Florida Lizards

2017 May 7

So, when we were planning our trip to Florida last year, the girls asked what sort of things they could expect to see that the don’t see at home[1]. I said, “well, for one thing, they have lizards . . .”

“Lizards!” they cried. Then they bounded around the room, crying in glee “Lizards! Lizards! Lizards!”[2]

Well, after that, I figured that finding lizards on this trip had become upgraded to a necessity. So once we got to Sanibel Island, one of the first things we did was go lizard-hunting.

Catching lizards on a warm day turned out to be quite difficult. While we saw them everywhere (they particularly liked to hang out on the lounge chairs around the hotel pools), once alerted they ran off so quickly it was almost as if they simply vanished. It turns out they don’t have a lot of endurance, though, so after chasing this first one back and forth a bit it finally slowed down enough to catch.


We took a lot of pictures of it, because hey, first lizard!



When turned upside down, we could see a little dewlap that it could probably inflate.LizardA.dewlap

We also got an answer to the question, “Do lizards bite?” The answer turned out to be, “Yes, but not very hard.” Sam said it just tickled.


Then, when it came time to let it go, it just roosted there in Sam’s hand for a while, allowing for another picture just to show scale. This was pretty typical size for the lizards we saw, they were all small enough that they could sit completely on a person’s hand like this.


Now, obviously, I’m no expert in Florida lizards. Poking around for lizard ID guides for Florida, I think that this is one of the anoles, but I’m not sure which one.

We gradually got better at catching lizards. This next one looks different enough that I think it might be a different species (although probably still an anole). It has a prominent white stripe running down its back.



Here’s another pair. If I remember right, these are actually two lizards that look to be the same species (but still different from the two previous ones). By this time, I was sometimes able to creep close enough for a picture without spooking them. This was easier in the morning, when the lizards were a bit cooler and less able to dash off like lightning.



Here’s another one from a bit of a distance, which has yet another coloration pattern. So, did we find four different species, or is there just one really common species that has several different color patterns? Their general body shape is similar enough that I expect they are all the same genus, at least.


So, anyway, last time I said that there were surprisingly fewer insects in Florida than I expected. I think that the profusion of lizards is probably the reason why. The lizards are so common that I expect they pretty much vacuum up the insects. The insects probably manage to build up their numbers a bit in the warmer seasons, but when it cools off to “only” the 70s and 80s Fahrenheit, the insect breeding rate may drop off enough that the lizards can pretty much deal with them.

And, one last lizard picture: while their bites are not painful at all, they certainly are game to give a try, like this one biting Rosie (who thought it was hilarious).


[1] Going to Florida in the winter, there are actually a lot of birds we saw there that we also see in Michigan, because they fly north for the summer. Birds like gulls, herons, and all sorts of songbirds. Of course, there were also a lot of things like egrets, pelicans, and ibises that don’t fly north (or, at least, not that far north), so there turned out to be a lot of different things aside from the lizards.

[2] For the most part, one of the things that Michigan does not have is lizards. We’ve got frogs, salamanders, turtles, and snakes in mostly adequate quantities, but the only reasonably-widespread Michigan lizard is the five-lined skink, and I’ve never seen one. They apparently don’t live in the Keweenaw, and I evidently never lived in any of the other parts of Michigan where they are reasonably common, either.

2 Responses
  1. Carole permalink
    May 7, 2017

    Sadly you missed Florida’s native anole, the green anole which can change from green to brown and is loosing territory to the invasive brown anole.


  2. Jenn permalink
    May 8, 2017

    We had a skink in the backyard for a bit, shortly after we moved out to Dexter Township. We never saw another one, but I suspect that has much to do with the family of hawks living in the woods behind the house at the time. The utility easement got brush-hogged and reclaimed as field about the same time, thus moving the forest edge farther away from the house with its basking spots.

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