Florida is home to so many species of lizards, many of which are invasive and living comfortably in south Florida’s tropical climate, that we’ve decided to divide the state in two. This article will inform you about some of the more common lizards present in South Florida. We include both native and non-native species.
Let’s have a look!
14 Species of Lizards in South Florida
As we’ve alluded to, many of these lizards are not originally from Florida. In the last several hundred years, over a dozen lizard species inadvertently hitchhiked rides on sailing ships and found themselves in a new continent. Others were introduced due to hobby lizard enthusiasts abandoning their pets.
This list highlights 14 species of south Florida lizards and their habitats, diets, and behaviors. We’ll also look at pictures and give you a few tips about how to recognize them in the wild.
1. Green Anole
Scientific name: Anolis carolinensis
Green Anoles are an easy-to-spot species of small lizard that lives throughout the state of Florida. They average about 5 to 8 inches long. Insects make up most of their diet. Both males and females are green in color.
Males have a red throat pouch they inflate during the breeding season to defend their territory and woo females. They take advantage of densely-populated cities in Southern Florida by lurking around porch lights and other light sources in the dark. When insects mistake the light for the sun, the Green Anole gets a tasty snack. Otherwise, they’re active most during the day.
2. Six-lined Racerunner
Scientific name: Aspidoscelis sexlineatus
The Six-lined Racerunner is so-named because of its propensity to run from threats and the six yellow lines extending from the head to the tail. Colors range from olive green to black. Males and females are similar, but males’ bellies are light blue and females’ bellies are white.
Six-lined Racerunners are most active during the day when they hunt for insects and spiders. They can run up to 18 mph!
3. Florida Keys Mole Skink
Scientific name: Eumeces egregious egregious
The Florida Keys Mole Skink is a skink native to the Florida Keys. Its narrow habitat range includes only the Florida Keys, which are under threat from invasive species and human development.
Look for this skink hiding under substrate or leaf litter. Its reddish-brown skin helps it blend in with bark and soil. They often live in coastal areas where tidal debris piles up, since there are many places to hide and hunt their preferred prey: spiders, ants, and insect larvae.
4. Knight Anole
Scientific name: Anolis equestris
The Knight Anole lives in southern Florida, especially the Everglades, but it is not a native species to the area. They were introduced into the United States by inadvertently being on ships and cargo that were imported from Cuba. They’re currently considered highly invasive, although populations are kept in check by cold snaps, which the lizards can’t handle.
Identify a Knight Anole by its large size – they range from 13 to 20 inches long – and their bright green scales. Males’ throat pouches are light pink or white. Both sexes are very territorial and will fight for access to insect populations, fruit, and even other small lizards to eat.
5. Island Glass Lizard
Scientific name: Ophisaurus compressus
The Island Glass Lizard is a legless lizard native to Florida. Even thought it looks like a snake at first glance, there are some clear differences.
It has visible ear holes, an awkward way of moving, and movable eyelids. They have a black-and-white back and a light yellow underside. Island Glass Lizards eat insects and spiders.
Larger specimens, which can grow up to 2 feet long, may eat small lizards or rodents if they can catch them. In South Florida, they live everywhere except for the Everglades.
6. Texas Horned Lizard
Scientific name: Phrynosoma cornutum
It’s not native to Florida, but the Texas Horned Lizard has made itself at home in the sandy forests and river bottoms of southern Florida. These populations are independent of other groups of lizards found further west. They are not aggressive even though they have many spines, several ‘horns,’ and can squirt blood from their eyes when threatened.
Texas Horned Lizards’ favorite foods are ants and termites. They find ant trails or an ant hill and pick off ants one by one. While Southern Florida rarely has cold temperatures, they may hibernate if cold snaps are long enough.
7. Eastern Slender Glass Lizard
Scientific name: Ophisaurus attenuatus longicaudus
The Eastern Slender Glass Lizard is the subspecies of the Slender Glass Lizard that lives east of the Mississippi River. Its range extends from Louisiana as far east as the Atlantic ocean and south as far as Orlando, Tampa, and Miami. They are snakelike, gold-colored, and have a slightly metallic sheen.
