Lizard Land — Part 1 of 2

Land Iguana, Galapagos Islands

 

Marine Iguana, Galapagos Islands

Lizards are one of the most diverse and remarkable creatures on this planet; there are 6,000 species living on all the continents except Antarctica. Here are some of my favorites in this two-part series.

 

Although most lizards may seem vulnerable as fairly small, soft-sided creatures, they are hearty and flourishing survivors.

 

It is their antipredator adaptations that have rewarded lizards with success on the planet. Features such as camouflage, self-amputation, venom, and reflex bleeding aid these reptiles in numerous ways.

 

Camouflage. In the Hawaiian tropics, this gecko surprisingly blends into the lush tropical flowers and greenery. We were lucky to find this one on our rental car where it stood out.

 

Gold Dust Day Gecko, Hawaii

 

Here you see the Lobed Chameleon in Serengeti grass…barely noticeable in its camouflaged state. Imagine how many ferocious wild African species could eat this palm-sized chameleon…yet in Tanzania alone there are 100 species of chameleons.

Lobed Chameleon, Serengeti, Africa (in exact center of photo)

 

The chameleon, like many lizard species, changes color to hide from predators. They also have the ability to extend their long, sticky tongue to snap up insects without having to leave their hiding spot.

 

This frisky pair of spiny-tailed iguanas would have escaped our notice if they hadn’t been rustling in their chasing.

 

Spiny-tailed Iguana pair, Belize

 

We found a frill-necked lizard on every tree in this northern Australia eucalyptus forest. Invisible to us at first, the guide pointed them out.

Frill-necked Lizard, Atherton Tablelands, Australia

In addition to camouflaging, the frill-necked lizards have a unique scare tactic. Named for the ruff of skin around their neck, frill-necked lizards can expand their neck skin like the instant opening of an umbrella. They have bones in the frill that form rods extending their ruff, quickly transforming them to be bigger and more fierce.

 

This is a good BBC YouTube video of what the frill-necked lizard looks like when defending. 

 

Self-amputation. Another example of anti-predator adaptation is autotomy or self-amputation. Skinks and small lizards are known for their ability to escape from a predator by this method.

 

If a predator grabs onto their tail, they sacrifice it by ejecting it, and escape, leaving the predator with only a still-squiggling tail. Miraculously, they grow the tail back. It has been found that lizard DNA is responsible for regeneration, involving 326 genes.

 

You can see this lizard with its battle scars: a segmented tail, indicative of regrowth.

Green Anole, Costa Rica; segmented tail indicating regeneration

 

Venom. While most lizards are not harmful, there are a few who produce venom, like the Gila monster, Komodo dragon, and some monitors. Lizard venom has led to ongoing scientific research for medicinal drugs to help with blood clotting, weight loss, and diabetes.

 

Reflex Bleeding. Horned lizards have an antipredator adaptation called reflex bleeding. At least eight species of this lizard can squirt and aim a stream of blood from the corner of their eyes, shooting it a distance of up to five feet (1.5 m). The blood confuses the predator, and is also foul-tasting to dogs and cats.

 

Another extraordinary lizard characteristic is thermoregulation. As cold-blooded animals, they rely on the sun for supplying energy to move and function. For this reason, lizards can often be seen basking in the sun.

 

Marine Iguana colony, Galapagos Islands

 

Basilisk Lizard, Belize, Central America

 

Lastly, lizards vary incredibly in size and shape. This land iguana is one of the largest lizards in the world, weighing up to 25 pounds (11 kg) and measuring 3-5 feet long (0.9-1.5 m).

Land Iguana, Galapagos Islands

 

In contrast, this full adult gecko, aptly named the dwarf gecko, is half as big as a paperclip.

Dwarf Gecko, Belize

 

And finally, as an aficionado of wild lizards, I ask that if you ever seek to purchase a lizard for a pet, please be responsible in purchasing only lizards that are bred in captivity and legally bought and sold. Help keep our wild lizards wild.

 

Solar-generated animals that can change colors, regrow their tail, magically blend into their surroundings, and shoot blood. How incredible is that?

 

Written by Jet Eliot.

All photos in the wild, by Athena Alexander.

See you next Friday for Part 2 of Lizard Land. Thanks for joining me!

