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Anoles of the Rainbow — and a Newly Discovered Color Variant!

There are myriad lizards in our Florida wilds — chirping geckos, monitors, prehistoric basilisks, stealthy iguanas, invasive curlytails, skinks, lined racerunners, and colorful anoles, just to name a few. But the anoles  stand out in  ever-lovely radiance. I’ve had the luck to spot not only green, but rare yellow-phased anoles — and now, a newly discovered (and as yet, unwritten) mutation — orange!

While I haven’t seen anything scientific written on this new color variant to date, a few others have noted their existence in South Florida in the last few months. At first, it was considered an oddity — or perhaps a side-effect of the high concentration of iron in the ground water. However, I captured this guy in the wilds of the northern section of the Everglades, not in an urban neighborhood with sprinkler systems. FASCINATING! The red/orange coloration of these anoles is curious and striking, and it will be interesting to read further input of their new color-phased mutation in the upcoming months.

An Orange Anole knows he’s special in the Grassy Waters Preserve

Orange Anole shows off his equally orange dewlap in the Grassy Waters Preserve

During a walk through Fern Forest, a magnificent 247-acre conservation site and wildlife refuge characterized as “the last remaining stronghold of ferns in southeastern Florida,” we spied a rare yellow anole (aka yellow-phased green anole). Unfortunately, anoles with this unique color mutation don’t usually live long in the wild, as the green coloring offers them valuable camouflage for hunting prey and hiding from predators. Colonies of these rare color-phased anoles have been reported — and I like to think this guy was part of one….

A Yellow-phased Green Anole in Fern Forest

Far into our hike on the Hog Hammock Trail in the Grassy Waters Preserve — on a particularly hot and humid, but fortunately cloudy day — I spied a flash of green at the water’s edge. Luckily it was a *small* green flash. A green anole kindly took the time to pose for me and my camera.

A Green Anole poses along the Hog Hammock Trails in Grassy Waters

80 Comments Post a comment
  1. Pam #

    This is so COOL! Never seen anything like that. Really interesting!

    August 7, 2012
    • I was SO excited! I knew about the rare yellows — and I was thrilled to nab one of them — but ORANGE! I can’t wait to read what the academics have to say about this mutation…!

      August 7, 2012
  2. A Nature Mom #

    Beautiful! Wonder what the orange mutations are doing for them.

    August 7, 2012
    • Isn’t he lovely, absolutely brilliant? I can’t wait to read what the academics have to say about this mutation… I know the yellow coloration has a tough time in the wild, since it stands out more — no camouflage. But the orange seems to blend a bit better with the surroundings…

      August 7, 2012
      • Makes sense. If it’s helping it to blend in better (at least better than yellow), then it’s a useful adaptation. Cool!

        August 7, 2012
  3. Love these little guys and the orange on is stunning, great photos

    August 7, 2012
    • Thanks so much! I was THRILLED to capture him (although my guy actually found him, heh!)… I can’t wait to read what the pros have to say about this orange mutation…

      August 7, 2012
      • Maybe they will name it after you?

        August 7, 2012
      • Hahah! Funny. I’ve only seen one other person — definitely knowledgeable in the ways of reptiles (which I am not) — also discuss their presence within the last 6 months.

        August 8, 2012
  4. Oooh! Lovely captures!! I only have ever seen the lighter of green ones about my home. ‘Twould be lovely to see the other colors….

    August 7, 2012
    • Thanks so much! Isn’t he just magnificent? The yellow anoles are rare enough, but ORANGE…? I can’t wait to hear what the academics have to say about this (new?) color mutation, though!

      August 7, 2012
  5. How wonderful to have spotted this new colour variant! What an exciting moment that must have been. Stunning photos.

    August 7, 2012
    • Thanks so much! My guy spied this little critter… I was focused on a *closed* trail, heh! But I knew immediately something was amiss — and I can’t wait to hear what the academics have to say about this (new?) color variant/mutation! ♥

      August 7, 2012
  6. I do think these are wonderful shots!! Having chased a few myself I know that getting a nice sharp shot is not always very easy. The lighting is great here too!! Having read so much about birds and their color morphs…like the Great White Heron once thought a different species than the Great Blue Heron..and now being considered a color variant…this has always been a fascinating subject. The darker green lizard on the bottom seems to have hints of orange colorations along the spine and on its head…so the color is probably in the genes. Maybe it is some sort of recessive/dominant thing. Interesting to follow. Thanks for the treat.

