In addition to the lizard suborder Lacertilia, there are also snake suborder Serpentes and worm lizard suborder Amphisbaenia in this classification. Lizards are paraphyletic, which means that only a small number of species have more in common with one another than they do with the Lacertilia as a whole.
There are more than 7,000 distinct lizard species in the world and the number is being revised upwards on a constant basis. While it might be assumed that limbed lizards descended from the limbless snakes, the opposite is true, and it is lizards that are the forebears of the snake family, not the other way around. Except for Antarctica, every continent has at least one species of this reptile.
Incredible Lizard Facts!
- Geckos are 2 cm (0.8 inch) long and weigh less than 12 gram (0.02 ounce), while monitor lizards can reach a height of 10 feet (3 meters) and weigh up to 150 kilograms (330 pounds).
- With the sole exception of the Marine Iguana of the Galapagos Islands, all species bear the classification of land-based animals. Even the Marine Iguana spends much of its time sunning itself on rocks.
- The Gila Monster and the Beaded Lizard, both found in the Sonoran Desert of Mexico and the Southwest United States, are the most well-known members of the venomous lizard family. A variety of monitor lizard species have toxic venom, ranging in potency from mild to deadly.
- Several species possess the ability to voluntarily detach their tails, used primarily as a way of distracting predators, and then regenerate them at a later date.
- To avoid being seen by predators or to catch their own prey, some species have the ability to alter their coloration to blend in with their surroundings.
- Ectothermic means that, unlike mammals, these reptiles’ body temperatures are not fixed but rather fluctuate in response to their surroundings. There are optimal body temperature ranges for all lizards, and those that fall outside of those ranges are significantly less active.
Lizard Scientific Name
Lizards are reptiles of the order Squamata, which comes from the Latin “squamatus”, scaly or having scales. There are three suborders of Squamata: snakes, amphisbaenians (worm lizards), and lizards. Nearly 11,000 species are represented in these three suborders, making them the world’s second-largest group of vertebrates.
Characteristics of lizard
The scaly skin of these reptiles is their most distinguishing feature, as evidenced by their placement in the order Squamata. They have four legs, long tails, external ear openings, and movable eyelids, with a few exceptions. They also have long tails.
The ability to open both the upper and lower jaws is shared by all members of the order Squamata, including this reptile. This allows them to swallow much larger prey than is possible among those animals with just a movable lower jaw.
The popular image of a lizard as a low-slung creature that either writhes slowly or scampers quickly along close to the ground only applies to a limited number of lizard species.
Numerous variations exist, including lizards with long hind legs that move like a biped and even lizards without legs that glide like a bird.
Information about lizards
In order to attract females or scare away predators, males often display a variety of ornamentation, including permanent horns and crests as well as deployable features like large mane-like frills and crests. These features give the animal the appearance of being much larger and more threatening than it actually is.
Long tongues are seen on many species. Some of these are intended for use as sensory probes employed in hunting while other limited numbers of species that do not have eyelids use their lengthy tongues as something similar to a windshield wiper for their eyes.
In general, lizards have very good eyesight. Chameleons have some of the best vision of any lizard species. They can see in a 360-degree field of vision and also in a wide range of colors and into the UV spectrum.
These reptiles come in many different colors, including species with bands of color, species with a tail of a different color when they are young, and several species that are capable of changing their color to better blend in with their surroundings. The chameleon is the best-known animal that embodies this final quality, which can be used offensively as well as defensively.
By disguising itself, the lizard can thwart predators on the prowl while also luring its prey closer for easy capture.
Although there are species that are plant-eaters at least in part, they are primarily predators who feed upon insects and other small creatures. However, the Indonesian Komodo Dragon, the world’s largest lizard, has been known to hunt and eat large species like water buffalo.
Characteristically, these lizards are generally classified as “sit and wait” hunters. This means that they take up station at a favorable place and then wait for their prey to come to them. Either by leaping out and snapping at a potential victim with their open jaws or by grabbing them by the tongue, they seize and swallow their prey.
