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Why does my green anole like me?

Why Does My Green Anole Lick Me?

If you’re wondering why your green anole likes to lick your finger, arm, hand, or hand, you may be surprised at the reasoning behind it.

Could it be that your lizard is looking for food?

Or is it testing the environment?

Or perhaps is it a sign of affection? Do these lizards really bond with people?

Or is that crazy?

Let’s find out why lizards lick.

The tongue’s function in green anoles

First, let’s go over your green anole’s tongue and why it’s important.

Reptiles use their tongue for more than taste. This is the basis of it.
Lizards use their tongue to smell their environment.

By gently licking on objects, they pick up microscopic particles. Their tongues are sticky, which they use to transport these scent particles to the roof of their mouth.

There’s a specialized location called Jacobson’s organ patched on the roof of their mouth that allows them to analyze the particles.

Lizards have poor eyesight in general, so they rely on other sensory details to gather details about their environment. Scent, touch, heat, and vibrations are much more useful to green anoles than hearing or vision.

When your anole licks you, it’s collecting these particles from your skin, which lets it process and smell you.

Isn’t that cool? This is how most lizards gauge their world.

Why green anoles lick things

That tongue is used for more than just eating.

The short answer? They’re simply collecting critical info about their world through their tongue.

Green anoles get sensory information about the hundreds of odors around the environment through their mouths, not their eyes.

They just need to stick their tongue out to gather these scent particles floating around them.

Lizards don’t even need to exactly lick an object to do this- they can just lick the air to gather everything they need.

Some lizards will flick their tongue into the air over and over before drawing it back in.

The tiny particles feed to the Jacobson’s organ which then transmits it into messages.

So it’s not really showing affection, but rather learning about their world.

By licking random objects, they can both smell and taste them. It lets you know potential food sources, the presence of mates, possible predators or threats, territorial markers, or just surveying the environments.

Some lizards like leopard geckos will use their tongues to pursue mates, hide, breed, or even clean themselves. Lizards may lick themselves to remove debris, shed skin, or could be a sign of impaction.

They may also like to test for territorial markings or do it after they poop. Some behaviors will trigger them to do this. Even after eating food.

Some animals or reptiles may lick for mating purposes by detecting pheromones or socializing with other members of the group.

How green anoles smell with their tongue

Green anole licking.
The tongue is imperative for sensing the environment over than tasting its food.

When your anole licks you, the tongue sticks to these invisible particles. Then it transfers them to the sensory organ at the top of its mouth when it retracts the tongue.

Jacobson’s organ is a complicated structure, but it can quickly analyze the scent particles and provides critical info to the anole on environmental cues.

It happens in less than a second so they can react to dangers, prey, or other threats like invading territorial males.

Green anoles, lizards, snakes- they all do the same thing.

When you see your anole flicking its tongue or licking you, it’s just giving you a sniff to gain information.

This is not exclusive to lizards. Some mammals can perform a similar demonstration called the “flehmen response”.

If you have a cat or dog, you may notice them gaping their mouth and then curling their lips. They curl their top lip and then bring in the particles.

It’s also seen in camels, llamas, horses, meese (or mooses?), goats, etc. They pick up odors in their surroundings to analyze cues.

What other species lick objects to smell them?

Jacobson’s organ is an important part of the olfactory system of reptiles, but some mammals have it too.

So it’s not exclusive to our cold-blooded friends. Amphibians, snakes, lizards, whales, dolphins, crocodiles, birds, porpoises, cats, and even humans have the same organ to varying degrees of effectiveness.

It’s just that lizards and snakes utilize it because it’s well developed.

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could sniff with your tongue? Humans have the same organ, but it’s not nearly as developed as a lizard.

It’s also called the vomeronasal organ, but located in a different place compared to lizards.

But don’t forget about water

The other reason why your lizard may lick you is to drink water. As you know, green anoles rarely drink from bowls (which is why keeping water bowls in the tank isn’t necessary).

If you have droplets of water or mist on your fingers, your anole may lick it off to drink!

Baby anoles can often be given water this way. You can dip your finger in water and then put it in front of its face. It’ll lap it up if it’s thirsty.

