Lizards are fascinating creatures. They have been living on this planet for hundreds of millions of years. They had lots of time to evolve, which is why there are so many types of them.
There are over 6.000 species of lizards on the planet and each has its own uniqueness to offer.
They live in many environments and come in a ton of colors and patterns.
They are easily among the most colorful animals in this world, together with birds and sea creatures (especially jellyfish, there are some real pretty ones in the depths of the oceans).
Think about other animals. How diverse are canines, equines, bovines, and other species? You won’t find a purple dog, or a bull whose fur changes color based on the environment.
In this article, we are going to analyze the lizards’ taxonomy, and see pictures of the weirdest and prettiest ones you can find around the world.
20+ Different Types Of Lizards
Lizards are a very diverse class of vertebrates. To catalog them, we divide them into 6 infra-order.
An infra-order is a group in taxonomy, which is an order or an unranked clade. An infra-order is the second-lowest taxonomic rank in phylogenetic nomenclature, just above the family.
Sounds confusing? It kind of is. But trust me, it gets way clearer when you deep dive into the various infra-orders. You’ll understand it in no time, just keep reading. It’s a way to catalog species, but you don’t really need to know what these big families mean. Just know they exist.
This is going a huge section with amazing pictures. Buckle up!
This infra-order includes iguanas, agamids and chameleons.
Iguanians are the biggest group of lizards. They have evolved long bodies to fit in tall trees or bushes, which is why you see so many chameleon pictures on the internet with them hanging around leaves. But they aren’t restricted to tropical areas at all, some of them live in the deserts.
There are many families within Iguania.
They’re the ones that look like a cross between lizards and dragons, with their enormous eyes and spikey scales. They come in different colors, from blue to green. They live in Australia, and some species can even change their color to match the environment.
Popular agamid lizards include:
They are among the most popular lizard pets. Why? Because they’re very docile, easy to take care of, and their spikes won’t harm you if you get too close. They also come in different colors, from yellow to blue with black spots all over them, which make these lizards look like tiny dragons or dinosaurs. The name Uromastyx means “tailed mastiff” in Greek.
Look how adorable they are!
- Bearded Dragons
Bearded dragons are some of the most popular reptile pets. What makes them so appealing is their beard, which looks like a mix of lizard spikes and whiskers. They can change colors from yellow to green depending on their mood or environment. Bearded dragons are also super popular as pets.
Here’s how they look:
Chameleons are some of the most intriguing lizards. They can change their skin color to camouflage with their environment, which is why they’re a fan favorite!
They come in a variety of colors and patterns but all have that famous chameleon long tongue that pops out really fast when it wants to catch a fly.
They are native to Africa, Madagascar and Southern Europe.
Editor’s note: Not all chameleons can change their skin colors however they please. Species like the Namaqua Chameleon can only change from brown to gray. While Madagascar, Panther and Veiled Chameleons can switch to bright yellow or blue in a matter of seconds.
For reference, here’s a yellow body blue bar Panther chameleon:
Now compare it with a Namaqua Chameleon:
It wouldn’t make sense for the latter to switch to bright colors. It lives in deserts, so as long as it can camouflage with the ground, it’s totally fine. It’s a matter of evolution and necessity. Although one wonders how camouflaging works when you make yourself look like a Christmas tree.
Corytophanidae is the family of lizards that include basilisks. Basilisks have a unique way to survive in their environment, which is rainforest or desert. They run fast on top of water!
They can grow up to two feet long and look like little dinosaurs with enormous eyes. I remember seeing my first basilisk in the zoo and freaking out because it looked so big.
Fun fact: Did you know that some species of corytophanid lizards actually have a crest on top of their head? It’s not made of bone, but keratin. This crest is present in many species, from basilisks to casque head lizards and they can use it as a mating weapon! The males will fight each other with the crests until one backs off.
Here’s how it looks like on a western basilisk:
Dactyloidae, also commonly known as anoles, are small lizards that are very diverse. They can be found in Central America, North America and even the Caribbean islands.
They come in different colors, like green or brown. The males can also extend their throats and color it pink. This is for 2 purposes: look bigger than it is to scare away predators and protect its territory, and trying to attract a mate.