Adults have several thin black stripes that run from just behind the earholes to the end of the tail. This Glass Lizard’s primary defense mechanism is dropping its tail when threatened. Its stress response is so ingrained that it will lose its tail before a predator even touches it.
8. Florida Sand Skink
Scientific name: Plestiodon reynoldsi
The Florida Sand Skink is a silvery, snake-like skink that lives a solitary life in the leaf litter and under loose soils of Florida’s forests and scrublands. While they look like snakes from the first glance, Florida Sand Skinks have barely noticeable limbs with minimal toes. They don’t use their limbs for locomotion.
Its wedge-shaped head and small eyes are adaptations that allow them to burrow through shallow and loosely packed soil and sand. Beetle larvae, spiders, and termites make up most of this lizard’s diet. It lives in central to southern Florida.
9. Florida Scrub Lizard
Scientific name: Sceloporus woodi
The Florida Scrub Lizard is a gray and tan lizard native to Florida. It lives in the drier regions of the state where soils are sandy and there are more shrubs than trees. These lizards are regular baskers and can be spotted during the day.
Their diets consist of mostly small insects and spiders. They grow to be only about 5 inches long. Tell a male from a female by checking the belly color.
Males’ throats and bellies have turquoise patches, while females have more subtle throat patches only.
10. Reef Gecko
Scientific name: Sphaerodactylus notatus
The Reef Gecko is one of the smallest species of geckos in the world. Adults measure in at just 2 inches long. They blend in well with trees, soil, and human infrastructure.
Moisture is a limiting factor in their habitat range; they require independent water sources to thrive. Reef Geckos eat small insects and spiders.
In Florida, they live in more damp regions inland as well as the coast. They are considered native to the US, but it’s not clear if they truly are or if they were brought to Florida by sea trade in the 17th and 18th centuries.
11. Brown Anole
Scientific name: Anolis sagrei
The Brown Anole is a relative of the Green Anole, but it is not originally native to the United States. Thanks to the lizard’s adaptability, it has made wild populations in all of Florida. Identify this lizard based on its brown-gray skin and small size – about 7 inches long.
Males also have a bright red throat pouch called a dewlap that they inflate to defend their territory from other males. They also woo females with it.
Spot them during the daytime in urban and rural areas. They hang out on fences, walls, and trees. Spiders and insects make up most of its diet.
12. Green Iguana
Scientific name: Iguana iguana
Green Iguanas, also known as American Iguanas, live in the southernmost parts of Florida and the Florida Keys. Unlike many of the lizards on this list, they are entirely herbivorous. As a result, they are slow-moving and spend most of their time out in the open foraging for vegetative matter.
They are highly variable in size; they can grow up to 6 feet long but the tail makes up most of the body size. They also live in trees and can fall up to 50 feet and survive.
13. Mediterranean House Gecko
Scientific name: Hemidactylus turcicus
The Mediterranean House Geckos are not native to southern Florida, but they have inhabited southern Florida for decades thanks to the subtropical climate and abundant insect prey. These lizards are between 4-5 inches long and are light in color with dark gray splotches all over the body. The belly is white.
Look for Mediterranean House Geckos in urban and rural areas. They adapt well to human infrastructure and are often seen climbing on houses and walls. They hunt for insects at night.
14. Southeastern Five-lined Skink
Scientific name: Plestiodon inexpectatus
The Southeastern Five-lined Skink is a robust brown, yellow, black, and orange skink that lives throughout the entire state of Florida. Specimens have thick bodies and small limbs. They live on the ground where they forage for insects like grasshoppers.
Forests with regular water input are their favorite habitats, but they have been spotted on desert-like islands off the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. Identify this skink by way of the five lines on its back and its orange head. Females are very defensive of their young and guard eggs until they hatch.