Bush and Tree Anoles

St. Maarten is home to two species of tree lizards, the Anguilla Bank Bush Anole (Anolis pogus) and the Anguilla Bank Tree Lizard (Anolis gingivinus). Both are endemic to the Lesser Antilles; the Anguilla Bank Tree Lizard (left) is also found on the islands of Anguilla, Sombrero and St. Barthelemy. The Anguilla Bank Bush Anole, however, has now become extinct on Anguilla and St. Barthelemy and is considered endemic to the island of St. Martin. No one is certain as to what caused its extinction on the neighboring islands, but many believe that it was triggered by habitat loss and the introduction of predators such as the mongoose and the dog.

The Anguilla Bank Tree Lizard is the most common of the two lizard species and typically inhabits dry lowland areas and urban areas; it lives in trees and on rocks. The Anguilla Bank Bush Anole favors humid habitats in upland areas where it lives amongst ground cover rather than on trees. It is most abundant in the humid forests of Sentry Hill and Billy Folly. Both tree lizards are insectivorous and feed on bugs and small spiders. They can both change their color to blend in with their surrounding and become less visible to predators; American Kestrels are especially fond of Anguilla Bank Tree Lizards.

Both the Anguilla Bank Bush Anole (right) and the Anguilla Bank Tree Lizard are small anoles. The Anguilla Bank Bush Anole is the smallest, measuring just 6 centimeters (snout-to-vent length), and can be identified by the turquoise patch that surrounds each eye. Males are coloured light brown to orange brown with some darker markings on their back and a pale yellow belly. Females are duller in colour and have a mid-dorsal stripe. The Anguilla Bank Tree Lizard measures up to 18 centimeters. It is light brown to light green with dark brown markings on its dorsal side, including the flanks and legs. The belly is cream to bright yellow. Males are typically darker than females and have more markings. This tree lizard has two distinct features: 1) it has a white lateral stripe on its side, which stops at the hind legs; and 2) males have a bright orange dewlap, which is extended during courtship displays.