Anolis carolinensis, the Carolina green anole,
Miami-Dade county, Florida (18 March 2017).
In South Florida, there’s been much hullabaloo about our native Carolina green anole (Anolis carolinensis) and the so-called Cuban green anole (Anolis porcatus). Indeed, in the past few decades I’ve seen, heard, and read many debates regarding Carolinensis-vs-Porcatus in the Coral Gables/Miami area. Lots of opinions out there, but very few concrete, hard-line, evidential factors dividing the two from one another.
This individual is one such questionable suspect. In 2017, I wondered if this could be one of those mythical A. porcatus as opposed to A. carolinensis (or at least a hybrid of the two). It was a fairly large anole, yes, but it also sported a remarkably vivid pattern — remarkable by standard A. carolinensis terms.
Well, in 2019 Johanna Wegener et al published a study in Ecology and Evolution analyzing Florida Anolis carolinensis with western Cuba’s presumed-Anolis porcatus populations. As it turns out, they found that Florida’s green anoles are intimately related to and descended from the western Cuban green anole populations (which are, themselves, somewhat distinct from eastern Cuban green anoles). In short, their findings re-frame the two Carolinensis-vs-Porcatus like this:
1. Florida/U.S. greens and western Cuban greens form a single clade.
2. Eastern Cuban greens remain distinct.
Because Anolis carolinensis was technically described first, that’s the species designation that persists for both the Floridian native greens and the western Cuban green anoles. Yes, this means the Floridian green anoles should remain Anolis carolinensis, and the western Cuban green anoles should now also be Anolis carolinians (as opposed to the eastern Cuban greens which remain A. porcatus).
So what does this mean or do for us here in Florida? No more bullshittery on Carolinensis-vs.-Porcatus debacle in south Florida. They’re Anolis carolinensis. No worries, though… There are still plenty of other non-native anoles to chase after in south Florida!
NOTE: This post was updated to reframe the Porcatus classification to Carolinensis in January of 2020!