Western Fence Lizard, California

 

89 thoughts on “Lizard Land — Part 1 of 2

    • Thanks Craig. As we have been birding throughout the years, I’ve had the opportunity to see more lizards along the way, and my love for them just keeps increasing because wherever I go they do cool things. I can hardly wait til Friday to show more. Thanks so very much. Hope your weekend is great!

  1. What wonderful creatures Jet. Thanks again for a fascinating post on an amazing species. Some of them are very handsome while others like alien monsters – or sweet, dinky little things. I think my favourite this time round has got to be the colourful Gold Dust Day Gecko!

    • I always enjoy your comments, Alastair, thanks so much. You see and appreciate the diversity of these creatures and I liked your descriptions…alien monsters, dinky little things. I like knowing your favorite, and yes, that Gold Dust Day Gecko is really a show-stopper. Looking forward to “going” on your walk with you in the UK this week, thanks so much for taking a lizard walk with me.

  2. Such an interesting post, Jet! Regeneration: in the house I lived in as a child, wall lizards (geckos) were quite common and there were occasionally some without tails, which usually felt to the ground and would be swept away with a broom. Eventually they would grow them back.

    • I so loved this story, Hien, about the wall lizards and their tail pieces, swept away with a broom. Your experiences of growing up in the tropics where lizards are a way of life was a wonderful contribution, thank you.

  3. I enjoyed this visit to Lizard Land! Remarkable creatures with an incredible array of survival skills, you’ve got to love them. The Gold Dust Day Gecko is as beautiful as the name it has – vibrant in that photograph.
    Thanks, Jet, and very much looking forward to Part 2. Have a wonderful weekend!

    • Hi my friend, I’m happy you enjoyed the visit to Lizard Land today. You’re right, PC, with all those skills, they’re very loveable. I hope your weekend is lovely, and my warmest wishes for a Happy Canada Day.

  4. A fascinating read with captivating lizard images, Jet. Amazing looking creatures with a diverse array of sizes and markings. Maybe someday I’ll see them in the Galapagos. Your post does remind me of our stay on Lizard Island, Australia years ago!

  5. All the way through this post, I kept thinking, “Ugly or beautiful? Which is it?” These lizards have a beauty of their own that just can’t be compared to birds or mammals. Wonderful collection of photos, Jet. It must have been a wonderful thrill to see these lizards for real.

    • Yes, I’ve found some people don’t love lizards as much as I do; they have, yes, a beauty of their own. I’m glad you enjoyed the post, Anneli, and yes, it is always a thrill to see a lizard. Thanks very much.

  6. what a pleasure to read about lizards, Jet! their unique features are fascinating! there is no way i could spot the lobed chameleon and the frill-necked ones look totally different when their neck skin expands. the self-amputation and reflect bleeding are great ways to detract or flee enemies, too. wow! thank you as always for an enjoyable read on lizards. very much looking forward to part II 🙂 🙂

    • It was a real treat to read your comment, Wilma, you took all of Lizard Land in, and I’m glad. I can hardly wait for Part II, I know you’ll like that too. In the meantime, have a Happy Fourth.

  7. “6,000 species” That is a lot of lizards! Every time I take picture of a lizard I find myself thinking I am glad these guys are not really huge critters! Jet interesting post as always 🙂

    • You got me chuckling, John, it’s true, the bigger the lizards are, the more intimidating they can be. The land iguana is the size of a human, pretty big, but they are fairly docile. Thanks so much for your wonderful words today, John.

    • Yes, Florida has had their problems with people letting their pets go. I’m sure you have lots of different species there. Enjoyed thinking about the lizards in FL, GP, thank you.

  8. Pingback: Lizard Land — Part 1 of 2 — Jet Eliot | huggers.ca

  9. These guys are fascinating, Jet! And such remarkable camouflage. Thanks for sharing so many different types from all over the globe, and for passing along such interesting information about each one. Amazing diversity!

    • Dear BJ, it is a delight to “see” you and I am so glad you had a chance to take in the lizard post. I had a really great time composing this one, with Athena’s wonderful photos to accompany. My warmest thanks.

