Different Types of Lizards

There are nearly 5,000 species of lizards in the world. This large group of reptiles can be found on every continent except Antarctica. By definition, lizards are reptiles with limbs and external ears. They are cold blooded, lay eggs and are covered by scales rather than feather or fur. Beyond these general characteristics, there is a great variety among the species. There are several families of lizards. These include monitors, iguanas, skinks, chameleons and geckos.

The largest species of lizard is the Komodo dragon. These giant lizards can be ten feet long and weigh as much as one hundred fifty pounds. Komodo dragons are carnivores and have been known to eat pigs and deer as well as monkeys. Komodo dragons and other monitor lizards are able to run and breathe at the same time, a trait most other lizards lack. The smallest lizard is said to be a dime sized Caribbean gecko known as the jaragua lizard. This tiny lizard is the smallest vertebrate capable of reproduction. The jaragua feeds on small insects and large scorpions eat it.

The Gila monster is the only venomous lizard found in the United States. Gila monsters have thick fat tails that store fat. The Gila can live off the fat stored in its tail for a period of months. Unlike many other lizards, the tail of a Gila monster will not grow back if it is broken off. They are often killed by humans despite being protected by state law in Arizona and Nevada. Despite the toxicity of its venom, the Gila monster poses little threat to humans.

The Iguana is a lizard that is native to South and Central America and the Caribbean. These lizards prefer a diet of fruit and leaves. While Iguanas can become quite large, many people keep them as pets.

Skinks are a type of lizard that is often mistaken for a snake. They have tiny smooth scales and very small legs. Skinks can shed and regrow their tails. Their diet usually consists of insects but some have been known to eat small rodents.

Chameleons are most well known for their ability to change color. In some chameleons this ability is a defense mechanism. Other chameleons use their color changing as a social indicator for others. Chameleons can rotate their eyes independently, allowing them to have a 360 arc of vision. When they spot prey, both eyes can be focused together. The eyesight of chameleons very good among reptiles, as they are able to see small insects from a great distance. The tongue of the chameleon is very long, sometimes longer than the lizard’s body. When they strike, their tongue is able to reach their prey in less than a second.

Geckos are small tropical lizards with oversized eyes that are adaptive for night hunting. These little reptiles are often bright green with orange or yellow feet. Their toes act like little suction cups, allowing them to climb vertical surfaces to hunt insects.

The variety of lizard species makes this family of reptiles one of the most interesting animal families on the planet.


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