    August 7, 2012
    • Thanks so much!! These guys ARE tough to capture, sometimes… I was SO lucky that Dave spotted him — I was more focused on the “closed trail” (“why is it closed? huh? huh?”).

      The yellow anoles are rare enough, but ORANGE…? I can’t wait to hear what the academics have to say about this (new?) color mutation! I’m thinking it’s a variation of the brown anoles. But I’ll leave that to the experts. 🙂 FASCINATING stuff, these color morphs! I always want to know *why* they occur — the *when* seems to be fairly recent.

      August 7, 2012
  7. Wonderful post.
    Yellow phased… Lucky or not lucky? I’m confused…

    August 7, 2012
    • Heh, thanks so much!! Well, *I* was lucky to spot a yellow-phased anole… Since they’re on the rare side. But I don’t know how lucky *they* are, in the wild! They can’t camouflage easily, making them easy bait, and likewise making hunting difficult.

      August 7, 2012
  8. Val #

    These are very pretty lizards. Curiously I commented on a post about Anoles just a few days ago in another blog. I hadn’t been aware of them before. 🙂 You’ve captured them so well. And I love that orange one – just gorgeous!

    August 7, 2012
    • Thanks so much! That’s great — perhaps anoles are your new animal totem, heh!

      They’re quite beautiful and (sometimes) bright little critters. I was THRILLED to capture this guy… And I can’t wait to read what the academics have to say about this *new* orange mutation…! Just fascinating.

      August 8, 2012
  9. These lizards are gorgeous 🙂

    August 7, 2012
    • Thanks so much! I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, exactly… And then, totally thrilled to capture him. I can’t wait to read what the pros have to say about this orange mutation…

      August 8, 2012
  10. love it 🙂

    August 7, 2012
    • He’s so bright and unique… I love this little guy!!

      August 8, 2012
      • i have seen the green guy, but never seen the red one. he posed well too 🙂 your findings always amaze me.

        August 8, 2012
      • Didn’t he pose just perfectly? I can’t take the credit for finding him… I was more obsessed about a closed section of the trail, hahah! My guy spotted him, and I was immediately stunned — orange? Whaa? As often as we escape to Nature, I’m surprised we don’t find more, truth be told… 🙂

        August 8, 2012
  11. Here you go again, pulling out awesome photos of small reptiles. Amazing! BTW, heard a pig frog today. Didn’t see it though. ;-(

    August 7, 2012
    • Thanks so much! I was THRILLED to capture him (although I can’t take the credit for spotting him — I was more focused on a closed section of the trail, heh!)… I can’t wait to read what the pros have to say about this orange mutation…

      Those little pig frogs are so hard to spot! Let me just tell you how I shot that little guy — leaning WAY over into the water, holding precariously onto a cypress — and peering right and left for gators. For a frog… 🙂

      August 8, 2012
  12. I love lizards anyway, but I think these could easily go to the top of my list!

    August 8, 2012
    • I was so thrilled to nab him! I love anoles, too (although geckos are probably my favorite)… I was especially excited to spy the yellow-phased guy; he was so bright and seemingly out-of-place in the forest.

      August 8, 2012
  13. That orange anole is absolutely gorgeous! And what a great photo!!!

    EC
    http://www.macrocritters.wordpress.com

    August 8, 2012
    • Thanks so much! Isn’t he just magnificent? The yellow anoles are rare enough, but orange…? I can’t wait to hear what the academics have to say about this (new?) color mutation in our area!

      August 8, 2012
  14. Joseph #

    Fascinating . The orange coloration almost reminds me of the deepest orange on the heads of our invasive and long time established brown Cubans I rarely see true fl green anoles vs the giant green cubans siting in tree’s these days. Splendid photos and look forward to reading up on this amazing coloration you were so lucky to see.

    August 8, 2012
    • Thanks so much!

      At first I also thought it was a brown Cuban, but then his coloring was so BRIGHT… Isn’t he just magnificent? I was so excited. The yellow anoles are rare enough, but ORANGE…? I can’t wait to hear what the academics have to say about this (new?) mutation, too!

