ASK QUESTIONS ABOUT LIZARDS
June 3, 2012
Q. I have
heard that the southeastern states have high numbers of all reptiles
and amphibians except for lizards. Is this true? I see lizards around
my house in southern Alabama all the time.
Southeast has fewer lizard species than the Southwest. The number of
native species that live in the southern states from Louisiana to Virginia
is only 18. Arizona alone has more than 50. Although lizard species
diversity in the Southeast is low, you could have several varieties
that thrive around your house, and some may be common. These include
anoles (also called chameleons) that change from green to brown, blue-tailed
skinks, as well as fence lizards. The book "Lizards and Crocodilians
of the Southeast," published by the University of Georgia Press
(www.ugapress.org) has numerous
color photographs of all southeastern lizards, including exotic ones
in Florida, and is the most authoritative nature guide on the topic.
Q. I was
away from my home near Savannah, Ga., for several months. When I left,
green anoles were everywhere. I returned last month and there are no
lizards. Is this unusual?
would certainly be common in the region where you live, but fluctuations
in local population sizes of lizards and many other animal species is
not unusual. Unnatural and intrusive activities such as the use of pesticides
are one possibility. But the most likely explanation is natural causes
such as unseasonable weather, the arrival of a new predator on the scene,
or just chance events that can result in a once-abundant species becoming
rarely seen. Some animals may be prevalent in some years and not others.
In fact, such cycles are the norm for most wildlife species in most
areas, with animal population sizes changing from year to year, sometimes
with no obvious explanation. People with bird feeders often note that
a type of bird that was common one year may be rarely seen the next
year or vice versa. Ask people with hummingbird feeders. My bet is that
your lizards will come back although it might not be this year.
common lizards that live on vegetation in our area of southern Georgia
can change from brown to green in body color and sometimes have a bright
red throat. These are usually the bigger ones that are bright green.
When we went to Miami recently we saw a lizard that looks the same but
stays permanently brown and has a throat that is more orange. Are these
the same kind of lizard?
belong to a group of lizards called anoles that are numerous and widespread
in the southeastern United States and the West Indies. The so-called
green anole is our native U.S. species. The other one--the Cuban brown
anole--is arguably the most successful introduced lizard in America.
They were first noted in the Florida Keys and Miami area more than a
century ago. They now occur in every county in Florida and have been
reported in Georgia, Alabama, and other coastal southeastern states.
use a throat fan, or dewlap, to challenge other males, and sometimes
even people. The dewlap, typically bright red in our native anole, is
yellow, orange, or a combination of colors in some of the many species
of introduced anoles now found in southern Florida. The display of the
dewlap is often accompanied by the male lizard doing push-ups and bobbing
its head. Next time you see an anole display its throat fan, watch for
Q. A friend
of mine said an animal I call a glass snake is actually a lizard. Is
They are sometimes called glass lizards or legless lizards because,
like a snake, they have no limbs, front or back. Four species are found
in North America, and one or more is found in every southern state.
Like other lizards, their long tails will break off if grabbed by a
predator or a person. Also, glass lizards have eyelids and ear openings
whereas snakes do not.
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