Tag Archive: lizards

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Superfamily: Varanoidea
Family: Helodermatidae

Genus/species: Heloderma horridum


GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Stout body covered with dark brown and yellow beadlike scales. Powerful limbs, long fat tail. Males usually have broader heads and longer necks than females.

Length to 1 m (3 ft) weighing 5-6 pounds.

Mexican Beaded Lizard IMG_0335

DISTRIBUTION/ HABITAT: Western coast of Sonora, Mexico south to Western Guatemala.
in tropical, deciduous woodland and thorn scrub. Frequently climbs trees. Often diurnal, on very hot days remains in burrows and emerges to hunt at night.


DIET IN THE WILD: H. horridum is a carnivore feeding on young rodents, fledgling birds, eggs, reptiles, arthropods and uses chemosensorily sensors to locate food with its forked tongue.

Academy Diet: Small mice.Mexican Beaded Lizard IMG_1679


LONGEVITY: Thirty years or more.

REPRODUCTION: The female lays her eggs — anywhere from two to 22 — between October and December, and they hatch the following June or July.

REMARKS: Venom is used more for defense than for stunning prey. Venom glands are located in the lower jaw (vs. in upper jaw in venomous snakes). At the base of each tooth is a grooved pit for venom delivery.

The two members of this family, which also includes the Gila Monster (Heloderma suspectum), are two of the three venomous lizards.  Their tenacious, chewing bite is potentially, though rarely fatal to humans.

Mexican Beaded Lizard P1050903

The third venomous lizard is the Komodo Dragon.


California Academy of Sciences Steinhart Aquarium Waterplanet Desert Cluster 2018

Ron’s WordPress Shortlink  http://wp.me/p1DZ4b-Sn

Ron’s flickr  http://www.flickr.com/photos/cas_docents/sets/72157625194985646/with/2982092236/

St Louis Zoo.  www.stlzoo.org/animals/abouttheanimals/reptiles/lizards/m…Zoo America. www.zooamerica.com/animals/mexican-beaded-lizard/

Animal world   www.stlzoo.org/animals/abouttheanimals/reptiles/lizards/m…



Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia (snakes, worm lizards, lizards, alligators, caimans, crocodiles, tortoises, turtles, and tuataras)
Order: Squamata (scaled reptiles, all lizards and snakes)
Family: Chamaeleonidae Chameleons

Genus/species: Furcifer pardalis


GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: This arboreal species has a laterally compressed body, prehensile tail, zygodactylous feet, protruding eyes covered with muffler-like lids, independent eye rotation and an extensile tongue. length to 23 cm (9.06 in).

A popular misconception is that chameleons change color to match their surroundings. While chameleons can in fact, change color, they are limited by a natural range of color unique to each species and, in the case of the panther chameleon, unique to the locales within the species. Color change occurs based on temperature, lighting, time of day, and the individual’s mood. It is also a way for the chameleons to communicate with one another.  Ref. Academy Rainforest blog 2-10-14      

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Endemic to Madagascar, the panther chameleon is found in lowland areas of the northeast and east, where it is locally abundant. They prefer humid disturbed scrub and forest. 

DIET IN THE WILD: F. pardalis forages diurnally for insects, small vertebrates and vegetation.

REPRODUCTION: Lays 10–46 eggs after about 45 days following copulation. Can produce four clutches per year. Young hatch 4–9 months later, depending on climatic conditions. Growth is rapid. Sexual maturity at 6–9 months.


PREDATORS: The most common threat to chameleons are birds — as these are diurnal canopy searching predators with excellent vision.  At night, roosting chameleons are also vulnerable to rats, mouse lemurs, arboreal tenrecs, carnivores, and snakes. But they usually choose sleeping points at the ends of thin branches or leaves, and will drop off if they feel vibrations towards them.

CONSERVATION: IUCN Red List No Special Status. CITES Appendix II. In 1998, 34,000 wild-taken of this species were exported from Madagascar for the pet trade. CITES established an export quota of 2,000 in 1999. The facts that this chameleon has populated disturbed areas and is one of the few chameleons that is bred outside of Madagascar on a commercial basis have supported its survival rate.

REMARKS: Chameleons also are known for their unusual grasping feet ideally adapted to climbing and for their long tongues that, missile-like, can project to remarkable distance to capture prey.

The independent rotation of their eyes allows chameleons to see where they’re going and where they’ve been at the same time or even to recognize a prey item in the foreground and a predator behind.

Color of life note: The Panther Chameleon uses cryptic coloration (conceals or disguises an animal’s shape) by changing the colors of its skin to make them look similar to its surroundings.

This change occurs through active tuning of a lattice of guanine nanocrystals within a superficial thick layer of dermal iridophores. These nanocrystal act like the structural lattice of the Blue Morpho butterfly but in the chameleon the nanocrystal are moved to create different color reflections of structural light. 

