Few creatures are as indelibly associated with their scales, claws, and tails as lizards. But did you know that more than 6,000 species of these scaly reptiles exist? And that’s not counting geckos!
Discover some intriguing lizard facts below—like how the average lifespan of a lizard is about three years—and get up to speed on these amazing animals today.
- Some lizards are sneaky, lying about their age in order to sound more attractive to potential mates. These “deceptive” creatures are the anguids, a family of legless lizards that includes the South American slow loris and the Southeast Asian beaded lizard.
- The Gila monster is a venomous lizard that lives in the deserts of the southwestern United States and northeastern Mexico. Its venom is made up of toxins that can cause severe pain, nausea, and even heart failure.
- Lizards are known for their ability to shed their tails when in danger, but all lizards cannot do so. Of the 3,000+ species, only about 30 can freely regrow their tails.
- The Komodo dragon isn’t a lizard at all—it’s a type of monitor lizard found on the Indonesian islands of Komodo and Rinca. As one of the largest monitor species, it can grow up to 10 feet long and weigh more than 150 pounds.
- Many lizards are carnivores that hunt for food, but certain species will only eat plants. These herbivores include the spiny-tailed iguana, which dines on the leaves of the agave plant in Mexico and Central America, and some species of monitors found in Asia that prefer to eat fruit.
- The young of some species are born alive—or hatch from eggs—while others emerge as small, nearly fully grown versions of their parents. The hatching process depends on whether they’re viviparous or ovoviviparous lizards.
- Some lizards are extremely territorial, like the gila monster, which will fight to the death if necessary. Other lizards live communally, like the collared lizards, which live side by side in large numbers.
- Lizards are found all over the world—from cool grasslands to steamy rainforests—but they’re particularly well-adapted to deserts. The Gila monster is the only venomous lizard that lives in North America (and it’s native to Arizona and New Mexico).
- Lizards generally grow fast and die young; their maximum lifespan is about 25 years or three years at most for some species.
- Lizards are members of the order Squamata, which also includes snakes and amphisbaenians (also known as legless lizards).
- All lizards have teeth that grow throughout their lifetimes, but only the upper and lower jaws of adult lizards define their mouth with teeth. The upper jaw has 3 rows of teeth, while the lower jaw has 5 rows.
- The carnivorous agama lizard in Asia—which is also called a sand monitor—is considered one of the world’s longest-lived animals (max lifespan: 80 years).
- Geckos are a type of lizard, but not all lizards are geckos! In fact, most lizards aren’t geckos at all. Only about 200 species of euqinoids, a suborder of Squamata, fall under the family name Geckonidae.
- The Komodo dragon has a forked tongue that can sense scents that the lizard is looking for—or smells that mean danger.
- Lizards have been around for millions of years—some with 4 legs and some with 2—but they have been evolving steadily since their first appearance on Earth some 208 million years ago.