Lovable Lizards

Land Iguana, Isabela Isl., Galapagos

There are over 6,000 species of lizards on our planet, residing on all continents except Antarctica.  Here are some basic facts and photos of a few of my favorites.

 

One thing I love about lizards is their adaptability. Depending on the severity of danger, they can sacrifice their tail and grow a new one, change colors, and vanish in an instant.

Green Iguana, Costa Rica

Another thing I love is their solar power. Lizards are ectotherms, they require heat sources outside their body to function. Also known as cold-blooded (not technically accurate), lizards regulate their body temperature according to the sun.

 

Once in awhile I will find a lizard when the sun has been absent, like at dawn on a foggy day, and they are frozen in place. Immobile. I like this about lizards, too — their vulnerability. Of course, that’s not their favorite thing.

 

There are many remarkable features about lizards, read more here:

Lizard Wikipedia

 

Green Anole, Texas

 

Basilisk Lizard, Belize, Central America

With six thousand lizard species, there are thousands of variations. I have watched lizards run across water, eat algae under water, flare out their neck to twice its size, and hang upside down for days.

 

Some lizards change colors to attract mates, some change colors to escape detection (camouflage), and others are bright their whole life.

 

Hawaiian Gecko

 

Spiny-tailed Iguana pair, Belize

I live in a hot, dry climate in California. In the spring and summer we have three regular lizard species, each is a home-time favorite and much revered.

Western Fence Lizard, California

The western fence lizard is the most prevalent, we see them every day from May through October. The male does push-ups and displays a brilliant blue belly during breeding season.

Western Fence Lizard, California, gorging on nuptial ants

 

Plus, this lizard has an astonishing feature. They have a protein in their blood that kills the bacterium in the tick that causes Lyme’s Disease.

 

Ticks often feed on lizards’ blood, including the deer tick that carries Lyme’s Disease. When the deer tick feeds on the western fence lizard, the bacterium is killed. My chances of getting Lyme’s Disease are considerably less because of this  lizard.

 

We also have the alligator lizard, named for their resemblance to alligators. They are skittish and infrequent, but when they appear, it is a highlight of the day.

Northern Alligator Lizard, California

Our third reptile is the western skink. They are almost always hidden, their predator list is long. I’ve learned to recognize their sound when they rustle beneath leaves; so if I wait nearby, I sometimes see them.

 

Western skink, Calif.

 

Some lizards, like the skink, move like a snake. They have short legs and wiggle and slither. But most lizards are quadrupedal and move with an alternating gait. Another thing I love about lizards…watching them walk or run, a kind of reptilian sashay that says “attitude” to me.

Nile Monitor, Botswana

 

The marine iguana, the only underwater lizard in the world, lives on the Galapagos Islands. I’ve been snorkeling when they entered the water–that’s a strange thing, to be snorkeling with a large lizard. A true thrill. They sneeze out the sea salt when they return to land.

Marine Iguana, Galapagos

Lizards bask in the sun, leap through the air, let go of their tail if it’s in the jaws of a predator, and effortlessly change colors. I wouldn’t mind having all of these features, but since I cannot, I’m happy to watch…maybe I’ll learn something.

Written by Jet Eliot
Photos by Athena Alexander

 


Frill-necked lizard, Australia

 

Golden Tegu Lizard, Trinidad

 

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91 thoughts on “Lovable Lizards

  1. When I was little in South Texas I caught green anoles, which we called chameleons. I tried not to catch them by their tails, which wiggled like excited worms when left behind. This is a cool look at the lizard family.

    • Loved hearing about your childhood green anole days, Cindy. I only saw my first green anoles two years ago, just love that bright pink dewlap. Always a pleasure to “see” you, thanks for your comment.

  2. Thanks for this informative post. Back in the mid-eighties we had a lot of Western Fence lizards on the hillside behind our house. Their population dwindled rapidly by the ’90s and appears to be coming back slowly over the last 3 years. I had no idea about their connection to the deer tick and Lyme disease. Thanks for teaching me something today.
    Ω

    • Yes, I, too, love that aspect of the western fence lizard, Allan; with the deer tick and Lyme’s. I’m glad to hear there’s a comeback of the lizards around your house. So glad you stopped by today, thanks very much.

  3. I really enjoyed this post because I have a love for lizards. There are few here where I live, (I see an occasional skink) but I remember all of the various species that live in the Sonoran Desert and enjoyed them thoroughly. When my kids were little we spent many weekends camping in the desert and mountains of Arizona and a favorite pastime for them was what we called “heffalump hunting”. That consisted of roaming around finding anything that lived under a rock or a log, a pile of leaves or sometimes a dried cow pie and those hunts nearly always produced a look at a lizard. I will never forget hearing a million times, “Daddy, cam I touch it”.