Here’s how it looks:
Iguanidae is the family of lizards that include iguanas. You probably already know one or two things about them, like how they’re herbivores and can grow up to be enormous if you don’t give them food with high calcium levels (or feed them insects).
Their diet is key in determining their color; for example, if you feed a green iguana with really low levels of calcium, it will turn red because it’s trying to show off its blood vessels.
Here are some more interesting facts about the Iguanidae family: they can regenerate their tails and claws! Yes, that means cutting them won’t hurt as bad as you think. So, don’t be afraid to give your iguana a bath.
Here’s a trio of happy iguanas chilling:
Other less known Iguania families include Leiosauridae, Polychrotidae, and Tropiduridae.
I absolutely wanted to include this one because one of its specimens has by far the most unique defense mechanism among all lizards.
When the horned lizard is in peril, it shoots blood from its eyes. Here’s a video of it in action:
Basically, when this lizard feels like it’s in danger, it makes pressure build up in the eyes’ blood vessels. Then, once it reaches the breaking point, it shoots the blood. What’s crazy is that it can direct the blood. Which has a terrible smell and dissuades predators from pursuing the horned lizard.
This infra-order includes geckos and pygopods. Many of them have evolved to live in trees and bushes. That’s why you see so many pictures with geckos on the internet climbing up walls and windows (they can be very hard to remove).
But geckos aren’t the only lizards that belong to this infra-order.
These are the most famous family of Gekkota lizards. They’re the geckos! If you’ve ever seen one before, it was probably a Tokay Gecko or Leopard Gecko (a very popular pet).
They are tiny and have suction cups on their feet so they can climb up walls without falling off. Most species can also drop their tails and grow a new one, so don’t worry if you find your gecko’s tail on the floor.
Here is an amazing picture of a Tokay Gecko:
Tokay Geckos are very common all around Southeast Asia. Many people catch them in the wild and keep them as pets. They are hard to keep, and—if wild—will bite and scratch you. Definitely not as playful as other species.
This is another subfamily of geckos that live in the rain forest. They live in Australia and New Zealand, and are tiny.
They are so-called because of their unusual finger structure: they have two extra fingers that look like little flaps on the sides. This is to help them climb trees and hang onto branches more easily, especially when it’s raining.
Here’s an Amalosia, a species of Diplodactylidae moving around branches. Isn’t it the cutest thing in the world?
Diplodactylidae is common in pet stores. They’re a bit more friendly than Tokay geckos, but you should still handle them with care!
Other families within the Gekkota infra-order include:
Phyllodactylidae, like the peninsular leaf-toed gecko.
Eublepharidae, like the eublepharis macularius.
Pygopodidae, like the burton legless lizard.
This infra-order includes the most prehistoric species of all lizards. Most of them are big, at least 6 inches long, and have 2 or 3 rows of sharp teeth they use to crush prey.
Their bodies are built for running on the ground rather than climbing trees, which is why it is very unusual to see pictures of them in trees.
Within this infra-order, we can find various subfamilies.
They are found in Africa and can curl up into a ball, like this Smaug giganteus:
Cordyllidae are very cute but hard to keep. You need special rocks for them to eat because they crush their food before eating it. That’s why they’re sometimes called “armadillolizards”.
Other families within the Scincomorpha infra-order include the Gerrhosauridae, like the plated lizards:
Gerrhosauridae are very common in pet stores and easy to keep. They’re aggressive towards humans, but will calm down if you get them used to human presence early in their lives.
You can see, for example, this exemplary of Gerrhosaurus major chilling in its owner’s hand:
The Chalcides chalcides, also known as cylindrical skink, is a beautiful lizard that lives in burrows and is only active at night, eating all sorts of invertebrates you find on the ground (spiders, worms…). It has different colors depending on its age: babies are bright green with blue tails, while adults have duller colors like gray or brown.
They are very common in pet shops, but they get sick if you don’t provide them with the right temperature and humidity levels for their enclosure… It’s better not to try keeping these guys unless you know what you’re doing.
Here’s an adult Chalcides striatus walking around:
You can see that their front legs are tiny. They look goofy while they are slithering around (but they are still nimble). That’s why they are quite popular among pet lizard owners.