      August 8, 2012
      • Joseph #

        Yes it is very striking color though I am almost certin it is a brown Cuban variation /mutation not green based on the photos. The green and yellow are so elegant in body and head .not to take anything away it certainly is an orange anole like none I ever seen and a lucky find. Our Green/yellows are our only native anoles

        August 8, 2012
      • We definitely have lots (unfortunately) of Cuban Brown Anoles in our area — highly invasive little critters. This guy definitely wasn’t one of them — or at least, a *pure* Brown Cuban. He could be a hybrid, but his coloring was *bright* orange, and he wasn’t sporting the same markings of the Cuban Browns… A bit more elegant, too. This photo was taken in a dark swamp, with no touch-up. There have been a few others who have noted their existence in our area — and they all look the same. It will be interesting to hear what the pros have to say of the color morph. 🙂 I was just thrilled to have seen the little guy!

        August 8, 2012
  15. sandy #

    They are so pretty. That is one thing about living in the north, no lizards here. I used to see lots in Oklahoma.

    August 8, 2012
    • Definitely… They don’t like the cold, heh!! Even down here, many don’t make it past the northern part of South Florida — too “cold” for ’em! I was thrilled to spy this totally unique and striking guy, though.

      August 8, 2012
  16. Here’s a link that shows a Cuban Brown Anole. The dewlap looks like the one you found.
    Whether Cuban or American or a hybrid, it is a neat little lizard.
    http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2011/08/08/finding-floridas-exotic-invaders/

    August 8, 2012
    • Yeh, we have lots (unfortunately) of Cuban Brown Anoles in our area — highly invasive little critters.

      This guy definitely wasn’t one of them — or at least, a *pure* Brown Cuban. He could be a hybrid, but his coloring was *bright* orange, and he wasn’t sporting the same markings of the Cuban Browns… A bit more elegant, too. This photo was taken in a dark swamp, with no touch-up. There have been a few others who have noted their existence in our area — and they all look the same. It will be interesting to hear what the pros have to say of the color morph — or perhaps interbreeding. 🙂

      August 8, 2012
      • Yes, I was just seeing the similarity in the dewlap. The Orange is unique and amazing and beautiful. As usual, your posting is terrific.

        August 8, 2012
  17. What a beautiful collection of photos! The anoles are quite amazing – what striking colours they all have.

    August 8, 2012
    • Thanks so very much! I can’t wait to hear what the academics have to say about the newly-discovered orange morph…. Although I’m still partial to the rare yellow guys. 🙂

      August 9, 2012
  18. Love the colors… we only have tree lizards… very dull. Seems they need it to survive.

    August 9, 2012
    • I was excited to nab this little guy — I knew about the rare yellows (love them) — but ORANGE! I can’t wait to read what the academics have to say about this morph / mix… You’re right though; while these colors are lovely, they do fail to camouflage well (especially the yellow).

      August 10, 2012
  19. Don’t know how you do it. So consistent and so beautiful.

    August 10, 2012
    • You’re so kind! I’m lucky to have a set of (patient) eagle-eyes with me on hikes… Otherwise, I would haven’t even spotted this little guy in the dark swamp! (I was more obsessed with a closed section of the trail.)

      I can’t wait to read what the academics have to say about this new color morph / mix… 🙂

      August 10, 2012
  20. Great post about the color variants, especially the orange anole who apparently hasn’t been recognized by the scientific community yet. Loved all the photos, but that one with the orange anole doing the throat display was really special.

    I know that being the “wrong” color is supposed to lessen an animals survival chances, but then I stop to think about all of the amazingly colored male birds that seem to manage somehow.

    August 10, 2012
    • Thanks so very much! I was thrilled to spot him — well, I can’t take the credit for that… My guy found him. I was more obsessed with a closed section of the trail along the swamp!

      I can’t wait to hear what the academics have to say about this new morph — or interbreeding. And you have a really great point! Although their lack of camouflage may be a detriment to their survival, they’ve survived….

      August 12, 2012
  21. narhvalur #

    Very jealous…we hardly have no Lizards at all in Sweden! Fab post….

    August 12, 2012
    • Thanks so much!! Oh for sure… Your area’s WAY too cold for lizards, hahah!!!

      August 12, 2012
  22. That lizard looks like a chili pepper! I’m going back to Louisiana soon….I’m going to go orange lizard hunting to see what I can see! ❤

    August 13, 2012
    • Hahah! He does, doesn’t he? I barely even saw him in the swamp — even though he’s a morph, his camouflage works…!

