AskDefine | Define lizards

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  1. Plural of lizard

Extensive Definition

Lizards are a large and widespread group of reptiles of the order Squamata, with nearly 5,000 species and ranging across all continents except Antarctica. Most lizards have four limbs, external ears, a long tail, and are insectivores. Many can shed their tails in order to escape from predators, though this trait is not universal. Vision, including color vision, is particularly well developed in lizards, and most communicate with body language or bright colors on their bodies as well as via pheromones. The adult length of species within the order range from a few centimeters (some Caribbean geckos) to nearly three meters (Komodo Dragons), though most species are less than a 0.5 lbs (220 grams).


Any generic description of lizards is often complicated by the fact that many typical lizard traits are either retentions from their evolutionary ancestors (such as the basic, 4-limbed, tetrapod body form) or are either lost or changed in some species (loss of limbs, loss of external ears, loss of the tail, etc.) Lizards are reptiles, and universally possess scaly skin and a skull with many fused or reduced bones. Most lizards retain the typical tetrapod body plan of a short neck, four limbs of roughly equal size ending in five toes each, a moderately long body, and a long tail. Most lizards possess external ears and have movable eyelids. Encompassing forty families, there is tremendous variety in colour, appearance and size. Most lizards are oviparous, though a few species are viviparous. Many are also capable of regeneration of lost limbs or tails. Almost all lizards are carnivorous, though most are so small that insects are their primary prey, however a few species are omnivorous or herbivorous, and others have reached sizes where they can prey on other vertebrates. Many lizards are good climbers or fast sprinters. Some can run bipedally, such as the collared lizard and some can even run across the surface of water to escape, namely the basilisk. Many lizards can change colour in response to their environments or in times of stress. The most familiar example is the chameleon, but more subtle colour changes occur in other lizard species as well such as the anole, also known as the "American chameleon," "house chameleon" or "chamele".
Some lizard species, including the glass lizard and flap-footed lizards, have lost their legs or reduced them to the point they are non-functional. However, some vestigial structures remain. Snakes, which evolved from the ancestors of monitor lizards, are characterized by lack of eyelids, lack of an external ear, a forked tongue, and having a highly elongate body (as opposed to a normal body but extremely long tail). While any given legless lizard species (of which there are many) may match on one or two of these characteristics, they invariably differ from snakes in others. For example, flap-footed lizards lack eyelids as do true snakes, but can be distinguished by their external ears.
Lizards are part of the reptile family meaning that they have no inner means of achieving homeostatis. As a result they must keep careful watch of their body temperature. This need requires lizards to live in areas with consistently high temperatures. Lizards are rarely seen in the upper half of the United States and most European countries.

Senses and communication

Lizards employ many diverse methods of communication. Like many other animals, they have an acute sense of smell, detecting scents of their prey or pheromones from other lizards. The primary organ of scent in lizards is a vomeronasal organ in the roof of the mouth, and lizards gather scents by flicking out their tongues, then retracting them and delivering the captured odor molecules to this organ. Some large carnivorous lizards, such as tegus and monitor lizards, have forked tongues like snakes, to take advantage of this organ better. As a result, many male lizards possess enlarged pores on the underside of their thighs, which they rub against objects to mark their territory.
While most lizards can hear well, few are capable of vocalizations or otherwise making noise. The exception to this rule is the geckos, which communicate through a wide variety of barks, chirps and whistles, with each species having specific patterns and sounds.

Relationship to humans

Most lizard species are harmless to humans. Only the very largest lizard species pose threat of death; the Komodo dragon, for example, has been known to stalk, attack, and kill humans. The venom of the Gila monster and beaded lizard is not usually deadly but they can inflict extremely painful bites due to powerful jaws. The chief impact of lizards on humans is positive as they are significant predators of pest species; numerous species are prominent in the pet trade; some are eaten as food (for example, Green Iguanas in Central America); and lizard symbology plays important, though rarely predominant roles in some cultures (e.g. Tarrotarro in Australian mythology). The Moche people of ancient Peru worshipped animals and often depicted lizards in their art. The Indian Monitor lizard (GOH) was used by tribals to climb clifs.


'''Suborder Lacertilia (Sauria) - (Lizards)


  • The Audubon Society Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of North America
  • Simon & Schuster's Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of the World
  • Reptiles & Amphibians
  • A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians Eastern/Central North America
  • Reptiles of the World: The Crocodilians, Lizards, Snakes, Turtles and Tortoises of the Eastern and Western Hemispheres
  • The World of Venomous Animals
  • Their Blood Runs Cold: Adventures With Reptiles and Amphibians
  • Exotic Pets
lizards in Arabic: سحلية
lizards in Guarani: Teju
lizards in Catalan: Lacertili
lizards in Chuvash: Калта
lizards in Czech: Ještěři
lizards in Welsh: Madfall
lizards in German: Echsen
lizards in Navajo: Na’ashǫ́’ii
lizards in Modern Greek (1453-): Σαύρα
lizards in Spanish: Lacertilia
lizards in Esperanto: Lacertuloj
lizards in Basque: Musker
lizards in French: Sauria
lizards in Galician: Lagarto
lizards in Korean: 도마뱀
lizards in Croatian: Gušteri
lizards in Indonesian: Kadal
lizards in Ossetian: Гæккуыритæ
lizards in Icelandic: Eðlur
lizards in Italian: Lacertilia
lizards in Hebrew: לטאות
lizards in Javanese: Kadhal
lizards in Latin: Lacertilia
lizards in Lithuanian: Driežai
lizards in Limburgan: Herdisse
lizards in Hungarian: Gyíkok
lizards in Macedonian: Гуштер
lizards in Min Dong Chinese: Dô-dâing
lizards in Dutch: Hagedissen
lizards in Dutch Low Saxon: Evertasken
lizards in Japanese: トカゲ
lizards in Norwegian: Øgle
lizards in Norwegian Nynorsk: Øgle
lizards in Polish: Jaszczurki
lizards in Portuguese: Lagartos
lizards in Romanian: Şopârlă
lizards in Quechua: Qaraywa
lizards in Russian: Ящерицы
lizards in Simple English: Lizard
lizards in Serbian: Гуштер
lizards in Finnish: Liskot
lizards in Swedish: Ödlor
lizards in Thai: กิ้งก่า
lizards in Cherokee: ᏗᎦᎭᎵ
lizards in Ukrainian: Ящірки
lizards in Chinese: 蜥蜴
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