  10. You’ve seen a good amount of lizards I see. Just imagine if you were able to see back in the time of the dinosaurs somehow. What the view of them would be.
    Very interesting post my friend 🙂

    • Your mention of the dinosaurs is interesting, HJ, for they are so connected to lizards, and as I was writing the post and going through all the photos of lizards, I kept thinking about dinosaurs. I’m glad you enjoyed the post, my friend, and I am always so happy to “see” you, thank you.

  11. To be honest… I don’t think I’d even be tempted to purchase any lizard. The ones skittering around the yard, startling me with their lightning fast movement, a good lot plenty for me! 😉
    Thanks for yet another of your lessons and Athena’s great photos.

    • I am always surprised when I do lizard research and googling at all the pet websites that come up, because I, like you Gunta, never ever think of lizards as anything but wonderfully wild. I chuckled at your excellent descriptions: “lightning fast,” “skittering,” and “startling.” They are all of those things, especially the little ones. Glad you enjoyed a visit to Lizard Land, my friend. Always a joy to have an exchange with you.

    • Yes, hard to imagine there is a gecko with all those colors and patterns, isn’t it, Simone. I’m glad you think lizards are fantastic, and what a joy it is to share some of these delightful creatures with you. Thanks so much.

  12. These are indeed amazing creatures Jet. The blood squirting one (out of the corner of their eyes!!) had my mouth fall open, that is unbelievable. Thanks for your post, interesting as always.

    • I’m chuckling, Bertie, as I, too, found the horned lizard blood-squirting trick pretty crazy!! I’ve seen it on nature shows, but never in real life. I realized as I was composing and researching, I would really like to see this in real life. lol. Thanks so much for your fun comment and visit, always a pleasure.

    • Dear David, oh how I love your poetic gifts, thank you. I loved writing and researching this post, for I can never get enough of the lizards. I am happy to bring you these delightful creatures, my friend.

  13. We’re awash in lizards just now, as yet another generation has emerged. Most are anoles — our natives, or the brown/black ones that supposedly have come from Cuba via Florida. Like those you’ve shown here, they’re fascinating: quick, sometimes quite brave, and prolific! I’ve learned to check my car every time I leave in the morning. Before everything heats up, the cars seems to be nice lizard lounging areas. There’s nothing quite like getting a block down the road and being confronted by a panic-stricken lizard staring at me through the glass!

    A couple of weeks ago, I was in a rare plant preserve and came across a lizard in the process of shedding its skin. Of course I’ve seen snake skins, but never a lizard skin, and I may know why. The one I found was happily eating the shed skin, one little bite at a time. I read they do that for nutrition, and also to avoid leaving tell-tale signs of their presence of predators.

    • I so loved hearing your lizard experiences, Linda, thanks so much. I laughed out loud at your sentence about being confronted with a “panic-stricken lizard staring” at you as you drove. Glad you got to see the lizard shedding and eating its skin. I have never seen a lizard eating its skin, but I knew they did. I have found skin sheds, usually the tail. I’m covering the skin and senses next week. Lizards are so fascinating! It is a pleasure to share this beautiful creature with you, and thanks very much for your contribution.

  14. Enjoyed part 1 of Lizard Land! Extraordinary creatures. So ancient looking. Fascinating to learn about the reasons they’ve flourished for so long on Earth! Loved the BBC video.

    • I’m really glad you took the time to watch that video, Nan, it highlights the frilled-neck so well. They are fast and not easy to capture. I’m happy you found the lizards fascinating, thank you so much for your visit here.

    • Loved your idea of humans becoming solar collectors and changing colors, Jan. Your writer’s mind is busy as usual. As a frequent Hawaiian visitor, you know the charm of their lizards. Glad you enjoyed Lizard Land. Mahalo.

  15. I really enjoyed this post because I have a great affection for lizards. I have handled just about every species of lizard that is native to the Arizona desert including the Gila Monster (which has to be done very carefully). and they still fascinate me.

    • You and I both share an affection for lizards, montucky. I remember from a previous post that you lived in the Sonoran Desert and went out “Heffalump” hunting for lizards. I did that once with a Canadian family in Costa Rica we had just met, and I found it amazing and really fun. I can imagine that you have handled just about every AZ lizard, and how great that you got to touch a Gila Monster. I don’t touch lizards, I just stare in awe, but I like that you do. Many thanks.