      August 13, 2012
  23. Absolutely amazing…

    August 14, 2012
    • I was thrilled to capture this little guy… And I can’t wait to hear what the academics have to say about the new morph / interbreeding (or whatever’s happening here!)…

      August 14, 2012
  24. I’ve nominated you for The One Lovely Blog Award. See award @ http://davidkanigan.com/2012/08/15/610am-and-inspired/. I love your work. Congratulations. Dave

    August 15, 2012
    • How very kind — thanks so much!! Truly a compliment coming from someone such as you, with your exposure (and taste) to incredible work….

      August 15, 2012
  25. Nice photos of these lizards, Fey Girl. And they have interesting colours.

    August 15, 2012
    • Thanks so much! Their color morphs / variants are truly spectacular — I’m thrilled we caught them amidst the all the swamp and trees!

      August 15, 2012
  26. Reblogged this on macrocritters and commented:
    Hi everyone,
    I’m taking this opportunity to introduce a wonderful blog entitled Serenity Spell which offers stories and photographs about the wildlife in the depths of South Florida. This post about anole lizards is my favourite so far—but every post on the site is well worth reading. I highly encourage everyone to check it out. I have added a link to the site under the heading Other Great Nature Blogs.
    Cheers,
    EC
    PS–When I created Macrocritters I didn’t intend to focus entirely on invertebrates, yet this is the first post that features photos of vertebrates. Funny how that worked out…

    August 15, 2012
  27. hannekekoop #

    They look so lovely.

    August 16, 2012
    • It was truly wonderful to see this bright little guy in the middle of the faraway swamp… All of them are so amazing in their colors though!

      August 16, 2012
  28. So what’s your theory re: the color mutation? Very fascinating, and the picture you got was SO clear! Have you sent it to any naturalist/academic experts?

    I’ll be keeping an eye out for information when I search the internet…sometimes things pop up when you least expect it!

    August 18, 2012
    • Ah, that would be so wonderful, if you found anything in your research! I was going to look for someone to send this to…. Perhaps starting with our local park services; they may have contacts.

      I’m guessing the Cuban brown anoles may have started breeding with the native populations — you can see similarities of both species of anoles in their appearance. But the coloring? Brown + yellow = orangish…. Maybe? Perhaps a Cuban brown anole hooked up with a rare yellow anole? Hah!

      August 20, 2012
  29. Wow wow and more wow! Such gorgeous shots.

    August 20, 2012
    • Thanks so much! I was just thrilled he hung around a bit for me to nab him in the darkness of the swamp… 🙂

      August 20, 2012
  30. Reblogged this on Animal Lovers' Blog.

    September 19, 2012
  31. Jerry Pennington #

    I definatly saw one of these near boynton beach mainland side. Very neat.

    September 8, 2013
    • Ah, really? Those are my stomping grounds, hah! This guy was up in some natural areas in West Palm….

      September 26, 2013
  32. You take such exquisite and loving shots of the creatures in the Glades.

    January 6, 2014
    • You’re so incredibly kind… THANK you! They make it very easy to do so. 🙂

      January 28, 2014
      • It’s lovely to receive that cooperation from the natural world. Those creatures like you.

        January 29, 2014
      • What a wonderfully sweet comment!! I love that. 🙂 Thank you!! Ditto, ditto, ditto.

        January 31, 2014
      • Thank you.

        February 1, 2014
  33. I revisited this post and was rewarded by your beautiful photographs of our reptile friends.

    February 16, 2015
    • Aw, thanks so much! You know, a scientist recently used my orange anole image on his site – a Harvard biologist – so I just got to view these lovelies again, too!

      I hope you’ve been well in the always gorgeous PNW!

      February 22, 2015
      • Wow, that’s a compliment from the academic world.

        It is gorgeous in the PNW, but from the photos you have shared, Florida looks gorgeous too. I wouldn’t mind encountering colorful lizards and an array of exotic birds. Oops, better not say that too loud or I might upset the Pacific NW Crow.

        March 2, 2015
  34. Lydia Barnes #

    There’s a red/orange anole on our patio right now. Must have come in when “Matthew” blew out a couple of screens last Friday.

    October 13, 2016
    • Wonderful! I’m sorry you had some storm damage… But at least this sweet little guy found a place of refuge on your patio! 🙂

      October 13, 2016

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