How I Hatched these Adorable Lizards

Remember the excitement you first felt upon planting a seed and watching it sprout into a living plant? Now imagine planting that seed and looking down to find a bright green baby lizard watching you warily with its own two eyes, blinking softly and flicking its tiny tongue as it smells the world for the first time. That was pretty much what I experienced after 'planting' and hatching four lizard eggs and releasing them into the garden. Here's how you can perform your own living science experiment.


For this shot, I placed the eggs in a tiny container combination that I made for my book!
How to Find Lizard Eggs

I found mine while repotting. I was just about to throw out a dying potted plant when I spotted what looked like a tiny chicken egg, only about a quarter of an inch long. I recognized it as a lizard egg, gasped with delight and decided to see if there were any more in the soil that I had missed. Then I found another egg, twice as large, and wondered if maybe one belonged to the invasive Cuban brown anole and the other to the native Green anole. Since they would have ended up in the trash anyways, I decided to find out for myself by incubating them in a tupperware container! I eventually found a total of four eggs and managed to get baby photos of three.

I don't advocate snatching up eggs from the wild, but there are other ways to find them. Gardeners in the Southeast are likely to find anole (Anolis carolinensis) eggs in their potted plants, and can attract them with these tips. Sometimes eggs even turn up in houseplants that have been trucked up from nurseries in Florida. If you happen to have a mating pair of anoles as pets, you might even find eggs in the terrarium! Green anoles are usually sold as 'American chameleons' for their ability to change colors from green to brown, and I can personally attest to the fact that they make excellent pets because I had one named Whippy as a child. Houseplant expert Mr. Subjunctive even has a brown anole by the name of Nina!



How to Incubate Anole Eggs

You'll Need:

One or more anole eggs
One small plastic Tupperware container
Potting medium (Vermiculite, potting mix or sphagnum moss)
Water

1. Prepare the container by poking small holes in the lid or sides so that the lizard can breathe. A lid will keep the newly hatched lizards protected from predators.

2. Add potting medium to the plastic container, filling it to at least one inch deep. Moisten the potting medium until it's damp to the touch. Anoles benefit from moist soil.

3. Place the egg(s) in the potting medium in the same position as it was found. Lizard embryos can suffocate if they've been flipped upside down. Nestle the egg in the medium just deep enough for you to see the top of the egg emerging from the medium.

4. Place the container outdoors in a shaded area, or cover it with a towel to protect the eggs from direct sun. If you are outside of the Southeast - or if the temperatures outside are cold - you may incubate the eggs in a warm area of our home.

5. Check on the eggs daily so that you can release the lizard as soon as it hatches. Unlike hard-shelled bird eggs, the soft and flexible lizard egg will increase in size as it grows.

6. When the egg hatches; you can either release it immediately, take some time to show the kids and take some photos, or if you are trying this outside of their native range, (Southeast US for green anoles, Cuba for brown anoles) try keeping it as a pet. If you do release a green anole to the wild, be sure to find a good hiding place with lots of greenery.

I named this one Emerald, Emmy for short.
Right after hatching, Emmy was brown and covered with vermiculite.
After a rinse and some time relaxing on my hand, the green anole quickly turned green.
This is the second of the two green anoles, trying to decide what to make of me.
And this is the same anole - trying to see what my arm hairs taste like. Her name is Olive, by the way.

So, how did my hatchlings turn out? Two of them turned out to be the native green anole (Anolis carolinensis) and two were exotic-invasive Cuban brown anoles (Anolis sagrei sagrei). The green anoles were as docile and sweet as they are in adulthood; happily perching on my arms and hands for photo opportunities, delicately licking the hairs of my arm and exploring the mysteries of my enormous hands.


The brown anoles, on the other hand, were little hyperactive miscreants that only wanted to run away so that they could wreak havoc on the ecosystem, leap out in front of Mrs. Rainforest Gardener as she returns home with groceries and muscle out the native green anoles for space. You can identify them by their mottled or striped brown skin. On the bright side, while I used to never see green anoles here at the apartment complex, they have flourished since I planted gardens and can usually be spotted blending into the greenery. The brown anoles, for the most part, keep to the sidewalks, walls and parking lots.

Did I have the heart to exterminate this little invasive exotic with the same kind of ruthless efficiency that I would unleash on an invasive plant? Luckily for my embattled conscience, both brown anoles ran away before I could even consider what to do.

With any luck, Emmy the green anole will one day grow up...
To get pregnant and have babies of her own!

7 comments:

  1. Awwwwwww.

    Houseplant expert Mr. Subjunctive even has a brown anole by the name of Nina!

    That should be past tense, unfortunately -- Nina passed on in July. Though she lived almost three times as long here as she would have if she'd stayed in Florida (probably), so I feel like she still got a pretty good deal. Considering.

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  2. Cuter than I would have thought possible!

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  3. I (illegally) kept horned lizards as pets when I was a kid too and they lived longer than they would have in the wild! Sorry Nina headed to the great vivarium in the sky, Mr. Subjunctive. :(

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  4. Ohhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo cute!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

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  5. I live in Jackson county, ga. in my other home in Cherokee county I had many green anoles. I love them. but here, there are none. just blue tailed skinks. where or how do I get them here. I am a good gardener and there are already lots of oak trees and vines and very moist environment as I am low and flat. there is tons of privet hedges on the pasture fences. the climate should be great for them basically same as before. any ideas on how to get them introduced. I have way too many bugs.

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