Types of Lizards in Florida. Lizards play an important role in Florida’s unique ecosystem, which is home to a diverse range of reptiles. A remarkable population of lizards is present in Florida, whether they are indigenous species or non-native invaders.
The objective of this article is to provide a brief overview of the various types of lizards that can be found in Florida.
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Importance of Lizards in Florida’s Ecosystem
Florida’s ecosystem is significantly impacted by lizards. Through their feeding activities, they reduce the population of insects such as mosquitoes, flies, and termites. The natural control of pests is crucial for preserving the balance of flora and fauna on the local landscape.
Aside from being prey to larger animals, such as birds and snakes, lizards also contribute to the ecosystem as a whole.
Native Lizard Species in Florida
- Green Anole: Green anoles, also known as Carolina anoles, are small lizards native to Florida. Green, brown, and even black shades can be seen on its surface, as it can change color. Trees and shrubs are common habitats for green anoles, whose long, sticky tongues are used to catch insects.
- Eastern Fence Lizard: Known for its tendency to perch on fences and other elevated structures, the eastern fence lizard is a medium-sized lizard. This species is characterized by rough, spiky scales and is mostly found in pine forests and dunes. The fence lizard is an insectivorous species that play a vital role in maintaining an ecologically balanced ecosystem.
- Six-Lined Racerunner: A six-lined racerunner is a fast-moving lizard that is known for its incredible speed. This lizard is an expert at camouflaging thanks to its six distinct stripes which run along its body. This species is commonly found in open grasslands, dunes, and coastal areas, feeding on insects and small invertebrates.
- Brown Anole: Florida is home to several species of lizards, including the brown anole. The species originated in Cuba and the Bahamas and has successfully established populations in New York. It is possible to find these lizards in a variety of habitats, including urban areas, as they are adaptable. While engaged in courtship rituals, male brown anoles display a colorful throat fan called a dewlap.
- Mediterranean Gecko: Small, nocturnal Mediterranean geckos possess soft and velvety skin. Florida has become a major center for the spread of this disease that originated in Europe. Geckos such as these are well-adapted to urban environments. They are often found living in buildings and houses. A bird-like chirping can be heard at night when their calls resemble those of a bird.
Non-Native Lizard Species in Florida
There are several native lizard species found in Florida, however, non-native species have also established themselves in the state.
- Brown Basilisk: A native of Central America, the brown basilisk, also known as the Jesus lizard, is capable of running on water. The head and back of this bird are adorned with distinctive crests. Insects, small vertebrates, and plants are the main sources of food for brown basilisks in habitats near water bodies.
- Knight Anole: Knight anoles are among the largest anole species in Florida. They originate from Cuba. This species of lizard is distinguished by its vibrant green body and large, expandable throat fan. It is common to find them in trees and shrubs, where they hunt for insects and small animals.
- Nile Monitor: Florida has become a home to an invasive species, the Nile monitor, originally from Africa. An aggressive and large lizard that can grow to a length of seven feet, this species is large and aggressive. The Nile monitor inhabits wetlands and is capable of adapting to a variety of environmental conditions. The species is an opportunistic predator, which consumes anything from small mammals to eggs and even dead carcasses.
- Tokay Gecko: There are established populations of the tokay gecko in Florida, which originates from Southeast Asia. This species is distinguished by its vibrant blue-gray coloration, as well as its loud vocalizations. Geckos of the Tokay genus are arboreal and find shelter in trees and buildings. Insects, small vertebrates, and sometimes fruit are the main sources of food for them.
Endangered Lizard Species in Florida
Several lizard species are facing significant threats in Florida, and some of these species are listed as endangered. Protecting these species and their habitats requires conservation efforts.
- Florida Sand Skink: Florida sand skinks are small, elusive lizards that inhabit sandy habitats such as scrubs and dunes. Due to urban development and land use changes, habitat loss and fragmentation threaten the species.
- Key Largo Woodrat: Rather than being a lizard, the Key Largo woodrat is an endangered species of mammal. It plays an important role in the ecosystem, as it shares its habitat with several different species of lizard. Predation by invasive species and loss of suitable habitat are major threats to the survival of the woodrat.
- Schaus’ Swallowtail Butterfly: There is also the Schaus’ swallowtail butterfly, which is not a lizard, but a species found only in Florida that is endangered. As a result of habitat destruction and fragmentation, it has become increasingly dependent on a specific set of plants for survival.
- Eastern Indigo Snake: A threatened species of snake in Florida is the eastern indigo snake, one of the longest snakes native to the United States. In the ecosystem, it plays a crucial role in controlling population levels of rodents by playing a non-venomous role. There are significant threats to the survival of this species due to the loss of suitable habitat and road mortality.
The state of Florida is home to a wide range of native and non-native species of lizards. It is important to note that these reptiles play a significant role in the ecosystem, assisting in pest control and serving as indicators of environmental health.
It is important to note, however, that they face several challenges, including habitat loss, invasive species, climate change, and pollution. Conservation efforts must be undertaken to safeguard these unique and valuable species for the long term.