A lizard is a lizard is a lizard! Or is it?
Did you know that there are over 4,765 types of lizards in the world?
They range in size from as small as half an inch to as huge as over ten feet long!
Lizards come in every color in the rainbow, from red lizards to blue lizards.
Their skin can be smooth or bumpy. Many have fascinating physical adaptations, like horns, crests, and spikes.
Lizards have natural superpowers. Some lizards are able to detach and then regrow their own tail! Others exist as female-only species and reproduce by cloning their genes.
Chances are, you’ve met someone’s pet lizard, or you’ve seen one on TV. If your encounter left you with more questions than answers, you’ve come to the right place.
Table of Contents
- There are thousands of lizard species on Earth.
- They range in size and appearance.
- Many lizards have fascinating adaptations to help them survive.
- Some enthusiasts keep lizards as pets. You’ve likely seen different types of lizards in the media.
What Is a Lizard?
A lizard is a reptile with overlapping scales and a fused lower jaw.
Most lizards have eyelids, external ears, and two pairs of functioning limbs.
The Best Types of Pet Lizards
Experienced hobbyists have success keeping hundreds of different lizard species.
Here are the ones that are best suited for captive life with novice reptile owners.
You may be wondering, “What in the world is an agama?!”
If you’ve seen lizards for sale in a pet store, you’ve likely seen an agama!
The bearded dragon is the most well-known agama species.
They’re one of the most common pet lizards. Bearded dragons are intelligent and easy to care for.
Crested geckos and leopard geckos are the BEST pet geckos.
Crested geckos are arboreal and enjoy climbing. They’re comfortable at room temperature with high humidity. Cresties can thrive off of a commercially-made crested gecko diet. They enjoy fresh fruit and live insects as treats, and you can easily learn how to care for them.
Leopard geckos are terrestrial, so they require more floor space. They need higher temperatures and lower humidity, like the desert. A steady supply of live insects is required to keep them fed and healthy.
Most skinks are heavy-bodied lizards with no pronounced neck and small legs. The best pet skink is the common blue-tongued skink. This interesting lizard grows to be about a foot long. Their husbandry requirements are simple and straightforward. Captive diets consist of canned dog food, fresh produce, and insects.
Other common types of pet skinks include:
- Fire skinks
- Monkey-tailed skinks
- Peter’s banded skinks
The Most Famous Lizards
While these lizards may be well-known common pets, most of them are best left to the experts. Don’t worry: they’re so popular, you’re bound to see them in zoos and the wild.
Tegus are large lizards that are native to South America.
Their omnivorous diet consists of things like:
Argentine black and white tegus are famous as invaders of the southeastern United States. They’re also popular as pets.
Viral videos showcase this animal’s intelligence and bonds with humans.
These specialist lizards don’t make great pets for most people, though. They require large enclosures with specialized lighting. A tegu’s bite is capable of crushing human fingers. If now, you’re interested, check out its close cousin: The Caiman Lizard.
Walk into any southern backyard, and you’re bound to see dozens of lizards flee into the foliage. Many people also keep them as pets!
In most cases, those little lizards are anoles.
Anoles range in color from green to brown, and even have the ability to change their color. Males have a brightly-colored dewlap to attract mates and deter competition.
Chameleons are one of the most famous types of lizard. Chameleons are well-known for changing colors, monocular eyesight, and their long tongue.
Some chameleons lay eggs, while others give birth to live babies. Chameleons can range in size from half an inch to over two feet long.
Some of the most interesting and well-known chameleon species are:
- Veiled chameleons
- Pygmy chameleons
- Panther chameleons, including the baby panther chameleon
- Parson’s chameleons
- Jackson’s chameleons
The Most Fascinating Lizards on Earth
Lizards are a fascinating group of animals. Some have evolved unique adaptations to survive harsh conditions.
1) Horned Lizards
Their frog-like appearance isn’t even what makes them fascinating.
Horned lizards have “normal” lines of defense, like camouflage, fleeing, and puffing their body up.