Of course, you should be sure that it won’t bite before you do so.


Now you know why your lizard licks you

Green anole funny sly face.
This guy licks for himself.

So now you know exactly why your anole licks you or other random objects.

If it’s not to drink water droplets, it’s to collect sensory information about scent.

Pretty cool, huh?

2 thoughts on “Why Does My Green Anole Lick Me?”

  1. 03/12/2023

    We have green anoles in the wild here in Hawaii. We consider them allies. One, a large one, has taken to coming onto our interior window frame, and licking it. It’s addicted. It does it daily, for hours on end. We know it’s not to find other lizards. We think it is to gather calcium from the white paint. What do you think?

  2. My class is getting green anoles and there will be people taking them home I created this for them. What critiques do you have?
    Green Anole care
    The Green anole, (Anolis carolinensis) are small green lizards that are native to the southeastern United States and parts of the Caribbean. They are known as the American chameleon as they can change color. ( Disclaimer: they don’t change really vibrant colors they only change tap brown. This also only happens when something is wrong in their environment
    Green anole diet/food
    Green anoles are insectivores meaning they only eat live insects. They can be fed crickets or mealworms as a base diet. Phoenix worms can be fed as treats and not a stable feeder worm. The insects can not be wider than the space between their eyes, because your lizard could choke. Make sure to feed your green anole 2-5 insects a DAY of your choice. Gut loading is an important factor in taking care of your green anole. This is feeding your feeders. Crickets and mealworms can be fed fruits or vegetables. (Not anything high in water). The insects should be dusted with Multivitamin powder, plus a calcium powder with D3 and another without. Mix the powders together in a bag in which you can put the insects in. Shake the insects in a bag. I created a tutorial on this so ask me if you’re stuck. Crickets need a big space to jump around so you can buy a special keeper of poke holes in a big tuber ware/ plastic container.
    Tank setup/ list of supplies
    List of supplies
    – [ ] A 10 gallon preferably vertical tank of vivarium (mesh screen top with clips) Clean the tank weekly
    – [ ] Spray bottle (for misting the tank for humidity twice a day)
    – [ ] Lots of branches and leaves for climbing
    – [ ] One reptile hide ( so they have some dark spaces )
    – [ ] Hygrometer to measure humidity (60-70% spray less if it’s higher than that and more if it’s lower)
    – [ ] Incandescent heating bulb with wattage that implies around 80-87 degrees (12-14 hours per day)
    – [ ] Reptile UVB bulb 5.0 wattage 12-14 hours a day
    – [ ] Thermometer that is used around the heating area
    – [ ] 2-3 inches of coconut fiber on the bottom of the tank
    – [ ] Crickets or mealworms to feed your lizard
    – [ ] Two light fixtures for the bulbs
    Tank setup
    The tank has to be at least five feet above the ground to give the anole an arboreal effect. You can have a lot of fun moving different leaves and branches to create a setup that looks good and is functional. A good tank
    * Green anole is free
    * 10 gallon tank vertical $80-100 horizontal $20-60
    * Screen lid $20
    * Clips for lid $3
    * Spray bottle $1-2
    * Branches and leaves for basking (probably around) $30 total
    * Reptile hide $10
    * Thermometer and hygrometer around $10
    * Incandescent heat lamp $15 plus electricity
    * UVB bulb $15
    * Coconut fiber substrate $8
    * Crickets or mealworms $15
    * Two light fixtures for the bulbs $30
    * Supplements- in total $30
    All of these prices are estimates, you could get everything cheaper or more expensive.
    Unfortunately these are more of display pets and aren’t really that handle able. If you are interested in that type of pet try a leopard gecko or bearded dragon. Even though this is true many owners have still been able to tame down their anole. Try your to be calm and quiet when your around your lizard. This prevents them being scared of you. The key to taming them is PATIENCE, and taking small steps at a time.
    Author’s note
    Green anoles are beautifully vibrant green lizards in which be will be having in class. Since you are taking one home I made a care guide so you know just how to care for them. You can ask me any questions as I am well educated from a bunch of different good sources. I do encourage you to do more research even after this. You can never do enough research. Thank you for taking the time to read my guide, Willa Kroll

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