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Flash of green.

Chances are, that swift, scurrying little reptile you just saw is Florida's ubiquitous green anole.

the first time I saw a green anole, somebody was wearing it. I was eight years old and we'd just moved to Homestead, about halfway between Miami and Key Largo. My new best friend Ronnie Tapley caught one and pretended to have a conversation with it. When he put it up to his ear, it bit him on the earlobe. Ronnie didn't flinch. He just left it hanging there, a living earring. The lizard held on for a minute or two, then dropped off and scurried away. It was the start of a brief fad; pretty soon all of us kids were walking around with lizards dangling from our ears and noses.

Green anoles, despite the predations of birds and housecats (and kids), are the most common lizards in Florida. They're small, about six inches long, and slender, with wedge-shaped snouts. Although they're often, erroneously, called chameleons, they're not members of the family Chamaeleontidae, which includes the true chameleons of Africa and Madagascar. They're more closely related to New World iguanas. Like true chameleons, they're able to change color from green to gray or brown to match their surroundings.

Their long, thin tails break off easily--a defense mechanism to confuse predators. Within a few weeks, the tail grows back, although the second edition is usually a little shorter. Male green anoles have a dewlap, a flap of pink skin under their necks, which they flare to attract females or establish territorial dominance.

Green anoles are found in all the Southeastern states, although in some areas they've been displaced by the smaller and more aggressive Cuban anoles. While neither lizard makes a very good pet, both are sometimes sold in pet stores. Take it from me--they don't make very good jewelry either. They don't stay on.
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Author:Phillips, James
Publication:Sarasota Magazine
Date:Mar 1, 2001
Words:310
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