Part of the order Squamata, lizards are reptiles found in many habitats, but especially in tropical and desert areas. Although sharing the same habitat, tropical lizards species can vary in size, habits and colors. Iguanas, chameleons, geckos, spectacled lizards, dragon lizards and the Komodo dragon are some types of tropical lizards.
Iguanas are lizards part of the family Iguanidae, only found in tropical areas. The green iguana (Iguana iguana) is a common species, native to Central and South America and popular as a pet. The lesser Antillean iguana (Iguana delicatissima), which is vulnerable to extinction due to habitat destruction and hybridization with the green iguana, is another species found in the Caribbean.
Part of the family Chamaeleonidae, chameleons feature distinct zygodactylous feet, with two toes forward and two back, like parrots, long tongues and eyes that can move independently from each other. However, their ability to change their skin color is the best known characteristic of these lizards. Most of the 160 species of chameleons live in tropical areas. The Malagasy giant chameleon (Furcifer oustaleti) is one of the largest species of chameleon, measuring 27 inches in length, and found only in Madagascar.
Geckos are members of the family Gekkonidae. Unlike other lizards, they communicate through high-pitched sounds. The 2,000 species of geckos vary widely in size, from less than an inch to 24 inches long. With the exception of the subfamily Eublepharinae, these lizards do not have eyelids but only a transparent membrane to protect their eyes. Defense strategies include dropping the tail or expelling feces on the predators.
Spectacled lizards gained their name due to their transparent eyelids, which allow them to see even with closed eyes. Part of the family Gymnophthalmidae,these lizards are small with elongated bodies and often short limbs. They are found in the tropical areas of Central and South America. Most common genera include Anadia, Bachia and Alopoglossus.
Dragon Lizards and the Komodo Dragon
Lizards of the family Agamidae are called dragon lizards or Agamids. More than 300 species are found in tropical areas of Asia, Africa and Australia. A key characteristic of these lizards is the teeth, which are seen even when they have their mouths closed, like in crocodiles. Endemic to certain Indonesian islands and members of the family Varanidae, the Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis) is the largest species of lizard, reaching up to 9.8 feet and 150 lb.
- "Lizards: Windows to the Evolution of Diversity"; Eric R Pianka and Laurie J Vitt; 2006
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images
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