Apart from being a symbol of a mate call, they usually bob their heads as a way to look more intimidation to prey and predators. Males lead solitary lives and defend their chosen territorial hunting ranges from other males. Females can range freely but are often found in groups living in near proximity to a dominant male.
Due to their ectothermic nature, lizards are well known for sunning themselves in warm areas. As a result, they are able to engage in activities like hunting, mating, and fighting to their full potential. These reptiles prefer to live in places that are easily defensible such as holes or rock crevasses.
Their scaly skin allows scant evaporation so lizards require very little water apart from the moisture they glean from their food or even from the licked-off dew accumulating on their own bodies. This makes them ideally suited for the desert conditions where many lizard species are found.
Lizards of All Sizes
The largest lizard species in the world is the Komodo dragon which can measure 10 feet in length. A 365-pound Komodo dragon was the record holder. Most large lizards are monitor lizards, but some iguanas, like the giant anaconda, can grow to enormous proportions. Blue iguanas weigh around 31 pounds and reach 5 feet in length.
The nano chameleon, the world’s smallest lizard at less than an inch long, can only be found in a small area of Madagascar. Incredibly, scientists first classified the nano chameleon as a species in 2021! There are a number of extremely small chameleons on the northern end of Madagascar. Its believed they shrunk as an adaptation to habitat loss.
Types of Lizard
While it would be impossible to provide an inclusive list of species everywhere, here are a few examples of the types of lizards that can be found in different parts of the globe.
Lizard with a Monitor
Found in Africa, Asia, and the island chains leading to and including Australia, there are more than 70 distinct species of monitor lizards. Monitors are the largest of the lizards and include the famous Komodo Dragon as well as such others as the Nile Monitor of Egypt and the Perentie of Australia.
Caiman lizard live in swampy lowlands of South America and eat shellfish like crayfish, freshwater clams, and snails. The Caiman lizard crushes the shells of its prey in the back of its mouth before swallowing it whole. A piece of the creature’s soft tissue is swallowed along with the creature’s broken shell.
The famed Frilled Lizard is found in Australia and New Guinea. When in danger, the Frilled Lizard fans out the frill of skin that normally lays flat behind its neck and creates the illusion of a much larger and more menacing creature than it really is. It is also known for running on its hind legs with tail and forelegs held in the air.
Lizard with Armadillo Scales
There is only one Armadillo Lizard in the world, and it lives in South Africa. When threatened, it curls into an armored ball and throws it off balance. Its overlapping scales give the appearance of it being a very tiny dragon. In addition, the Armadillo lizard is one of the few social reptiles that live in groups rather than as solitary hunters.
A Sand Lizard
This endangered species of lizard can only be found in the UK’s sand dunes and on rocky outcroppings on the edge of heathlands. As with many other threatened species, increasing population density is the primary cause of its downfall.
These reptiles inhabit every continent on Earth except for Antarctica. With thousands of species on the planet, lizards can adapt to nearly any type of environmental or climatic condition. Some have been found as far north as the Arctic Circle, while others have been discovered at the world’s most inhospitable tip at the south. In regions where their food sources are abundant, such as in tropical jungles, they can attain very large sizes. Smaller species are more common in places where food is scarce.
Some lizards prefer to live in trees, while others prefer to be out in the open where they can soak up as much sunlight as they want. Most of these reptiles are daylight species although there are a few night-specific lizards such as the gecko and one species, the Galapagos Marine Iguana, which lives primarily in the ocean. South America.
Lizards are largely predatory in nature and are often so-called “sit and wait” hunters who remain motionless until their prey comes within reach. At this point, they dart out and grab it in a surprise attack before it can escape.
What do lizards eat?
Most lizards are carnivorous and feed upon insects, ants, and other invertebrates. Larger lizard species feed upon small animals such as mice and other rodents, and snails. Still larger species such as the monitor lizards can prey upon much larger quarry such as frogs, birds, fish, larger mammals, and even snakes.
