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Chameleon / Cuban Knight Anole

© AMNH / Denis Finnin Cuban Knight Anole

Push-ups and head bobs, color change, display of colorful throat "fans"--that's how anoles communicate.

Skin

Anoles can change the color of their bodies, usually from brown to green and back again. Excitement or environmental shifts--hot to cold, for example--can trigger these changes.

© Jack Goldfarb, Texas Tech University Saddled Anole

Feet

Anoles have expanded toe pads that let them cling to vertical perches and cross smooth surfaces; they also have long claws for climbing.

Size

This animal is the largest of the anoles. Its whiplike tail may be as much as twice its body length.

© AMNH / Denis FinninChameleon Anole

Throat Sac

In the Cuban Knight Anole, the dewlap is a pale pink. The dewlaps of other anoles can be many colors, including yellow, red, orange, blue or a combination. When courting--or defending its territory--a male anole will extend its throat sac.

Many lizards, including this Cuban Knight Anole, have "detachable" tails. When a predator has the lizard by the tail, the tail breaks off at a particular spot, a "fracture plane." Muscle contractions squeeze the blood vessels so the lizard doesn't bleed much, and eventually it grows another tail. But the new tail is supported by cartilage, not bone, and it is often misshapen.

© James H. Robinson / Photo ResearchersAmerican green anole (A. carolinensis) with dewlap

Meet the Family

With about 400 species in their family, Polychrotidae, how do anoles tell one another apart? Colorful throat fans in a rainbow of colors distinguish between--and signal among--species. Most anoles like humid forests, and fossils show they had the same preferences 50 million years ago.

© Nature's Images/Photo Researchers Amazonian leaf-litter anole (Anolis nitens tandai)

American Green Anole
Anolis carolinensis

Sometimes called the American Chameleon, this anole is displaying a bright pink dewlap--a form of communication--and growing a new tail.

Amazonian Leaf-litter AnoleAnolis nitens tandai

Both males and females have these bright blue, patterned dewlaps, but they are larger in the male. Dewlaps are extended to attract females or discourage invading males.

© David M. Schleser/Photo Researchers Spotted anole (Anolis punctatus)

Spotted AnoleAnolis punctatus

The anole lives in the canopy of Amazonian rain forest.

© Nature's Images/Photo Researchers Transverse anole (Anolis transversalis)

Transverse AnoleAnolis transversalis

The banded color pattern of this anole makes it look like certain plants-bromeliads-in the Amazonian rain forest canopy. The animal has a blue iris, unusual in squamates.

Fast Facts

Name: Cuban Knight Anole; Anolis equestris
Size: 30 to 50 centimeters (12 to 20 inches)
Range: Cuba
Diet: Insects, small lizards, amphibians

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