If you spot a small lizard with a pink throat, you’re most likely looking at a male green anole lizard. This pink section is actually a thin flap of skin that hangs down below the green anole’s throat. It is referred to as a throat fan or dewlap, and the male anole uses it for two primary purposes: to protect his territory and attract a mate.
Green Anole Appearance
The green anole grows to roughly 5 to 8 inches in length. Both the male and female anole are a bright green color, though only the male has a pink throat. This species is sometimes referred to as American chameleons because they can change their color from green to brown. However, they cannot control their color to blend in with their surroundings. Rather, they change color due to factors like temperature, health, humidity and mood.
Defense of Territory
The diminutive green anole is not dangerous to humans, and can in fact be beneficial in gardens because he eats insect pests. However, green anoles can be territorial and may perform a specific series of behaviors if they think their territory is being threatened by another male anole. One of the things he will do is flare his throat fan and puff up his body to make himself appear larger. He may also bob his head up and down and raise his body up and down in what looks like a series of push-ups.
Male green anoles also use their pink throat fan as part of their mating ritual. When they are in an area that they have designated as their territory and they spot one or more females, they may bob their head and show off their throat fan. This display can actually induce ovulation in mature females. Once a male green anole has successfully attracted a female, he will chase her, bite the nape of her neck, and then breed with her.
The Disadvantage of the Throat Fan
While the green anole’s throat fan may be an advantage for defending his territory against other anoles and attracting females, it can also attract the notice of predators. Birds in particular are a danger to the anole. If caught, anoles may sometimes shed their tail and regrow another one, but the new tail will not have bones and will look somewhat discolored and disfigured. As pets, anoles can live up to 7 years, but in the wild they usually do not live more than a couple years since they are an easy target for predators.