If those don’t work, horny toads will squirt a stream of blood from the corner of their eyes! They aim for the perceived threat. The stream can reach up to five feet, and is intended to confuse their predators. The foul taste of their blood acts as a deterrent, as well.
2) Glass Lizards
What a bizarre name for a lizard, right?
Scientists named glass lizards after their ability to “drop” their tail. They’ll voluntarily detach it from their body and make their getaway. Meanwhile, the predator remains distracted by the wriggling appendage.
That’s not all that makes them fascinating, though.
Glass lizards don’t have any legs!
At first glance, glass lizards resemble snakes. They’re considered lizards because they have a fixed lower jaw. They also have eyelids and external ears.
3) Whiptail Lizards
Whiptail lizards are small, fast, and have long, whip-like tails.
Many species of whiptail lizards are hiding a genetic secret, invisible to the untrained naked eye.
Whiptail lizards were one of the first groups of lizards found to exist as a female-only species.
The lone females reproduce parthenogenetically. This means that they fertilize their own eggs by cloning their DNA.
The Most Dangerous Lizards
Lizards are usually regarded as harmless. Some specialized species pose a significant threat to humans.
Are you surprised to see that Iguanas made our “Most Dangerous Lizards” list? Most people think of iguanas as peaceful, herbivorous reptiles.
In actuality, their sharp teeth, large size, and whip-like tail make them a formidable threat when cornered or harassed.
Pet iguanas are even more dangerous. Their lack of fear and hormonal aggression leaves many owners with serious injuries every year.
But for anyone who’s really determined to own an iguana, perhaps the desert iguana is a safer option.
2) Monitor Lizards
EVERYONE has heard of the infamous Komodo Dragon. Komodo dragons are the most famous type of monitor lizard. It’s no surprise that this group of lizards made it to this list!
Most injuries and deaths from monitor lizards occur in captive settings. Komodo dragons aren’t the only dangerous monitor lizards, either. The following species are also capable of putting a human in the hospital:
- Nile monitor
- Lace monitor
- Crocodile monitor
- Asian water monitor
3) Beaded Lizards
The last group of dangerous lizards is the beaded lizards. This genus includes the infamous American Gila monster.
They still have a deadly hidden weapon: venom.
Beaded lizards lack effective venom delivery methods. They need to chew and gnaw the venom from the glands into their perceived threat.
These lizards use their venom exclusively for self-defense. While beaded lizards are carnivorous, they prefer to take their prey down with brute strength.
Despite their potential, beaded lizards are docile in captivity, so human envenomations are rare. In instances where they do occur, patients seem to recover after several days of supportive care.
Q: How Are Lizards Different From Snakes?
Most lizards have fixed lower jaws, eyelids, limbs, and external ears. While lizards may lack some of these features, all lizards have at least one of these attributes.
All snakes have no limbs, hinged lower jaws that separate, no eyelids, and no external ears.
Q: Are Alligators Lizards?
Alligators are more closely related to dinosaurs and birds than they are to lizards.
One of the primary traits of lizards and snakes that crocodilians lack is overlapping scales.
Q: Are Lizards Smart?
Q: Do Lizards Lay Eggs?
Most lizards lay eggs. Few lizard species, including some skinks, night lizards, and geckos, give birth to live young. The scientific term for these lizards is viviparous.
Q: Where Do Lizards Live?
Lizards live on every continent of the planet, except Antarctica!
They inhabit an astonishing array of habitats, including:
- Rocky outcroppings
- Forest floor leaf litter
- Underground burrows
- Treetops and rainforest canopies
- Waterways and adjacent habitats
- Marine environments and adjacent habitats
Lizard Lovers: Craving More?
There’s always more to learn about the lizards that we share our planet with.
Are you looking to take the dive into lizard ownership?
If bearded dragons, leopard geckos, and blue-tongued skinks aren’t your cup of tea, you may be interested in this list of the 16 Ideal Pet Lizards for Novices.
You can also find out more about how lizards and other reptiles see the world in our reptile vision guide.