After living much of my life in the anole-saturated forests and neighborhoods of central Florida, somewhere beneath the Spanish Moss, I lived and worked in Anchorage, Alaska for four years. Other than the occasional wood frog, Rana sylvatica, my interactions with reptiles and amphibians were, of course, somewhat diminished… (Plenty of moose, though. Oh yes, plenty of moose. And dogs. Lots and lots of dogs.)
This past summer I returned to the American southeast with my family — specifically to Valdosta, Georgia. Since returning, I’ve been struck by the density of Carolina green anoles and the lack of Cuban brown anoles, Anolis sagrei. In central Florida A. sagrei is ubiquitous these days. It’s hard to find a yard where they don’t dominate the trunk-ground area. In Valdosta, however, I have yet to positively identify a single Anolis sagrei (I’ve been told by locals they are here, but in isolated pockets). My little corner of south Georgia seems to be A. carolinensis territory in most every way, every day.
Indeed, I am seeing a strong and robust number of Carolina greens hanging out low to the ground, not just in the trunks and trunk-crowns. They’re on the bushes, they’re on the screens, they’re on the grass, and they’re even on the sidewalks and driveways. Low-riders, I call them — the Carolina greens riding the ground-level, juveniles and adults.
In a way, moving to Valdosta, Georgia feels a bit like time travel. It feels like central Florida circa the mid-1980s, minus the NASCAR fetish, back when I was a hairy little rugrat chasing green anoles through my Volusia county backyard while jamming Devo on my twelve-pound Sony cassette walkman. I’d nearly forgotten what Carolina greens are like without the presence of Cuban brown anoles and scattered Star Wars action figures in the grass… but what’s been most startling is the number of green anoles I’ve seen low-riding — basking on pavement, hanging out on concrete, scampering around fallen pine needles and leaves. Given their trunk-crown ecomorphology and the dominance of Cuban brown anoles in Florida, I wasn’t prepared to see so many Carolina greens surfing the ground. Is it a seasonal climate (heat) pattern? Not sure. Time will tell and I’ll keep watching.
It’s unlikely I’ll try to get these green anoles to bite my earlobes and wear them as jewelry like I did circa 1982 (the shame!), but I am enjoying this relative sense of time-travel. I also wonder when A. sagrei will make it up here in force — and push these greens back up into the trunk-crown, if ever.