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18 Sep 2018
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Sanibel Wildlife

We know people love Sanibel for its shells, beaches and birds; but the Island is also a fabulous site for lizard watching. Lizard is a general term used to classify geckos, anoles and skinks.

You do not have to look very hard to find them. Geckos, anoles and skinks are residents on the Island in the thousands, and easy to spot. They are present in many varieties both native and non-native species.

Just look on any bush, wall, or palm tree trunk and you will likely observe one of our green anoles. They regularly bask head down on tree trunks, fence posts, decks or walls. They are friendly little guys, that can be luminescent green and quite beautiful. Green anoles are medium-sized lizards with long tails. They are the only anole native to the US. Sometimes called chameleons because of their color-changing ability, they can be anywhere from emerald green to brown or gray. Males have a pink or red extendable dewlap or throat fan. Males often engage in lateral displays that includes head bobbing and pushups. They are active during the day, often around human habituation. Almost as numerous, but perhaps not quite as colorful are our brown anoles. They were introduced to Florida from Cuba and the Bahamas and are now found throughout the state. They thrive among ornamental plants and are common around buildings. Where brown anoles coexist with the native green anoles, you will usually see the brown anoles on the ground and the green anoles on the upper trunk and in the canopy of trees.

The five-lined Skink is most populous on Sanibel. Skinks, sometimes mistaken for snakes, look more like smooth anoles with long tails and are distinguished by the stripes running down its back. Females are dark, chocolate brown with five yellowish-white stripes down the back. Males may be lighter brown with lighter stripes. In adult skinks, their tails can be brown to bluish. They live in many types of habitats and are often seen basking on fallen trees, walls, or in piles of trash. They live on the ground, scratching through dead leaves and plants in search of insects. When alarmed, they vanish into the dead leaves or sometimes they take to the water.

Our most common gecko is the Indo-Pacific Gecko. Though it resembles the less numerous Mediterranean gecko, the two species can be distinguished by the Indo-Pacific’s smooth skin. In addition, the Indo-Pacific gecko is the only species of gecko with a yellow-orange belly. The Indo-Pacific gecko is replacing the Mediterranean Gecko in many parts of South Florida. They are nocturnal, emerging at night to wait near walkways and wall lights, where they feed on insects attracted to the lights. Unlike other lizards, these geckos vocalize, making squeaking or barking noises as they fight about territory.

So now that you know, will you be able recognize the difference between a gecko, anole and skink?