Here in North America, we can also find Teiidae. These are the ones usually known as “whiptails”, because of their long tails which they whip around when threatened.
They are very common in pet stores, and easy to keep if you get them used to human presence early on during their lives. They eat mostly invertebrates like crickets or worms that you can find at your local pet shop.
This is a relatively small infra-order of lizards that only contain the Anguidae family. They live in various parts of the world, including North America. Some species are aquatic and others spend most of their time on land.
Editor’s note: There are contrasting opinions on this. Some biologists believe that families like Anniellidae and Xenosauridae deserve to be in their own category. Others group all of them under Anguidae.
You can find many colors inside this family, but most are brown or greenish with patterns on their skin that make them look like leaves.
If they feel threatened, these guys will curl up and stay still so that the predator loses sight of them.
There is a species in this infra-order whose exemplars look like snakes. Here’s an Anguis fragilis chilling:
Their look comes from the fact that the tail is over half of their body. And, if you’re wondering why it’s called “fragilis” (which is Latin for frail), it’s because it can cut off its own tails while it runs away from predators. This will keep them busy while the Anguis run away with the rest of its body.
This is another order with only 1 family within it: the Dibamidae. These are lizards that are found in the neotropical region.
They’re tiny and you can find them inside rotten logs or under stones. They look like a mix of worm and snakes, with their pink-colored scales, and lack of limbs.
Here’s one for reference:
They eat insects and larvae, but they sometimes lick juices of fruits like guavas.
This is the last infra-order of lizards. You definitely already know of them. Particularly the family of the Varanidae. Never heard of them? What if I said Komodo dragon?
Platynota are the biggest lizards on the planet.
They live in humid areas with lots of vegetation to eat, abundant prey for hunting and heavy tree cover that they can hide under. Komodo dragons can sprint for short distances by using all four legs together, just like other lizards do. They use this quick running to catch prey or escape from predators.
Plus, they are huge. Like, gigantic. Look at this beauty:
Helodermatidae & Lanthanotidae
Other families in the Platynota infra-order are the Helodermatidae and the Lanthanotidae. You might know Heloderma suspectum as the Gila monster. They are venomous lizards, but their toxin is not lethal to humans.
Lanthanotus borneensis, on the other hand, are totally harmless to us. They don’t mind our presence, as long as we don’t disturb them.
They eat lots of insects like ants or termites.
Why Get a Lizard as a Pet?
Lizards are a great alternative to having a dog or cat as your pet for several reasons.
- First, they don’t need that much care. You only have to feed them and give them some attention from time to time, but they can live on their own most of the time if you’re busy with work, school, etc. Since they never get sick, they are very easy to take care of. And feeding them is easy. They eat stuff you can easily find in most pet stores.
- Second, you don’t have to walk them. You can keep a lizard in your house or apartment, so they are great if you live on the top floor of an apartment building.
- Third, lizards are easy to train and socialize with people around them. A lot of these animals will be happy just hanging out on their own most of the time, but they are also very curious and love to explore around.
- Fourth, many species look gorgeous. And so is their environment. If you want to add an exotic touch to your apartment, then building a lizard haven is definitely something to consider.
- Last but not least, there is a universe of different species out there that you can discover with your lizard. You don’t have to settle for just one type because lizards come in all kinds of colors, shapes and sizes.
There are so many lizards out there, it’s easy to find one that fits your personality. If you’re looking for a low maintenance pet with lots of variety, then reptiles might be the perfect choice. Lizards need little care and can live on their own most of the time if you’re busy working or going to school—plus, they never get sick.
They are also very easy to feed because all they eat is stuff found in pet stores like crickets or mealworms. Plus, these beautiful animals make great conversation starters when guests come over since they have such unique colors, shapes and sizes.
But even if you aren’t looking for a new pet, lizards are still a magnificent creature to know about. With their colorful scales and diverse taxonomy, you can spend a lifetime learning about them. Plus, you can show pictures of beautiful ones to your friends.
Not everyone likes reptiles, but those who do usually REALLY like them. Are you one of the reptile lovers?