    • Loved this comment, montucky, your experiences and memories, and love of lizards. How wonderful that you and your kids went “Heffalump hunting.” A marvelous way to explore nature, and I would guess your children still love their outdoor experiences because of it. Thanks very much, montucky, much appreciated.

  4. Oh Jet, you’re sending me down memory lane once more with your post and accompanying photos! No doubt I’m repeating myself but lizards are one of the few things I really miss about Australia, those and the sound of a kookaburras and geckos (odd, huh?). At our last home in Australia on the Queensland coast, we had an abundance of little and large skinks constantly around the house during the day with geckos of an evening gorging on the many moths. Water dragons of all sizes, named after ALL the characters in the Simpson’s (can you guess the age of my two children at the time) would sun themselves on the rocks beside our small stream. On one occasion there was even a monitor on one occasion tramping through our little rainforest. Which in hindsight should have concerned me but at the time I hoped he was snacking on the many snakes who were also living beside us.

    Hope you have a fabulous weekend!

    • Fantastic to hear about your Australian lizard experiences, Joanne. I loved finding the lizards and monitors in Australia. The frill-necked absolutely fascinated me. Loved hearing about the skinks, geckos, kookaburras, water dragons, and monitors…and your life with them, experiences. I chuckled at the lizards that your children named after the Simpson characters…so endearing. Wonderful to hear about the joy of lizards in your life, Joanne, thank you.

    • How fortunate that you have the blue-tailed skinks around your house, Jill. Such a gorgeous blue that is, a remarkable color to have for one’s body. My warm thanks, Jill, for your visit and comment today.

    • Always a joy to exchange greetings with you, Janet, thank you for your visit today. We are seeing hummingbirds every day and have even been amused by the juveniles that are fledged now, and their adorable way of learning what is animate and what is not. I hope you, too, enjoy a wonderful weekend.

  5. 6,000 species of lizards, Wow! I have seen the green ones here, they are very small though.
    These are great photo collections! Thank you for sharing with us, Jet. 🙂

  6. Can you say diversity? I certainly had no idea there were 6000 to choose from. I’ve always had a thing for lizards. Perhaps it was as a child when my brother would chase me holding a salamander and it would drop its tail in protest. I liked to believe the salamander was protecting me.
    From almost tripping over Monitor lizards in Bangkok to having wee green relatives climb on loungers in Maui to marine iguanas so camouflaged in the Galapagos I couldn’t stop squealing after almost sitting on a few, I love them all. Now to see the blue belly push ups that would be something!

    • I am delighted you have had the pleasure of seeing so many lizards around the world, Sue. You’re right, the diversity is astounding. Salamanders, however, are not lizards, they are amphibians. It’s confusing, but there are a few differences. The good thing is, your brother’s teasing behavior helped you to appreciate both the salamander and the lizard. As for the blue belly push-ups…yes, they are really cool, and they do them a lot. Lovely to talk lizard today, dear Sue.

  7. Can’t leave your blog without greeting these lovable creatures who amicably posed for you and Athena.
    Fantastic lizard species with exceptional characteristics,I particularly like the fattish Land Iguana,Green Anole with its red dewlap,Hawaiian Gecko with the red red splashes on its bright green skin,and Frill-necked lizard with its folded ruff collar and its five fingers hand.Please don’t tell the others that I didn’t say anything about them,just tell them that I loved them too … Stunning Lizard macros showing all the fine detail,dear Jet.Happy weekend,my friend 🙂

    • Had a fun chuckle out of your comment, Doda, and I’ll be sure not to tell the other lizards of your preferences. Those land iguanas are about the coolest creatures on earth, if it wasn’t for the marine iguanas. Both iguana species are so huge and ancient, slow-moving and other-worldly. Then there’s the frill-necked lizard, they are like no other creature. When they are threatened their ruff collars (great term you use) pop out and they instantly look like a dragon. Glad you enjoyed the lizards today, Doda, and appreciate your time here.

    • Wouldn’t know about the cure for Lyme’s Disease, Bertie, but I sure like hangin’ out with the lizard who eats the bacterium. Great to see you today, I’m happy you enjoyed the lizard post.

  8. Another post full of amazing facts and photographs. Would love to see the blues on the skink and fence lizard, but the alligator lizard would have me hopping. Your adventures have given you so many great encounters!
    We had lots of salamanders and little lizards scurrying about on the walls and in the rocks when we were in SW France, always fun to see them. My mum lives in Lizard village on the Lizard peninsula in Cornwall. Never seen a lizard there though…
    Thanks, Jet – have a great weekend!

    • Loved hearing about Lizard village on Lizard Peninsula, pc. When I looked up Lizard Peninsula I found a full array of interesting facts about this peninsula, thank you. Doesn’t sound like there are lizards there, but they did discover titanium there. lol. Always great to hear from you, I’m glad you enjoyed the lizard post today; and happy you’re having a good time with your brother.

