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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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