Nature  http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2015/150302/ncomms7368/full/ncomms7368.html

Other References

California Academy of Sciences Rainforest Docent Training Manual 2014

Animal Diversity Web (ADW) animaldiversity.org/accounts/Furcifer_pardalis/

Ron’s flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/cas_docents/sets/72157608449603666/ 

Ron’s WordPress shortlink  http://wp.me/p1DZ4b-zQ

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia (snakes, worm lizards, lizards, alligators, caimans, crocodiles, tortoises, turtles, and tuataras)
Order: Squamata (scaled reptiles, all lizards and snakes)
Family: Gekkonidae
Subfamily: Gekkoninae (Geckos)

Genus/species: Phelsuma grandis

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Largest species of the genus Phelsuma, 23–27 cm (9-10.6 in). They are bright green, with granular red spots on the body and a red line running from the eye to the tip of the nose. Eye color is much like the skin color. blending into their heads and surroundings. The eyes are surrounded by blue rings, have round pupils, indicative of a diurnal life style.


DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Northern Madagascar, Seychelles, and smaller islands close to Madagascar. Found in the canopy of tropical rain forests and on the walls of buildings in towns and villages.

DIET IN THE WILD: Mostly insects and other invertebrates; also soft sweet fruit, nectar, and pollen.

REPRODUCTION: Breeding season is between November and the first weeks of May. During this period, the females lay up to 6 pairs of eggs which hatch after approximately two months.

MORTALITY AND LONGEVITY: They live up to 10 years in captivity.


CONSERVATION: Widespread in northern common and tolerant of disturbance within its known range. There are no known major threats.

REMARKS Many geckos can make sounds to attract mates, to advertise their territories, to warn off unwanted intruders or to frighten predators. Geckos do not have eyelids. Instead the lids have fused, and the eye is covered with a large transparent scale. Geckos keep their eyes clean by licking them with their broad flat tongues.

Madagascar MA08


California Academy of Sciences Docent Rainforest Training Manual 2014

IUCN Red List Least Concern (LC) www.iucnredlist.org/details/193490/0

Encyclopedia of Life  eol.org/pages/2448279/details

Ron’s WordPress shortlink http://wp.me/p1DZ4b-U7

Ron’s flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/cas_docents/16492091872/in/set-72157620708610230/

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia (snakes, worm lizards, lizards, alligators, caimans, crocodiles, tortoises, turtles, and tuataras)
Order: Squamata (Lizards and Snakes)
Suborder Sauria (Lizards)
Family: Gekkonidae (Geckos)

Genus/species: Uroplatus henkeli

Henkel's Leaf-tailed Gecko 4226839485_62145bf20d_b

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS A master of camouflage: its grey-brown skin blends in with the colors of tree bark. The fringes of skin along its head and body mask shadows by breaking up the. outlines of its body. The charcoal/light grey patterns on some individuals’ bodies look like lichen. The short flat tail, for which the genus was named (uro – “flat,” platus – “tail”), looks like a dead leaf. The bulging eyes on its flat triangular head have pupils with vertical slits, an indication of a nocturnal life style. Size to 255 mm (10 inches).

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT Madagascar rainforest vegetation just a few metres off the ground

DIET IN THE WILD Nocturnal predator, eats mainly insects.

Henkel's leaf-tailed  Gecko  Uroplatus henkeli IMG_0394

REPRODUCTION: Eggs are deposited on the forest floor hidden under fallen leaves, beneath pieces of wood, or among dead leaves still attached to a plant. Juveniles hatch following a three-month incubation period.

MORTALITY Life span in the wild believed to be 3–5 years. Species has lived up to 15 years in captivity.

CONSERVATION IUCN Vulnerable from continued destruction of Madagascar forests. 

Listed in Appendix II of CITES.


REMARKS: To help escape predators. Like most lizard species, geckos can shed their tails. A new, shorter tail composed of cartilage will grow back. It can also frighten enemies by opening its mouth wide revealing a bright red interior. Also some geckos, including this one, have vocal cords, the only lizards that do. Its defensive behavior is often accompanied by loud distress calls.

Henkel's Leaf-tailed Gecko IMG_0742

Madagascar MAO7


California Academy of Sciences  Docent Rainforest Training Manual 2014

Encyclopedia of Life  eol.org/pages/961880/details

IUCN Red List:  www.iucnredlist.org/details/178653/0

Ron’s WordPress shortlink  http://wp.me/p1DZ4b-Uo

Ron’s flickr  http://www.flickr.com/photos/cas_docents/sets/72157608449603666/with/4226839485/

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Family: Gerrhosauridae

Genus: Zonosaurus maximus

 GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Relatively flattened body with a long, pointed snout. The body is covered with heavy armor of large, bony, keeled scales, especially on the dorsal surface. The scaleless area along the sides functions as expansion joints for gravid females that allow distention after feeding. Length is up to 70 cm (28 inches).


DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Endemic to Madagascar, this species is found in lowland humid forest associated with rivers and streams as well as non-forested riparian areas where it builds dens close to water. When disturbed, it seeks shelter in water and can stay submerged for several minutes.

DIET IN THE WILD: Plant matter, invertebrates, small rodents, other reptiles.

PREDATORS: Predators are primarily snakes.

REPRODUCTION: Oviparous. Life span: about 20 years.




CONSERVATION: IUCN Red List Vulnerable (VU)
Populations are severely fragmented and declining because of the reduced size and quality of habitat due to agricultural activities. Mature animals may also be over-collected for the pet trade. Some sites where this plated lizard occurs are fortunately under conservation management, including newly protected areas.

LOCATION:  Madagascar Rainforest  MA13


California Academy of Sciences, Docent Rainforest Training Manuel 2014

Encyclopedia of Life eol.org/pages/462210/details

IUCN Red List www.iucnredlist.org/details/172865/0

Ron’s flickr  https://www.flickr.com/photos/cas_docents/7423084566/in/set-72157620708610230/

Ron’s WordPress Shortlink  http://wp.me/p1DZ4b-xI

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Family: Varanidae

Genus/species: Varanus salvator (melanistic color form)

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Color is usually dark brown or blackish.  The neck is  long with an elongated snout and the nostrils close to the end of the nose. The tail is laterally compressed and has a dorsal keel. Scales on the top of the head are relatively large, while those on the back are smaller in size and are keeled. Length to 2 meters (6.6 ft), but most adults are 1.5 meters (4.9 ft) long. Average weight is 19.5 kg (43 lb). As of 2014 the Academy Water Monitor is aprox. 7 years old and 4 feet long (California Academy of Sciences, Eric Hupperts, Biologist)

Water Monitor


DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Found throughout much of southern Asia, from India in the west to the Philippines and the Indo-Australian islands in the east. They are semi-aquatic and has a wide range of habitats. Also found on flat land, a typical burrow is in a river bank. The entrance starts on a downward slope but then increases forming a shallow pool of water.

DIET IN THE WILD: The lizard is very fast and is an ‘open pursuit’ hunter, rather than stalking and ambushing. V. salvator is an extreme carnivore: birds, eggs, mammals, fishes, other reptiles and carrion.
Academy diet: Rodents.

REPRODUCTION: Males are normally larger than the females, usually twice as large in mass.. Eggs are usually deposited along rotting logs or stumps.

LIFESPAN: 10.6 years in captivity.

Water Monitor

CONSERVATION: IUCN Redlist: Least Concern. CITES: appendix II. It is abundant in parts of its range, despite large levels of harvesting.

REMARKS:They are excellent swimmers known to cross large stretches of water, explaining its wide distribution. Known to dig up corpses of human and devour them.

Skins of  V. salvator are used for dietary protein, ceremonies, medicine, and leather goods. Annual trade in these skins may reach more than 1 million whole skins a year, mostly in Indonesia for the leather trade. Medium-sized individual are preferred because the skin of large animals is too tough and thick to shape.


Encyclopedia of Life  http://eol.org/pages/1055072/details

Animal Diversity Web animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Varanus_salvator/

Ron’s WordPress Shortlink  http://wp.me/p1DZ4b-TY

Ron’s flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/cas_docents/sets/72157625194985646/with/5492305677/


 Kingdom   Animalia

Phylum     Chordata

Class         Reptilia

Order         Squamata

Family       Corytophanidae

Genus/species  Basiliscus plumifrons


General Characteristics

 Their length, including tail, can be up to 85 cm (33 in).   Adult color is bright green, or slightly blue-green with males having  distinctive, high crests on their heads and backs, which they use to impress females. The females have only one small crest. During the first months of their lives, young ones are a brownish/olive green color, with bright green heads.

 B. plumifrons has been called the “Jesus Christ” lizard, because of its ability to walk on water. Their rear feet have long toes

with fringes of skin that unfurl in the water, increasing surface area. They rapidly move their legs as they slap their splayed feet hard against the water. This creates tiny air pockets that keep them from sinking, provided they keep running fast enough. They can move along the surface like this for 4.5 meters or more. When gravity eventually takes over, the basilisk is an excellent swimmer.


Central and South America. They are arboreal and semi-aquatic; inhabit the trees and bushes of the rainforest, often along riverbanks.

Diet in the Wild:  

Omnivores, surviving on a diet of plant material, insects, fruit, and small vertebrates.


In Costa Rica breeding occurs during the wet season, May to September. Pregnant females prepare a shallow trench where they lay up to 20 eggs leaving the eggs to hatch on their own. Incubation period is about 2 months. Hatchlings are born with the ability to run (on land and water), climb, and swim.


