Brown lizards are forcing out green cousins
We used to have a lot of nice green chameleons in our back yard in Waipahu, but we haven't seen them in months. We now have brown lizards that are fast moving and all over our yard. Did the brown ones chase the green ones away? Can you find out what happened to the chameleons and what these new "invaders" are?
Answer: The "nice green chameleons" are likely green anoles, also known as American anoles, and the brown lizards are probably brown anoles (anolis sagrei), a foreign species that made its way here at least 10 years ago, said Domingo Cravalho, animal specialist with the state Department of Agriculture.
Brown anoles probably were introduced through eggs laid in propagated plant materials or possibly smuggled in, he said.
Brown anoles initially were reported in Windward Oahu, notably Kaneohe and Kailua, and "sporadically" in Kahala. There are "considerable numbers" in the Kaimuki, Kapahulu and Palolo areas and can be found today throughout Oahu, Cravalho said.
They also are slowly spreading to the neighbor islands.
Brown anoles have been confirmed on Maui, and Cravalho said he's certain it's just a matter of time before they're found on other islands.
What's happened in your back yard is something that's already happened in Florida, where brown anoles, native to Cuba and the Bahamas, were introduced more than 50 years ago.
According to the Institute for Biological Invasions -- invasions.bio.utk.edu/invaders/sagrei.html -- "The brown anole is thought to be responsible for a dramatic decline of previously stable urban and rural populations of the green anole, the only anole native to the United States."
Green anoles often are mistakenly called chameleons because of their ability to change color because of stress or depending on the background, Cravalho noted.
They are a shy species that tend to run away, while brown anoles are aggressive, "beefier" in size and much quicker.
"What we found or observed is that where the brown anole has moved in, the green anole (population) dropped down," Cravalho said. "You may see larger green anoles out and about -- (brown anoles) don't tangle with those guys, but the younger ones tend to be set upon by the more aggressive brown anoles."
There even have been reports that a brown anole will "puff up itself" in confrontation with a human.
At this point, brown anoles have become part of Hawaii's fauna, and there are no active efforts to control their spread.
The Maui Invasive Species Committee, for example, considered initiating control activities but found brown anoles already to be too widespread, said Teya Penniman, manager for the organization.
That discovery "underscores the difficulty of controlling pests once they arrive," she said. "Often by the time you know they are here, it is too late."
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