely Puerto Rican crested anole male in my back yard, so yes, they are near! Cheers!~

  2. Excellent article! I have been noticing the comeback of Anolis carolinensis for a number of years now. (Either A. carolinensis, porcatus, or a hybridized population). There is no doubt in my mind that they will get back to or surpass their original numbers. Like the entire carolinensis “complex” they seem to have a predilection for palm trees which flourish in great abundance here in south Florida. Every palm in my yard has between 4 and 6 resident green anolis.
    I have also noticed that it is very difficult for a small introduced population to become established where another species currently fills it’s niche (trunk, canopy, etc…) However, once established in a small “beach head” (a newly landscaped house or park), then they can begin to compete with the established species population for territory and spread out. I feel that after A. sagrei the next species to move north of the lake will be A. distichus. It is fairly cold tolerant and quite prolific. Fortunately it is also smaller and tends to flee from larger anolis such as carolinensis which it shares tree top habitat with. They feed on insects such as ants and mites that carolinensis rarely feeds on. Please note that these are just a few of my observations and should in no way be taken as scientific fact.
    I think three reasons keep the A. garmani numbers low. 1. They are not very cold tolerant. 2. In spite of being “crown giants” their hatchlings are unusually small and 3. They are popular with anolis keepers because they are not very cannibalistic and unlike equestris can be kept with smaller species.

      1. Hi James, that’s 4-6 on my coconut palms. Every morning around 9 or 10AM they start darting about the palm fronds. Usually a large male posted on the upper reaches of the trunk. Other smaller palms and bushes have sporadic individual carolinensis.

        1. Wow, in my garden trees (south Miami) I only have sporadic green anole presence, with the trunk being dominated by A. distichus and the lower trunk/ground by A. sagrei. Confrontation appears almost minimal (distichus especially neutral), with green anoles free to use the whole vertical extent of the tree. I rarely see >1 individual in a tree though.

          1. What I have noticed in my yard in eastern Kendall (south and west of south Miami) are usually one large male per coconut palm (I have 8 seperate large coconut palms in my yard) and 3-5 female or juvenile animals which are usually high in the fronds. When the palms are in bloom they all feed on the nectar and pollen. When the smaller species of palms are in bloom they also draw several animals. The rest of my yard which is heavily planted also has a number of individuals.

    1. The garmani also seem to do better in that area of south miami because of the heavy old tree and plant growth. They seem to love thick canopies. They don’t seem to do as well is open single tree areas as they rarely come to the ground.

        1. Hi Jonathan, the garmani in the All-America Park location are restricted to that general area. They have spreadout for several blocks, but that’s about it. They don’t seem to cross large streets easily nor do they use the telephone cables to disperse like the equestris do. Additionally, the 2010 freeze killed off a very high percentage of them. However, there is at least one other area in south Florida where the garmani are doing pretty well, but I promised the individual who discovered it that I wouldn’t share it.

  3. Fantastic report!

    I really enjoyed the weekend of the IBS Conference, met some great people, saw some great talks and some even better lizards!

    After we parted ways at All America Park, I hung around and managed to see a small female A. garmani, which I presume was the same individual as it was in the same corner ‘hot spot’. However, in 3 subsequent visits they have all alluded me.

    I will be sure to upload some of my pictures soon from the hunt for A. equestris on the FIU Biscayne Bay Campus from the Saturday!

  4. I have to wonder if the anoles shown here are porcatus, or perhaps a porcatus-carolinensis hybrid. They have at least some characteristics consistent with porcatus. The juvenile has a dark spot ringed with white scales on the body above the front leg. The adult has a similar spot above the front leg, though with only a few white scales, and also appears to have well-developed ridges on the snout.

  5. Jonathan-
    I have observed A. cristatellus there in the park, although only 2 individuals were observed, both females.


  6. I don’t understand the statement “But be forewarned–the locals love their green anoles”. The state of Florida does not protect introduced-exotic animals (for example, A. garmani, A. equestris, A. distichus, A. sagrei, A. porcatus, A. cristatellus) and Miami-Dade County Parks and Recreation have declared all introduced-exotic animals in public parks as “nuisance” animals. Removing these animals (for personal possesion you don’t even need a permit) carries no legal repercussions. This whole thing reminds me of an old saying, “Hell is paved with good intentions.”

      1. At the risk of sounding star struck, your’re the last person I expected to reply to my post. I really admire and respect your work. To be honest if I lived there, I would probably being doing the same as them. I love em’ too and I don’t wish to see em’ disappear. I’ve known about that site since before it was a park, when it was just an overgrown lot with an abandoned house. I’ve even had an “encounter” with a gentleman living right next door. For the record though, it’s not the only Anolis garmani site. Besides it and the one Mr. Armando Pou mentioned, I know about one up here in Palm Beach County and like Mr. Pou my lips are sealed : )

          1. JLo…You are showing a potential bias, (albeit Presidential) against immigrants. Why are you NOT supposed to be delighted? How would you feel about Swiss lacertids?

            In all seriousness… there is an ideological conservation bias toward the “natural” … but virtually nothing is natural any longer if we mean totally uninfluenced by humans, their pets, parasites, and products.

            Look at introductions as unintended experiments. A great deal about anoline evolutionary biology has been and will be learned by examining the ecology and behavior of introduced anoles. That’s how I got into this business 50 plus years ago!

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