In the wild raptors, opossums, and snakes prey upon the lizards.  Life span is up to 10 years in captivity.

Location: Costa Rica CR02

 flickr   http://www.flickr.com/photos/cas_docents/5329669312/in/set-72157608449603666

WordPress Shortlink  http://wp.me/p1DZ4b-xl


Brookesia stumpffi 

Class Reptilia,  Order Squamata,  Suborder Iguania,  Family: Chamaeleonidae

DISTRIBUTION: Northern Madagascar

HABITAT: Rainforest floor.

DIET: Small insects.

REMARKS: Can rapidly change colors to blend with the forest leaf litter to avoid predators.  When disturbed will play dead in an effort to resemble a fallen leaf. 

Text Ref. California Academy of Sciences Marco Schmidt

LOCATION: Madagascar MA14

WORDPRESS SHORTLINK http://wp.me/p1DZ4b-dt


Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Reptilia

Family: Iguanidae.

Genus/species: Iguana iguana

DISTRIBUTION: Widely distributed from Mexico to southern Brazil and Paraguay, as well as on Caribbean Islands.

HABITAT: Tropical rainforests at low altitudes. Is arboreal and spends most of its time in the low canopy, 12–15 m (40–50 ft) above ground, coming down only to mate, lay eggs, and change trees.

APPEARANCE: Green iguanas are among the largest lizards in the Americas: 2 m (6.5 ft) in length, 5 kg (11 lbs) in weight. They can be various shades of green, ranging from bright green to a dull gray-green. The skin is rough with a set of pointy scales along the back. They have long fingers and claws to help them climb and grasp branches. Males have a flap of skin, called a dewlap, on the ventral side of the neck. It can be inflated to make them seem larger, to attract females, and to adjust their body temperature. The tail is almost half their length, and can be used as a whip to drive off predators. They can detach their tail if caught, and it will grow back.

DIET: Primarily herbivores, eating plants, especially leaves and fruit.

REPRODUCTION and DEVELOPMENT: Iguanas reach sexual maturity in 2–3 years. Green iguanas breed at the onset of the dry season. A month or two later, the females lay a clutch of 14–76 eggs in burrows excavated in communal nesting sites. At the end of a three month Incubation period, the newly hatched iguanas emerge. Because hatching takes place during the rainy season, food is plentiful.

MORTALITY/LONGEVITY: Reptiles, birds and mammals prey upon the hatchlings. Less than 3% live to adulthood. Adults are highly prized for their meat, and are hunted by humans. They are also captured for the pet trade.

CONSERVATION: The green iguana has become extinct in some countries and is endangered in others because of excessive hunting and habitat loss. In Costa Rica a program is being developed to breed and raise green iguanas in semi-captivity. After successful breeding, the hatchlings are maintained for 6–10 months, then released into the surrounding area with supplemental food and protection. When they are adults, some are harvested for food and to generate income by supplying leather for handicrafts. Such programs have decreased forest destruction and helped to protected wild iguanas.

REMARKS: In parts of Central America where iguanas are eaten for food, they are called “bamboo chickens” or “chicken of the trees.”

*Not currently on Display

WORDPRESS SHORTLINK  http://wp.me/p1DZ4b-bB

Tropidurus spp.   Family Tropiduridae

DISTRIBUTION: The seven different species are T. grayi, T. bivattatus, T. pacificus, T. habellii, T. delanonis, T. albemarlensis, and T. duncanensis  but only one species is found per Island.

HABITAT:  Lizards begin each day basking on the warm rocks for about an hour depending on the sun’s heat.

 APPEARANCE:  The male is larger than the female growing to about 10 inches (25cm).  Females have a bright orange throat extending up to cover some of the face.  The male is pale tan, darker along the sides, and mottled with black speckles.  There is much variability among species and even with the same species.


REPRODUCTION:  Male lizards will mate with all females passing through their territory. Females will dig deep in the soil to lay their eggs to protect them. The period of incubation takes about 3 months (similar to Iguanas) before the young lizards born measuring about 2 inches long at birth.

REMARKS: They are eaten by hawks, snakes, mockingbirds, herons, and centipedes.  Besides camouflage, they have one major defense mechanism to help keep them from joining the food chain, by being eaten by a higher animal: they will “drop” their tail when a predator grabs hold of it. The dropped piece of tail will continue to move about while the lizard attempts to flee and will regrow slowly.

LAVA LIZARD regrowing tail.

REMARKS: One often sees male and female lava lizards doing “pushups”  defending their territory or while courting.

WORDPRESS SHORTLINK   http://wp.me/p1DZ4b-6Y

VIDEO LINK: Galápagos Series  http://www.youtube.com/watch v=VySe1X12gqs&hd=1

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