  9. I love the lizard photos and fun facts. Had no idea about the blood that kills Lyme disease. We have tons of fence lizards here – I see them every time I step outside. We use to see a lot of plateau-striped whiptails, but they seem to have vanished in recent years. They reproduce by cloning and are all female. Once I found a skink and caught it. It seemed content to hang out on my arm for quite awhile. I think it was cold. They are quite snake-like, but I for some reason I don’t want to hold a snake. Something about no legs at all gives me the willies, I guess!

  10. More scary than lovable Jet … but so interesting❣️ thanks for putting this collection together. I had no idea there were so many kinds! Coming from the land of damp and cold, (Scotland) it’s isn’t surprising.

    • I think the lizards might be intimidating to people who don’t see them much, or ever, which might be part of living in damp and cold places. When you’re around them more, you get used to them scampering around your feet…at least I did. I’m glad you found the lizards interesting, Val, thank you.

  11. I love to hear the connection between the western fence lizard and the deer ticks. When I lived in rural Thailand, the hospital housing for staff had lots of skinks. They sometimes visited the ground floor of the house while I was lying on the floor watching TV. Always hated when that happened as they made me jump every time. I know they were harmless but still.

    • I bet your rural Thailand experiences turned up all kinds of interesting critters, Keng. Really enjoyed hearing about the skinks there, had to smile at the thought of watching TV on the floor with them. Not too relaxing…. Thanks so much for stopping by.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the variety of lizards, Janet, and I agree with you, hurrah for anything that lessens Lyme’s Disease. Thanks, as always, for your lovely visit.

  12. Very interesting animals! I’ve seen some though my life but I did not put all my attention to them to tell you the truth. Great post my friend! 🙂

    • Yes, it’s true that lizards can often be overlooked. So I’m happy I could heighten some awareness and really glad you enjoyed the lizards, HJ. Thanks so very much, my friend, for your kind words and smiles.

  13. I think we have the same western fence lizard and the skink with the blue tail. I also heard about the lizard’s contribution to defanging Lyme disease (so to speak). We got bitten up in the woods by the tick that carries Lyme. I had all the classical symptoms. Three solid weeks of a miserable antibiotic weren’t much fun. Eric says the lizard doing the pushups is cooling its body if the rock gets too hot! They used to spook me at first, but I’m getting used to them and actually think they’re kind of cute now… as long as they don’t startle me! Eeeek!

    • Enjoyed hearing about your western fence lizard experiences, Gunta. I’m going to have to disagree with Eric on why lizards do the push-ups. It is a display of two purposes: to show off the blue belly to female prospects, and is also a territorial display to other males. But I am glad you are familiar with this wonderful lizard, and glad you think they’re cute now. Always a pleasure, Gunta, thanks so much.

      • I rather suspected Eric might be making it up, but it seemed like a funny interpretation nonetheless! 😀
        Perhaps I’ll manage a closer look at the blue belly someday- with a nice long lens? 🙂

    • Well your feet are always moving, Jo, so I don’t think there’s a problem with lizards running over them. lol. Wonderful to “see” you, my friend, thanks for your visit today.

  14. We had no idea that there were so many different types of lizards. As frequent hosts to our local monitor lizards and the large cousins, the water monitors, it was interesting to read about the broader lizard family and learn some fun facts such as the sun dependance factor.

    Your collection of photos is wonderful and seeing them all together as a collection is really great. Thanks so much for sharing.

    Peta

    • It is always a delight to hear from you, Peta, thank you. I would guess you’ve had plenty of lizard watching in Sri Lanka, and I enjoyed hearing about the monitor lizards where you live. I love lizards, and am so happy I could share their beauty with you here. Cheers!

    • Your comments always give me a big smile, David, thank you. I, too, just love those ancient reptiles. Wonderful to have thousands of their species joining us on this planet. 🙂

  15. I was a bit skeptical when I read the title Lovable Lizards, but I have to admit that after reading about them I am now willing to further consider their lovable traits (except for the ones that slither like a snake) and would be happy to have a western fence lizard hanging around the backyard. Fascinating information and wonderful photos, especially the shot of the sneezing iguana. I always appreciate when you give me a glimpse of nature that I have failed to appreciate.

    • Dear ACI, I loved getting your message because reptiles are not the most loved creatures on this planet, and I was heartened to hear you opened your heart more to them after this post. I do think if you had the western fence lizard leaping across the rocks in your front yard like I do, that it would bring a smile to your face. Here’s a link to a post I did about marine iguanas, the “sneezing iguana,” in case you are interested. Thanks for your visit today, ACI, always a delight to receive your comments.
      https://jeteliot.wordpress.com/2015/02/23/marine-iguana/

    • Really delighted to hear you enjoyed the lizard post, Craig. I enjoyed putting it together, and learned a lot from it. I have never seen a horned lizard, but sure have marveled at photos of them. And now I have a glimpse into their personality as well, what a treat. Thank you.

