Whose Tail Crest Is That?

Which species owns this lovely tail crest?

Which species owns this lovely tail crest?

Some anoles sport fancy dorsal tail crests. It would be interesting to survey the distribution of tail crests–they are only found in some areas, and species of some sizes and not others, and those in particular microhabitats. Quick–can you think of a mainland anole with a tail crest?

But I’m guessing the species above is not one that comes to mind when you think of tail-crest bearing species. Whose is it? The answer’s below the fold.

One more look before the reveal…

Last chance!

Last chance!


It’s Anolis sagrei from Cat Island, Bahamas! Some populations of anoles have pretty impressive crests. Anyone got a good picture of one in life? Or an observation? And what are these crests about, any way?

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.

11 thoughts on “Whose Tail Crest Is That?

  1. I once set out to find out which anoles sported crests, just for fun. This is what I came up with:
    and just added sagrei

  2. My favorite Anole with a tail-crest surely is Anolis ferreus from Marie-Galante. The tail-crest in this species can be as high as 15mm from my observations in the wild. In comparison to Anolis cristatellus’s tail-crest it is probably not quite as high in relation, regardig the shere size of this giant Anole. It is however restricted to the basal third of the tail and thus perhaps one of the shortest tail-crests in Anoles with this vertical dimension. Pictured here is an adult male in captivity that is part of my breeding program. SVL app. 120mm.

    1. That is a stocky looking male, is the crest always erect in the males or is it erected only in aggressive encounters with humans or other anoles? Do they go about their daily routine with the crest always fully erect?
      P.S., do you keep other lesser Antillean giants like bimaculatus and leachii, and if so which of these can attain the largest size, would you say any get as or more massive than a large garmani or cuvieri?

      1. Other than the skin-crest (in german it is more precisely called “Hautsaum”, wich describes that it is soft and only made of skin) on the neck and back in Anoles, the tail-crests are not extendable. The tail-crest is made up of elongated scales that can not be retracted. They are always like this. In addition, the Anoles with tail-crests can extend their crests on neck and back also, being in a display-mood.
        Yes, I keep the other two large species from the bimaculatus-series (A. bimaculatus and A. leachii), too. The animals, I breed, do not get as large as the ferreus. I do not know though, from what population they come. I just know from my A. bimaculatus, the originate from St. Eustatius, where the animals do not get as large as on St. Kitts and St. Nevis regarding to LAZELL 1972. None of these 3 species will outrun A. garmani or A. cuvieri in size. Anolis ferreus is however, as you noticed, an extremely stocky lizard, when in well shape. My male ferreus offspring is about three times the weight of an A. marmoratus (for example) of the same lenght. They also grow much faster.

        1. Thanks, i always wondered if the tail (I knew about the neck and back) crests in species like cristatellus and homolechis could be erected at will. So i guess then that large male cristatellus without tail crests are deviations from the normal phenotype.
          Where do you keep all these species? is it in the Caribbean or overseas? And `do you breed them as a hobby or for some other reason?

          1. Yes The size of the tailcrest is somewhat vatiable within a population. One can say though in general: the older a male gets, the larger the crest gets.
            I keep those as a hobby. I’m from Germany.

  3. One of my backyard brown anoles had such a large crest when i first met him that I thought for sure he was a different species.

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