There’s a lot to learn about lizards. In fact, this group of squamate reptiles, the largest order of reptiles, has over 7000 species!
Most lizards are quadrupedal, bending side to side as they walk. However, some species have lost their legs during evolution, and move in a slithering motion like snakes. Some lizards, like geckos, can climb walls with adhesive pads on their toes, and draco lizards, also known as flying dragons, can glide using wing-like membranes that extend from the ribs.
As you can see, though they’re from the same group, lizards have a lot of diversity between them! The shared characteristics of lizards generally include a long body and tail, rounded torsos, elevated heads on short necks, movable eyelids, and overlapping scales made of keratin. However, there are exceptions to even these basic lizardy rules! For example, some geckos, skinks, and night lizards have lost their movable eyelids.
There are too many lizards to cover all of them, but let’s get to know a few of the standouts!
Let’s start with an adorable little species of lizard, Brookesia nana, who has the equally cute nicknames of “nano chameleon” or “B. nana”. This little cutie was just discovered in 2021, in a rainforest in northern Madagascar. It’s a big contender for world’s smallest lizard, measuring in at 1.35 cm – about the size of a sunflower seed. However, because only two have been discovered thus far, it’s difficult to know conclusively what the average size of these bitty chameleons are. Unfortunately they are also an endangered species, and their small size has a direct correlation to their shrinking natural habitat.
The flat-tail horned lizard is a Mexican species that has adapted to its hot desert environment with an impressive means of camouflage. It’s not just its sandy color and markings that help it fit in, but its flat shape! Though the right coloring and pattern are great for helping your body blend in to its surrounding, in the hot sun your dark shadow can betray your whereabouts. The flat-tail horned lizard evades this problem with a flat, tapered body that minimizes self-shadow. White fringes at the body’s edge help complete the disguise, and break up the appearance of any excess shadow that’s managed to escape into view.
The thorny devil, a lizard species endemic to the Australian outback, is a bit less scary than its name might lead you to believe. It is, indeed, impressively spiky, but its spikes are there to help it blend in more than they are an invitation to armored battle. It spends its days wandering around slowly, feasting on as many delicious ants as it can find, sometimes up to 1000 a day! It also uses the grooves between its spines to collect water from rainfall, dew, or damp sand, which is absorbs into its skin to keep cool in the heat.
Monitor lizards, who have a much less scary name, are actually a much more frightening presence! They are the giants of the lizard world, with the Komodo dragon measuring in at up to 10 feet (3 meters) in length! Monitor lizards are almost entirely carnivorous, though a few species in the Philippines like to snack primarily on fruit. Various species will eat everything from insects, to crustaceans, to reptiles, to mammals. Komodo dragons have occasionally attacked humans, and have been known to feast on deer, monkeys and water buffalo.
Now that you’ve gotten a sampling of lizard facts, we’re sure you’re hungry for even more! Get ready for trivia as we dive into the reptilian world, and top it off with a little bit of science. We’ll see you there!
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