  16. Thank you, Jet & Athena, for bringing this wonderful world of lizards to our thoughts and meditations. As always, a pleasure to receive these posts about our natural existence. B/t/w/, Jet, thank you for the very kind comment at Amazon Books!

    • A great joy to celebrate the wonders of lizards with you, Walt, I’m happy you enjoyed it. I had a fun time putting it together. Also really enjoyed your latest book, Streamwalker’s Journey, and was honored to recommend it to your readers. I learned a lot about flyfishing and the PA/NY waterways, and your soothing, poetic words and appreciation for the marvels of the earth were a pleasure.

  17. What a delightful, informative post. The connection between the lizard and the ticks was especially interesting. As it happens, our Texas fireants eat ticks: one reason there are so few in the state, and also a reason I wasn’t cautious enough on a recent trip to the midwest and picked up a couple of ticks myself. I’m not accustomed to looking out for them.

    I have some of those green anoles that hang out around my place, and they’re great fun to watch. There’s an introduced species — the Cuban brown anole — that’s competing with them now, and causing some real issues, as invasive species will.

    But the best tidbit of all, hidden away in your post? The mention of the alligator lizard. When the group America came out with their song “Ventura Highway,” I always laughed at the line about “alligator lizards in the air.” I presumed the lizards were imaginary, or the result of indulging in some strange California substance. Apparently not. An explanation I found claims that the reference is to seeing the lizards as cloud formations in the sky. Who knew?

    • I love alligator lizards. When I was researching for this post, I came upon Wikipedia’s reference to the “Ventura Highway” song lyrics and Dewey Brunell’s explanation. But I didn’t take the time to listen to the song, one I was familiar with. So it was really great, Linda, to receive your link and listen to this classic oldie, and his mention of this glorious lizard. It is wonderful to think about two brothers on the side of the road looking at cloud formations while their dad fixed the flat tire, and the resulting song lyrics. Also loved hearing about your experiences with the ticks and anoles. Thanks very much for the song gift and your lovely words, much appreciated.

  18. The lizards do a good job of controling insect life in South Florida. Between them and the dragon flies we
    hardly have need for pest control to spray. The Green Anole is the one that closely resembles several
    now seen here since Hurricane Irene, they are rare and were a complete surprise.
    Your wonderful post includes a far greater variety from a wider range and other countries.
    They add great diversity to the natural world

    • So very wonderful to hear your Floridian take on lizards, Eddie. I appreciate your note on the benefits of the lizards, an important topic. And also found the Green Anole appearance following Hurricane Irene really interesting. Thanks for your contribution and comments, much appreciated.

  19. Lovely lovely, esp the skink – and except maybe the green iguana! They breed fast and can cause enviro problems, as at the moment in Florida. There have been 3 escapees on Abaco (“pets”), luckily in different parts of the island. The hope is that they don’t meet up… RH

  20. I had no idea lizards were so interesting – especially the special powers of the Western Fence Lizard. Too bad they can’t be introduced to the East Coast where ticks and Lyme disease is becoming a growing problem.

    I haven’t had a lot of experience with lizards, but the neon green ones in Hawaii were fun to watch. I do draw the line however when I find one in my shower … and yes, we learned the hard way that they will shed their tail 😏

  21. Great read, Jet. I remember learning a lot of this, but it’s not until you see a variety that you remember their unique qualities. They are very interesting. I see you’ve included your picture of an Australian frilled neck lizard. I hope you got to see one with the frill unfurled. It’s quite a sight.

    • Glad you enjoyed the lizards, Draco. Although I saw many frill-necked lizards (especially in the north, Darwin environs) while in Australia, I never did get to see the splashy frill displayed. I have only seen videos, and what a thrill this frill must be. Always a delight, my friend–

  22. Hi Jet, what a cool post… your writing is always so interesting and great photography from Athena! Lovely have you stop by, my friend. Hope all is going well for you and my best wishes always. 🌈 😃 Take good care!

  23. I loved this so much! I’m glad you shared your favorites. They are so beautiful and cute. It is so pleasing to see fellow lizard appreciators! They are funny, intelligent, and they, over time, in being loved, comprehend and return it. Many do not know, believe, or care about this or these wonderful beings.

    • I am happy you enjoyed the lizard post, Dawn. I feel fortunate that I came upon the joys of lizards, and I am glad you know their beauty so intimately. There are not a lot of females who take to lizards, we’ve had that socialized right out of us, so I am glad you stopped by. I went to your latest post and enjoyed your lizard in the hammock. My thanks–

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