As they mature, only about 2% of all known lizard species become vegetarians exclusively. However, younger members of the species will occasionally consume meat before going vegan entirely. Fruit is often eaten even by carnivorous species, and bird and reptile eggs are frequently sought by larger lizards.
Predators and Threats
In nature, animal species must balance their own need to feed against the need of other species to use them as a food source. Other predators are constantly on the lookout for prey, just like predatory lizards.
Predators of Humans
These reptiles’ primary prey are us humans. Some see lizards as pests so they constantly try to get rid of them, especially in residential environments. Because some lizard species are already in danger of extinction, it is preferable to eliminate them humanely rather than by killing them.
What eats lizards?
Due to a lizard’s ability to move very swiftly when in danger, most lizard predators need to be fast-moving themselves.
Raptors are the primary threat to most lizard species. Even from a great distance, their keen vision allows them to detect movement. This leads to lizard defenses such as changing colors to match terrain and remaining absolutely motionless in exposed locations.
Dogs and domestic cats, among other canine and feline species, are known to prey on lizards.
Although not depending upon lizards as their primary food source, the swiftly-striking mongoose is well-suited for hunting lizards.
Just as lizards eat snakes, so too do snakes return the favor and eat lizards. Larger lizards are also known to prey upon smaller species.
In spite of its small size (only 2-3 grams), the regal jumping spider has been known to capture lizards three times its own weight.
The fact that some cultures consider lizards meat to be a delicacy means that humans are the ultimate predator. This is particularly true of the iguana, which is prized for its meaty tail.
Because many species are ectothermic, or adapted to live in a specific temperature range, climate change could pose a serious threat to many of these species by altering the region’s heat balance or reducing its preferred food supply.
Human-created sprawl also invades prime habitat via such things as urbanization or deforestation. This can also lead to increases in predator population brought about by nearby habitat disruption of another species. This brings a large number of threat species into a formerly balanced ecosystem. As human populations continue to grow, additional pressure is placed upon those lizards which are considered to be a human food source.
A species of lizard in jeopardy
In a rapidly altering world, it is estimated that nearly 20 percent of all reptile species, which includes the lizards, are threatened to one degree or another. Among the most severely at risk are:
Malagasy’s Tarzan Chameleon (Calumma tarzani), a green or yellow chameleon that can change color to a striped pattern when threatened. The Tarzan Chameleon’s habitat was nearly destroyed for agricultural development and gold mining in the area, nearly wiping it out.
The Jamaican Rock Iguana, scientific name Cyclura collei, was actually believed to be extinct until a small colony was rediscovered in 1990. The Jamaican Rock Iguana population, now down to only 100 individuals, was decimated by hunting for food and the introduction of non-native predators like dogs and pigs to the area. Human development activity in the region also reduces and degrades its remaining habitat potential.
Reproduction, Babies, and Lifespan
No one rule completely covers these reptile’s reproduction methods.
The majority of species use male sperm fertilization of a female’s internal eggs as a method of reproduction. While these eggs are typically laid in a safe location and then abandoned, some species have females who care for the eggs until they hatch.
Vivarium, or live birth from eggs developed inside the female body and then born as functional members of the species, is used by one out of every five types, rather than hatching from eggs laid outside the body. Vivarium.
A few species reproduce via parthenogenesis or reproduction from eggs that do not require male fertilization. Even in non-parthenogenic lizards species, where females do not have access to a male, this has been observed on rare occasions.
When it comes to sex selection of the embryo, the eggs are known to be temperature-dependent in some cases. When incubation temperatures are high, more females are produced, and when it is low, more females are produced.
The number of eggs laid by the female can vary from 5 percent of body weight up to as much as 50 percent. Depending on the size of eggs in the particular species, this can result in a clutch of as many as 50 small eggs or as few as a single large one.