A Macabre Start to My Time in Florida

I’m in Gainesville for what I’m anticipating will be my last Ph.D. field season. I’m here to study the movement patterns of brown anoles (Anolis sagrei), trying to understand how their behaviour departs from territoriality to allow for female multiple mating. One of my goals is to observe lizards over a longer period of time than most previous work on anole territorial behaviour, which is why I’m here so early.

But Florida saw an unusual cold spell last week, and it’s still a bit too cold for widespread lizard activity. This morning I saw some evidence that the lizards venturing out in this weather may not be making the wisest of decisions.


I’m not quite certain how this brown anole died, but he did have just a single wound in his abdomen, from which his innards seemed to be spilling out. Maybe pecked by a bird or clawed by a cat (but then why didn’t he get eaten?)? Maybe accidentally squished by a person? Whatever the cause of his demise, this lizard probably couldn’t escape from it quickly enough. I’m not sure if this is a good or a bad omen for the rest of the season, but it’s an interesting one.

It’s worth noting that this is the first time I’ve seen a dead brown anole. Last summer in Gainesville, however, my field assistants and I saw several dead green anoles (Anolis carolinensis), none of whose causes of death were easily discernable. Here are a couple:


11 thoughts on “A Macabre Start to My Time in Florida

  1. Always suspect the cat. When I had cats, they delighted in killing green anoles (the only anoles species we had at the time), but being well fed often did not eat them. when the cats finally died of old age, the green anole population exploded in mu New Orleans suburban back yard. Now, however the browns, unknown there until the past few years, seem to dominate.

    Good luck with your work.

    1. Wow, it’s amazing that the green anole population boomed after the cats’ reign! Yesterday’s dead brown anole was right outside my apartment in a condo complex, and I’m sure many of the neighbours have cats. I wonder if cats are as fond of hunting brown anoles as they are of hunting green anoles…

      1. The browns seem faster to me – which probably make them more fun for a cat. In addition to the cats dying, we went a couple of winters without a freeze, which no doubt contributed to the population bloom. We will see how the browns & greens do this spring. May start my own blog to track the population 🙂

    1. I forgot about that post! Thanks for reminding me 🙂 What’s weird though is that the dead green anoles shown above were found in the height of the summer. Thom Sanger had a hypothesis for why they might be dying, but I can’t remember what it is. Will ask him and report back here!

  2. You can come to my backyard! I’m in Central Florida and I have an entire colony of green Anoles on my back porch. Growing up I watched my mother try to protect every single one that she saw and always told us kids to never hurt them. There is something different about these guys. I have several that I’ve moved to safer places by hand, and they almost always seem to look up and say ‘thank you’ once I’ve put them down. Either that or they are just amazed that I didn’t eat them!

  3. Hello! Came across your post because I just found my green anole dead in her tank this afternoon. 😦 I had caught her “wild” when she appeared on a chair in my office, back when I worked at a law firm literally next to the swamp (Bluebonnet in Baton Rouge, LA) in 2015. My office window would look out into the parking lot, where I would often see feral cats with lizards in their mouths. I brought her back with me to the Bay Area 4 years ago… I am still a bit shocked to have found her body so skeletal today, when she was soft and green a few days ago, but your pictures make me think it’s fairly normal. I hope you had a successful research period with A. sagrei.

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