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Herpetofaunal Surveys at Fort Matanzas National Monument

Lizards

Green Anole – Anolis carolinensis

lizards

lizards

In Fort Matanzas National Monument, the arboreal green anole can be seen in the live oak hammock on the fronds of saw palmettos and other shrubs and on the trunks and in the canopy of the trees. It can change from an emerald green to a medium or dark brown, a feat that leads many people to refer to it wrongly as the 'American chameleon'. Males expand a bright pink throatfan and bob their head to drive off competitors and to attract females. When threatened, they escape by fleeing up and into the vegetation. Every two weeks from spring to fall, females come down from the trees to lay one egg in the moist leaf litter. The egg hatches 5-7 weeks later. Green anoles live about one year. They catch their prey, flies, beetles, spiders, and other small invertebrates by slowly sneaking up on them.

Brown Anole – Anolis sagrei

lizards

The brown anole is an exotic species that was accidentally introduced into Florida on shipments from the West Indies in the early 1900's. Their color varies from yellowish tan to brown. Females and juveniles have a series of light-colored diamonds down the middle of the back. Males use a bright red throatfan to threaten other males and to court females. Brown anoles are a terrestrial species often seen on the walls of the Fort Matanzas National Monument buildings and on rocks and logs. When threatened they flee down to the ground to hide. They are particularly abundant on the rocky riprap lining the approach ramp to the Highway A1A bridge over the Matanzas River inlet. They catch their food by dashing rapidly forward and grabbing ants, roaches, spiders, beetles, and other small prey in their jaws.

Six-lined Racerunner – Cnemidophorus sexlineatus

lizards

Six-lined racerunners are the reptiles most frequently seen on bare sand of the sun drenched dunes and dunes meadows. Their name is derived from their six light-colored body stripes and their habit of minimizing contact with hot sand by racing from one shady patch to another under dune bushes. They appear almost fidgety as they dash here and there among the shrubs and vines in their endless search for insects, spiders, crustaceans, and other small prey.

Southeastern Five-lined Skink – Eumeces inexpectatus

lizards

Young southeastern five-lined skinks in Fort Matanzas National Monument can be identified by their fluorescent blue tails. The tail color fades as the lizard grows older. The 5 narrow light stripes on the body also fade until old adults are uniform brown. These shiny lizards are primarily terrestrial, but they readily climb trees in the live oak hammock in search of insects. They also are frequently seen on the Nature Trail boardwalk that runs through the hammock south of the Visitor Center parking area.

Indo-Pacific Gecko – Hemidactylus garnotii

lizards

lizards

The Indo-Pacific gecko is native to southern Asia and was first discovered in the Miami area in the 1960's. It is pale pink to gray and has a flattened tail. Its skin is smooth. It has no eyelids; its eyes are covered with a transparent scale. In Fort Matanzas National Monument and elsewhere in Florida, this lizard is found primarily on buildings. It is nocturnal, hiding during the day behind shutters, under shingles, and in cracks and crevices. It emerges at night to catch insects around lighted windows and outdoor lights. It is an all-female species. No males are known. Mature females lay fertile eggs that hatch into more females.

Mediterranean Gecko – Hemidactylus turcicus

lizards

As indicated by its name, this gecko is native to the Mediterranean area. It was introduced into Florida, Louisiana, Texas and many parts of the West Indies and the American tropics. It is a creamy white to gray and has a crossbanded tail with rows of large tubercles. It has no eyelids; its eyes are covered with a transparent scale. Throughout Florida it is most frequently found on buildings. It avoids cold winter temperatures by hiding in warm cracks and crevices. It is active at night foraging for insects. Males defend their territories by chirping and chasing other males. During the summer, females are easily identified by the white eggs that show through the skin of the abdomen. Eggs are laid in logs and leaf-litter.

Eastern Glass Lizard – Ophisaurus ventralis

lizards

Although it resembles a snake, the eastern glass lizard is a legless lizard. Unlike snakes, it has eyelids and ear openings on the side of the head. They reach lengths of 18 to 40 inches (46 - 101 cm) with the posterior two-thirds of its length being tail. If attacked, the tail breaks off and continues to wiggle, distracting the predator while the rest of the lizard escapes. The ease with which the tail breaks is the basis of its common name. The tail is regenerated in a few weeks. In Fort Matanzas National Monument, it can be found during the day foraging for insects and other small invertebrates in the grass of the dunes meadows and saltmarshes.

Ground Skink – Scincella lateralis

lizards

Though it is seldom seen by the public, this little brown-backed skink is one of the most abundant reptiles in Fort Matanzas National Monument. It is found throughout the live oak hammock scurrying through the leaf litter hunting for tiny invertebrates to eat. Most adults are 3-4 inches (7.6-10 cm) long. It lays its eggs in rotting wood in the spring.

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