Nonnatives - Northern Curlytail Lizard

Northern Curlytail Lizard - Leiocephalus carinatus armouri


Florida's Exotic Wildlife. Species detail.

First year: 1935

Extirpated year:

Established status: Populations are confirmed breeding and apparently self-sustaining for 10 or more consecutive years.

Estimated Florida range: 6 counties  At least 10 years, 1 county  Less than 10 years, 3 counties  Not reported breeding

Statewide trend: Expanding

Northern Curleytail Lizard
Photograph by Kevin M. Enge © 2003

Threats to natives: Unknown.

Species Account: This species was released intentionally in the 1940s in Palm Beach in an attempt to rid sugarcane of insect pests, and it has since expanded both north and south (Weigl et al. 1969). This native of the Bahama Islands is also popular in the pet trade, which has resulted in additional releases and escapes. It is now common in parks, in agricultural lands, along canal edges, along seawalls, and in other habitats in Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties (Bartlett and Bartlett 1999). Its range is relatively contiguous for 90 km along the Atlantic Coast from Hobe Sound, Martin County, south to Lighthouse Point, Broward County (Smith et al. 2004). This alert, robust lizard is mostly terrestrial but climbs well, especially preferring areas with ground rubble. Males may reach a length of 28 cm (11 in) and have a gray to tan back, light stripes on the nape and dorsolaterally, and a low vertebral crest. The dark-banded tail is held curved above the back. Another subspecies (virescens) occurred in Miami prior to 1940 (Barbour 1936, Carr 1940) but died out shortly afterwards (King and Krakauer 1966). A third subspecies (coryi) was found on Virginia Key and Key Biscayne in Dade County (Truitt and Ober 1973), but its present status is unknown. It has been observed being preyed upon by a Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea) (Smith and Engeman 2004).

Habitats: Coastal upland, Exotic plant community, Low density suburban development, areas peripheral to core urban areas, and small towns, Agricultural habitat, Recently disturbed, early successional community

County First Year Extirpated Year Breeding status Notes 


At least 10 years Cocoa Beach (Krysko and King 2002)


At least 10 years (Bartlett and Bartlett 1999); FLMNH specimens


At least 10 years Chokoloskee Island (McCoid 2002b)
DADE 1935


At least 10 years Miami (Barbour 1936); carinatus subspecies reported on Virginia Key and Key Biscayne by King and Krakauer (1966), whereas Truitt and Ober (1973) reported the coryi subspecies here; Port of Miami (Callahan 1982)


Not reported breeding Sebring (Layne 1987)


Not reported breeding (Smith and Engeman 2003)


At least 10 years In 1994, at the jct. of County Line Road and U.S. Highway 1 (Smith and Engeman 2002); in 1999, at Sea Treasures tourist shop at 18955 U.S. Route 1 (Hauge and Butterfield 2000a); Jonathan Dickinson State Park (Smith and Engeman 2003)


Less than 10 years Coral Reef State Park (Duquesnel 1998), but individuals were extirpated; however, another population was discovered on Key Largo in 2003 (K. Enge, FFWCC, Quincy, personal observation)


At least 10 years Palm Beach (Weigel et al. 1969); 1955 (King 1960); disjunct population also occurs inland in Belle Glade (Krysko et al., in press)


Not reported breeding St. Lucie Shopping Center (Dean et al. 2004)


Barbour, T. 1936. Two introduced lizards in Miami, Florida. Copeia 1936:113.

Bartlett, R. D., and P. P. Bartlett. 1999. A field guide to Florida reptiles and amphibians. Gulf Publishing Company, Houston, Texas. 278pp.

Carr, A. F., Jr. 1940. A contribution to the herpetology of Florida. University of Florida Publications, Biological Sciences 3:1-118.

Dean, C. L., H. T. Smith, and R. M. Engeman. 2004. Geographic distribution: Leiocephalus carinatus armouri (Little Bahama curly-tailed lizard). Herpetological Review 35:82.

Duquesnel, J. 1998. Keys invasion by alien lizards continues. Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Resource Management Notes 10(1):9.

Hauge, J. B., and B. P. Butterfield. 2000. Leiocephalus carinatus armouri (northern curlytail lizard). Herpetological Review 31:53.

King, F. W. 1960. New populations of West Indian reptiles and amphibians in southeastern Florida. Quarterly Journal of the Florida Academy of Sciences 23:71-73.

King, F. W., and T. Krakauer. 1966. The exotic herpetofauna of southeast Florida. Quarterly Journal of the Florida Academy of Sciences 29:144-154.

Krysko, K. L., and F. W. King. 2002. Geographic distribution: Leiocephalus carinatus armouri (Little Bahama curly-tailed lizard). Herpetological Review 33:148.

Krysko, K. L., K. M. Enge, J. H. Townsend, E. M. Langan, S. A. Johnson, and T. S. Campell. In Press. New county records of amphibians and reptiles from Florida. Herpetological Review.

Layne, J. N. 1987. Leiocephalus carinatus (curly-tailed lizard). Herpetological Review 18:20.

McCoid, M. J. 2002b. Geographic distribution: Leiocephalus carinatus (curlytail lizard). Herpetological Review 33:322.

Smith, H. T., and R. M. Engeman. 2002. An earlier report of the exotic northern curly-tailed lizard in Martin County, Florida. Florida Field Naturalist 30:132-133.

Smith, H. T., and R. M. Engeman. 2003. A review of the range, distribution, and ecology of the invasive northern curly-tailed lizard in Florida. Florida Park Service "Parknership" Technical Report. 5pp.

Smith, H. T., and R. M. Engeman. 2004. Leiocephalus carinatus armouri (northern curly-tailed lizard). Predation. Herpetological Review 35:169-170.

Smith, M. M., H. T. Smith, and R. M. Engeman. 2004. Contiguous extensive north-south range expansion of the original population of an invasive lizard in Florida. International Biodeterioration and Biodegradation 54:261-264.

Truitt, J. O., and L. D. Ober. 1971. A guide to the lizards of south Florida (Lake Okeechobee to the Florida Keys). Hurricane House, Miami, Florida, USA. 37pp.

Weigl, G. L., R. G. Domey, and W. R. Courtenay, Jr. 1969. Survival and range expansion of the curly-tailed lizard, Leiocephalus carinatus armouri, in Florida. Copeia 1969:841-842.

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