The Leaping Lizards of Florida
By Kelly Dean
I know you’re expecting an article about some exotic creature or man-eating lizard here, but such is not the case. Although iguanas do exist in Florida, they come from elsewhere, brought in by pet shop cowboys who later choose to release them in the wild, much like boas and the like in the Everglades – bad idea. They are now invasive.
I’m also not here to discuss the huge gators and crocks; they can be found, but they are not seen with anywhere near the frequency of the most common among lizards: the anoles.
If you’re relocating and are used to seeing crickets and grasshoppers up north, imagine every one of these insects being a small lizard instead. That is how frequently one sees the anole in Florida. Most of the ones I see are brown, but they also come in many colors, mostly some form of green, brown and tan occasionally; some can modify their color. There are over 390 species and many live in Florida. These ambassadors are off the radar and a complete surprise to those who ultimately move here.
They cause no problems to my knowledge and just go about their business like any other naturally occurring creature. But I’m telling you, they are all around you. They scurry across the sidewalk with every step you take and replace insects in your mind as it comes to the great outdoors in Florida. Again, they present no problem, but your dog will chase them no end, even when he’s supposed to be doing, ah-hem, a different task.
The anole’s offspring are teeny-tiny versions of the adults and are quite amazing themselves; one wonders how something could be so small. The male adults mate by getting close to a female and flexing their colorful throat downwards like a half-moon. I wish this worked for people because I have plenty of chins to spare, but I digress.
The lizard can jump a surprising distance when going from limb to limb pursuing a hot-looking mate. As they get closer, they make sure the opposite sex can get a look at their amazing throat theatrics. I often see them in my shrubs trying to gain the advantage over another suitor. They are also food for many larger birds.
So when you come to Florida, don’t be surprised to see this little six-inch lizard. They mean you no harm and give you something to fixate on when you go outside for the simplest of tasks: an enjoyable distraction if you choose to see it.