gecko in the wild

6 Wild Facts About Lizards



With more than 5,000 species of lizards in the world, there’s no shortage of amazing facts about these dynamic animals.

Lizards cover a huge array of species, including geckos, dragons, chameleons, iguanas, anoles, and skinks. With so many animals under the “lizard” banner, it’s easy to find facts that will leave you saying, “leaping lizards!” Read on to learn something new about lizards, and what you can do to help ensure lizards stay in the wild where they belong.

eastern glass lizard, a legless lizard

A legless lizard.

1. Not all lizards have legs

Hundreds of lizard species don’t have legs. Legless lizards had limbs at one point, but their arms and legs became smaller over millions of years until they disappeared entirely. Many legless lizards live underground, where it’s easier to slither through the dirt without any extra appendages. Though legless lizards may resemble snakes, there are a few key differences. For example, lizards have tiny ear holes while snakes don’t, and their tails make up most of their body, while snakes have much shorter tails.

2. Though they could be twins, lizards aren’t mini-dinosaurs

While some lizards bear a striking resemblance to dinosaurs, there’s a critical difference. Dinosaurs stood upright with their legs directly underneath their bodies. Their anatomical structure enabled dinosaurs to run fast and for longer periods of time than reptiles. Lizards (and other reptiles like crocodiles) have legs that extend out to their sides.

komodo dragon on a beach in Komodo island

Komodo dragon.

3. Komodo dragons are the king of the lizards

The largest and heaviest of all lizards is the Komodo dragon. These lizards reach about 10 feet long and 150 pounds. While they’re impressive to view from a distance, you don’t want to get too close. They are one of the few lizards with a venomous bite and can take down much larger mammals including buffalo and deer.

4. A lizard species is the smallest reptile on Earth…for now

The tiniest known reptile is a “nano-chameleon” known as Brookesia nana, or B. nana. The B. nana lives in northern Madagascar and is no bigger than a sunflower seed. Their entire body can fit on the tip of your finger! New reptiles are being discovered all the time, so while the B. nana may hold the “world’s smallest reptile” title for now, there may be someone even smaller discovered in the future.

5. Despite popular belief, lizards make sounds

While many lizards are silent, some species make noise. For example, geckos can chirp, click, and squeak. The gila monster, blue-tongued skink, and goanna hiss, usually to deter potential predators. The tokay gecko earned their name for the “tokay-tokay” sound they make during mating.

anole lizard entering the water

An anole.

6. Some lizards can “breathe” underwater

Six species of anoles can blow out large bubbles filled with oxygen that stick to their heads. These anoles inflate the bubbles and then draw the oxygen back into their noses, allowing them to stay underwater for extended periods of time. While some insects and invertebrates are also known to carry bubbles, these are the first lizards discovered to do the same.

Lizards are irrefutably awesome. Unfortunately, that makes them frequent victims of the wildlife trade. Not content to admire them from afar, some people purchase lizards as companion animals. Certain species, such as long-tailed lizards and eyelash-crested geckos, are even sold in big box stores like PetSmart, right next to bags of dog food and leashes. You can help protect these animals from exploitation by asking PetSmart and Petco to end animal sales, starting with the sale of reptiles and amphibians.

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