A FEW WORDS ON THE GREEN ANOLES
The green anole (or the American chameleon) is the only genuine anole species in the South-East of North America: they are to be found from Virginia to Florida, from western Texas to Oklahoma. The bright colours of both male and female specimens as well as the male's red dewlap help us to distinguish them from other lizards. The other most prevalent species is the brown anole.
Green anoles are small lizards: the females are up to 16 cm in length and the males up to 22 cm, two thirds of their length being the tail. The body is covered with miniature scales.
They are cold-blooded animals, i.e. their body temperature is unstable, and they heat up their bodies by exposing them to the sun. When the sun doesn't shine they are simply numbed. The typical anole feature are their toes: the last but one knuckles on the toes of their fore and hind legs are extended into scaled flaps fitted with small hooks making these animals good climbers. We often find them on trees. They can also walk on extremely smooth surfaces.
In the daytime their vision is very good, they have acute colour vision and can rely on it while at night they don't see well. They perceive light with the eye on top of their head which looks like a colourless oval scale.
Green anoles are either carnivores or insectivores. They eat small insects (crickets, grasshoppers, vinegar flies etc.). They are diurnal animals for they don't see well at night and go numb because of lower temperatures in the environment.
Photos No. 1, 2, 3: Food for the green anoles
In the anoles' natural habitat days are shorter in winter and the temperatures are lower by as much as 10oC. The animals adapt themselves to the environment by reducing their activity and eating less.
After the period of winter inactivity the mating and egg-laying season begins, lasting from late spring till the end of summer. The male tries to charm the female by head-bobbing and fanning the dewlap extending from its neck/throat area. The dewlap is brightly coloured. The more coloration in the dewlap, the more attractive the male is to the female. The male uses his dewlap to stack his territory in show his power. Females have dewlaps as well, but they are much smaller and less coloured than in males. The female responds to the male's courtship by head-bobbing or running away. The male must then catch the female. When he catches her, he grabs her by the skin of her neck and doesn't let her go. The female is therefore forced to calm down and the male wraps his body around hers, tucks his tail under the female's and enters his hemipenis into the female's cloaca. The female stores the semen inside her body so that she is able to lay eggs throughout the season which lasts 4 to 5 months. She finds a suitable warm soft ground into which she deposits her eggs. She subsequently buries them and never returns to check on them. The female lays 10 to 12 eggs at a time, but they are not necessarily all impregnated.
Green anoles generally live up to two years.
BREEDING GREEN ANOLES IN A TERRARIUM
In order to help green anoles live and breed in a terrarium one has to provide them with the kind of environment that most resembles their natural habitat. The temperature and humidity must be appropriate, the floor must be covered with the right substratum in which they can bury their eggs (a mixture of pesticide-free soft soil, bark litter, moss etc.), it must contain hiding places, leafs and branches for climbing.
Photo No. 4: A buried egg
It is very important to provide "winter environment" inside the terrarium in order to reduce their activity and make them numb. The lights must be on for shorter periods than usual (8 to 10 hours a day instead of 12 to 14 hours). The temperature must be 5oC lower and their food scarcer. The period of winter inactivity/numbness ought to last 2 to 3 weeks. Such hibernation is then suspended for 2 to 3 weeks and then the winter treatment causing numbness resumes. The cycle can be repeated two to three times. After the period of winter hibernation the anoles' artificial day can be gradually prolonged by intensifying their exposure to light and feeding them more often during the first week before resuming the normal regimen. The periods of winter numbness are extremely important for the successful breeding of green anoles. Following their hibernation, the mating season begins and then the females lay eggs from late spring until the end of summer. Successful courtship is followed by mating, which usually lasts five minutes but can be prolonged to an hour and repeated a number of times in the ensuing days.
Photo No. 5: Mating
It is not difficult to provide adult anoles with suitable life environment. More work and attention is necessary during the upkeep and care for their eggs and later for their young.
As soon as we notice that the females' bellies are getting bulkier we must presume that they have been impregnated and their embryos are developing. Their nutrition must contain sufficient quantities of minerals and vitamins necessary for the health of the females, a correct growth of the embryos and the formation of eggshells. It is advisable to use concentrated food supplements containing budding yeasts, cereals, vegetable albumin extracts and food containing eggs.
Photo No. 6: Assorted food supplements
During the mating season a female green anole lays approximately 10 to 12 eggs, yet not all of them are necessarily fertilized. Those that are not are characterized by not having a shell or by being transparent. It takes two weeks for an egg to hatch; a female seldom hatches two eggs simultaneously. The size of the eggs varies from 0.5 to 1 cm in diameter. The female finds a warm, moist spot in the soft soil, moss or similar ground, digs a hole in it and buries the egg. She never returns to the spot where the eggs were hatched to check on them and take care of them. On the average only half the eggs are hatched.
We are well advised not to leave the eggs inside the terrarium for they may be eaten by adult anoles. In adverse conditions with too much moisture they sometimes go musty; if there is not enough moisture they tend to dry up. We must also take great care when we carry the eggs from the terrarium into the incubator. The eggs must be positioned exactly the way they were in the terrarium, for embryos are easily destroyed. After 40 to 50 days young green anoles are hatched, each from 5 to 6.5 cm in length.
Photos No. 7, 8: Green anole hatchlings
>Green anoles reach their adult size in one year while their fertility varies with each individual animal. Those living at large breed when they are a year old. Breeding in captivity too soon is not advisable, for hatching exhausts the female. Producing an embryo takes a lot of energy and weakens the female's body. Males live longer, for less energy is needed in producing semen.
Determining sex in lizards is phenotypic, i.e. depending on the temperature of the environment where the incubated eggs are stored. At temperatures ranging from 26 to 28oC mostly females will hatch, at temperatures from 29 to 30oC half will be females and half males, while at temperatures above 30oC all hatched anoles will be males.
Caring for young green anoles takes a lot of work, for they eat smaller pieces of food, require a special terrarium and a lot of attention. They also have to be given large quantities of vitamin supplements with their food.
Even though the expected life span of green anoles at large is two years, with proper care they can live as long as seven years in captivity.