Knight anoles are native to Cuba. They have been introduced into southeastern Florida, and there are now breeding populations in Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach counties (Behler 1979, B. Hammond pers. comm.).
Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Introduced , Native )
endemic to a single nation
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Year-round
Global Range: Introduced in southern Florida (Ashton and Ashton 1991; Noonan 1995, Herpetol. Rev. 26:209; Krysko et al. 2005). Native to Cuba.
Distribution: USA (introduced to S Florida and Hawaii), Cuba Anolis equestris equestris: western Cuba from Pinar del Rio Province to Villa Clara Province, where intergrades with A. e. persparsus; introduced in southeastern Florida and the Upper Florida Keys.
Type locality: Unknown; restricted by Schwartz and Garrido, 1972, to the vicinity of La Habana, La Habana Province, Cuba. Anolis equestris buidei (HOLOTYPE IZ 1294): Peninsula de Hicacos, northern Matanzas Province. Anolis equestris cincoleguas (HOLOTYPE IZ 5398): Cayo Cinco Leguas, Matanzas Province. Anolis equestris juraguensis (HOLOTYPE IZ 1152): southern Cienfuegos Province. Anolis equestris persparsus (HOLOTYPE AMNH 78116): throughout most of Villa Clara and Sancti Spirites provinces. Anolis equestris potior (HOLOTYPE IZ 3098): Archipiélago de Sabana-Camagüey. Anolis equestris thomasi (HOLOTYPE AMNH 78148): Ciego de Àvila and Camagüey provinces, east to Holguin Province. Anolis equestris verreonensis (HOLOTYPE IZ 488): extreme southwestern Granma Province. INCERTAE SEDIS: Material from N San Diego de los Baños and Andrés (Pinar del Rio Province), Cayo Guajaba (Archipiélago de Sabana-Camagüey), Finca La Celia, Bayamo, Santiago de Cuba of unconfirmed subspecies.
Knight anoles grow to a length of 13 - 19 3/8 inches. They are the largest of the Anolis species. The snout is long and wedge-shaped. The tail is slightly compressed with a serrated upper edge. Each toe is expanded in the form of an adhesive pad. The adhesive pad occupies the central portion of the toe and is of an elongated form. The adhesive toe pads allow the knight anole to easily run up smooth, vertical surfaces, or run body downward on a horizontal plane. The body is covered with small granular scales with a yellow or white stripe under the eye and over the shoulder. They are bright green in color which can change to a dull grayish-brown. There is sexual dimorphism. Males have a pale pink throatfan that distends when excited. (Ditmars 1930, Behler 1979).
Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: sexes colored or patterned differently; male more colorful; sexes shaped differently
Length: 49 cm
Knight Anoles are arboreal and commonly found under shady canopies of large trees.
Habitat Regions: tropical ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: forest
Comments: Arboreal; under shady canopy of large trees (Behler and King 1979).
Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.
Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).
Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.
In the wild they eat grubs, crickets, coachroaches, spiders, and moths (Kaplan 1996). In captivity they can be fed crickets, mealworms, and smaller lizards (web2 1999).
Animal Foods: insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods
Primary Diet: carnivore (Insectivore )
Comments: Eats invertebrates, small vertebrates such as tree frogs and lizards, and fruits (Dalrymple 1980, Ashton and Ashton 1985).
Known prey organisms
This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
Population density was estimated at 18/ha and 30/ha in 2 areas in Florida (Dalrymple 1980).
Life History and Behavior
Comments: Poor survival during cold winters (Behler and King 1979).
Status: captivity: 8.3 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Breeding occurs during the summer. Courting is similar to the beginning of fighting but attitudes are less extreme. The male nods his head one or more times and frequently expands his throatfan and then seizes the female by the nape of the neck. The male forces his tail under the female to bring their cloacas in contact. The male inserts his hemipenis into the cloaca of the female. Lab studies have shown males attempting to mate with other males; possibly due to their inability to distinguish males from females (Noble 1933).
Mating System: polygynandrous (promiscuous)
These anoles are egg-layers (Pope 1966).
Breeding interval: Anoles breed once yearly.
Breeding season: Breeding occurs during the summer months.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); oviparous
- Noble, G., H. Bradley. July 1933. The mating behavior of lizards; its bearing on the theory of sexual selection.. New York Academy of Sciences Annals, 35: 25-100.
- Pope, C. 1966. The Reptile World. New York:
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: NNA - Not Applicable
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
The Knight anole (Anolis equestris) is a species of lizard in the Polychrotidae family, and the largest species of anole. Other common names include Cuban knight anole. It grows to a length of 13 to 20 in (33 to 51 cm) including the tail. A few specimens have reached up to 24 in (61 cm).
Knight anoles are native to Cuba, but have been widely introduced into South Florida, where they reproduce and spread readily. They cannot withstand freezing temperatures; in winter freezes in South Florida, they drop semiconscious from tree canopies. In its native Cuba, this large anole is called chipojo.
It is fiercely territorial. Aggressive to anything that enters its territory, the knight anole will face almost any intruder it perceives to be a threat (from a distance). During its display, a lizard will sit high on all fours, gape menacingly, turn green, and perhaps bob its head. The male will extend its dewlap (a reddish-white flap underneath the chin), and both females and males will "puff themselves up" with air.
In captivity, the anole's aggressiveness seems to lessen to a certain degree, if it is raised from the time of its birth and handled, it is common for it to become tame enough to be held. In communal terraria with other species of lizards, it rarely attacks smaller lizards unless the other reptile intrudes on its territory. It may be hand-fed with caution, since it has a strong bite and many small, sharp teeth.
Wild A. equestris
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Names and Taxonomy
Comments: Guyer and Savage (1986) divided the long-standing genus ANOLIS into multiple genera based on a reanalysis of some published data sets. Schwartz and Henderson (1988) adopted this classification, but Williams (1989) found serious errors and confusions in the reanalysis and vigorously rejected the multi-genus classification, as did Cannatella and de Queiroz (1989). Subsequently, Schwartz and Henderson (1991) reverted to the one-genus classification. Guyer and Savage (1992) presented further justification for their multi-genus classification.
Jackman et al. (1999) examined mtDNA variation and concluded that PHENACOSAURUS, CHAMAELINOROPS, and CHAMAELEOLIS are all nested within ANOLIS therefore all should be synonymized with ANOLIS.
See Burnell and Hedges (1990) for an electrophoretic analysis of relationships of West Indian ANOLIS.
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