  16. Wow just wow!! Your posts, Jet, are just packed with so much information and the images are mind blowing! How you organize your photographs is beyond me! The thousands upon thousands of pictures that you take of so many species from all over the world boggles my mind! You must be super organized! I know how I struggle with just what I do as I search through my files for an image. My hat is off to you and I thank you SO much for these posts that each time I view, has me wowing out loud! The Miracles of Creations upon this earth that we don’t mostly know about, is so hard to wrap my little brain around. Amazing! Just amazing!! Hugely wonderful post! THANK YOU!!

    • I was tickled by your enthusiastic comment about the lizard post, Amy. Yes, organizing photos is a big job; and yes, I am a very organized person. But it is Athena who has kept up with sorting and organizing the 29,000 photos, done so on Adobe Photoshop. I do the labeling of all the species before they get forgotten. I just finished the draft for Lizard Land Part 2, I know you will like that too. Thanks so much for your comments and interest, it is much appreciated, my friend.

      • Well then tell Athena that she is doing a suburb job of organizing. I use Adobe Bridge making folders with each date I shot and where those images are from, and a key word or two of what I mainly shot. It gets a bit complicated when I use two camera bodies and shoot other then say, birds. That is when I find myself scrolling through folders looking for what I know I shot. I’m still trying to come up with a better system. There is a LOT of work behind the scenes before a post gets published! My hat is off to the two of you! I need an assistant to ID my birds …. I know you’ve helped me out in that area …. just doing that is a lot!

    • I’m delighted you stopped by Jill, and that Sharon’s magnificent monitor drawing brought you my way. Stay tuned for Part 2 of Lizard Land this coming Friday. Thanks for your comment and visit.

  17. Should I look to become a science fiction/ horror writer I shall go straight to the lizards for inspiration! Blood shooting from eyes and appendages ejecting at will definitely have the making of an edge of the seat read. Wowza. I almost dropped my phone watching the frill lizards pushing the power button on their collars. I’ll do my best not irritate one of those fellows.
    Fascinating post Jet. The abilities to blend into the environment is astounding. I had to do some looking to find kind of the hide and seek world ,Mr lobed chameleon.

    • As always, I am smiling from your comment and am so happy you enjoyed Part 1 of Lizard Land, Sue. Glad you had a chance to watch that crazy video! And yes, isn’t it wonderful how camouflaged that lobed chameleon is? I know in all of your travels you have seen many lizards, and am grateful for your generous comment on this amazing creature. My warm thanks.

  18. Your talk of Africa and chameleons reminded me that the word chameleon comes from a Greek compound meaning ‘earth lion.’ Apparently chameleons, though small and close to the earth, can be fierce predators.

  19. Wonderful, Jet, just wonderful. I adore these creatures. Thank you for all the info!
    I hate that people sell animals. It’s not right. Crazy thing is, we still sell people. I say we, because man is as strong as the weakest, as ignorant as the most ignorant. The chain is as strong as the weakest link.

    • The tricky part about writing about lizards, is that they are a very diverse and extensive family. But I’m happy I could put together some highlights and share the wonder and beauty of the lizards with you, Resa. Thanks so much for your visits.

  20. Thank you for sharing the beautiful lizard land, Jet! What an amazing variety! Land iguana and Dwarf gecko made me think of a possible giant branch in our Human species in the past 🙂
    Marine iguanas look very impressive.

    • I’m glad your two-part visit to Lizard Land got you thinking about the evolution of this incredible species, Inese. Yes, marine iguanas are a true joy.

  21. Years ago, I received flowers at an office where I worked. And in those flowers was a little lizard, much like the dwarf gecko that you’ve featured on the person’s hand. So I “captured” it in a cup and I called around to every pet store to ask what to do. Finally, I found a pet store that told me to bring him in. This specific store had a big glass storefront, filled with plants of every kind and the owner came out to greet me. She was very happy to see my tiny office companion and told me that she had several living in the plants that were in the windows (the area was enclosed, like a huge terrarium). I let it go in one of the plant pots and wished it well. (and I was a little sad to give him up)

    • Oh Sylvia, I just adored this story. So conscious and caring and thoughtful, on many levels. How lucky the little lizard found you and was safely delivered to its new home. Thanks for bringing a giant smile to my face today.

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