Florida Greens and the Suprascapular Spot

Miami-Dade county, Florida; 18 March 2017

Miami-Dade county, Florida; 18 March 2017

After scampering about much of North America the past few decades, I once again live  in my hometown of Ormond Beach, Florida — on the northern edge of Volusia county. When I was a kid, back in the late 70s and early 80s, I spent much of my time tangling with and studying our local anoles. The Carolina greens (A. carolinensis) were dominant back then, covering our walls, windows, trees, and (sometimes by forced measure) our ear lobes. Every now and then I’d find a Cuban brown (A. sagrei) — usually around the shopping centers and strip malls. Nowadays, of course, that coin has flipped. The Carolina greens have moved back up into the higher foliage and the Cuban browns dominate our shrubs, walls, and windows.

I remember actually finding a Cuban brown anole on our property in 1984 or so. I was in 4th grade, drunk on Star Wars and lizards. I managed to catch the little non-native lizard and put it in my anole terrarium (a homemade wood-and-open-screen enclosure my dad and I built). I was in the habit of catching anoles (and the occasional snake), keeping and watching them for a day or two, and then releasing them back into the yard. Needless to say, the Carolina green already in the enclosure wasn’t too thrilled with his new roommate. Though guilt eventually kicked in the following day, I admit I was somewhat delighted by the defensive/discomfort color play of that poor Carolina green. Usually, they’d be cool, smooth emerald green with very little patterning… but distressed or riled up Carolina greens certainly know how to put on a good color and pattern show.

Soon enough, I released the Carolina green back into the yard and kept the Cuban brown for another day or two. This little moment of tension, however, leads me to the point of this post: the distress patterns of our local Carolina green anoles. More specifically, I’m interested in the presence of a supraspacular dark spot that shows up with some individuals. It’s a dark spot with light trim that sometimes appears just above and behind the front shoulder line — as seen in this particularly ornate individual photographed in Miami-Dade county on 18 March 2017:

This Miami-Dade individual really stuck out to me. It’s patterning was distinct. It was quite large. It had that supraspacular spot. Most notably, it was still wielding quite a bit of green. Could this be A. porcatus? Like many naturalist-lizard enthusiasts, I tend to catch myself up in the eternal cycle of porcatus-or-not? when I’m in south Florida. Heh. Nowadays,  my assumptions generally fall on the side of A. carolinensis unless I’m with somebody more in-the-know who can tell me differently with confidence; this hasn’t happened yet. Honestly, I have a hard time seeing a clear difference between the two. I’m glad I’m not alone.

Though distinct, this fabulously mottled Green wasn’t the only Green I’ve photographed with that supraspacular spot. Here’s an impressive male tangling with a Cuban brown anole in the Lower Keys of Monroe county, Florida, on 08 June 2007:

Further north, in my home territory, I’ve only noticed and photographed two individuals with that spot, albeit with less figure-ground contrast between the spot and the trim.

Orange county, Florida (05 September 2011):

Anolis carolinensis, 05 September 2011

Alachua county, Florida (05 December 2011):

Anolis carolinensis, 05 December 2011

Both were in WTF-dark-mode (as I call it).

Of note, I spent a few years in Valdosta, Georgia, intensely watching anoles. With scattered populations of Cuban browns limited mostly to a few nurseries and shopping centers, the Carolina greens of Lowndes county, Georgia, reminded my greatly of the world I grew up in. Greens, greens, greens — Greens everywhere. Though I saw plenty of distress and WTF-dark-mode patterning, I never once saw that supraspacular spotting. Not once.

After pouring through my photographs (about a decade’s worth of close attention with the camera), I only have shots of the two individuals above featuring that spot in central and north Florida. I found plenty of crests and mottled patterns, but no other individuals in central or north Florida had that supraspacular spotting.

I only get down to south Florida maybe twice a year. Usually, when I do manage to get down there, I’m looking for the non-natives like A. garmani, A. cybotes, and A. chlorocyanus, A. equestris, A. cristatellus, and A. distichus). These are the species we most certainly don’t have in Volusia county yet (though there are rumblings of equestris nearby, say thankee sai). With all that mayhem, honestly, I haven’t been paying much attention to the Greens of south Florida. Still, I seem to keep noticing that spot. It seems to be more common in South Florida, less common (even rare) in central/north Florida, and utterly unobserved (by me, at least) in southern Georgia.

Could this be a phenotypic drift of sorts from south Florida populations to those further north?

Now that this supraspacular spot is on my radar, I’ll certainly be paying more attention to the Greens of south Florida on my next Anolis Glorificus trip down south — which will hopefully be sooner than later.

I’m quite curious what patterns folks have noticed with our Greens and that fantastic supraspacular spot.

Here’s one more rather ornate individual from Miami-Dade county, Florida (21 January 2017):

Anolis carolinensis #1, 21 January 2017

One thought on “Florida Greens and the Suprascapular Spot

  1. I see these “peacock anoles” as I call them here in South Carolina. I am planning to breed a pair and see if I can get more “peacock anoles”

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