Monday, July 10, 2006

Claudell & Pee-Wee

Claudell and Pee-Wee??? These were the names of two of my pet Anole lizards I had in 5th grade. Claudell was named after journeyman NY Yankees outfielder Claudell Washington and Pee-Wee was named because Pee-Wee Herman was big at the time (long before the theater incident). My memory of these lizards is of little green or brown lizards that just kind of stood on sticks all day long. Once in a while one of their throats would puff out and turn red. I had no clue why. They also ate lots of crickets. These crickets would escape the cage and we'd hear them chirping all night. I had 2 Anoles for a period of time and then one slowly starved to death. So I went and got another one and it died too. It turns out, thanks to the pet store owner's vast knowledge, that if you have 2 Anoles at once, one will eat everything and one will eat nothing. Now he tells us! Eventually I stuck with one lizard and he eventually died (no clue if it was Claudell or Pee-wee or the anonymous 3rd one).

The reason I'm telling my Anole story is because we saw a bunch of them in Georgia last week. It got me thinking about my old pets and how little I know about them. The Green Anole, Anolis carolinensis, is a tree-dwelling lizard native to the southeastern United States and Caribbean islands. Like a chameleon, they have the ability to change colors. They have a range of colors including green, brown, tan, yellow, or a mixture. Temperature, camouflage, and emotion are all "reasons" to change color. The red throat I remember is actually called a dewlap. It can be extended for courtship or territorial display. Mature males also have a crest down their back called a "roach" which is also used for courtship or territorial display. They feed primarily on insects and there are plenty of them down south.

I was interested in their breeding habits. Anoles mate in late spring or early summer. They lay 1-2 eggs per clutch in decaying vegetation higher up in trees. They may lay multiple clutches every 10-14 days. In 60-90 days, little hatchlings appear and leave to establish their own territories in trees.

In parts of their range, these compete with another species, the Brown Anole (Anolis sagrei sagrei) - an exotic species. Brown Anoles and Green Anoles fight each other with the Green Anole usually coming out the winner. Green Anoles have also been known to prey on young Browns and vice versa.

So the next time you see one of these critters running around, you'll hopefully know a little more about them and appreciate them even more.

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