Top Ten Lizards

Top Ten Lizards

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       Lizards are a widespread group of squamate reptiles, with more than 5600 species, ranging across all continents except Antarctica, as well as most oceanic island chains. The group, traditionally recognized as the suborder Lacertilia, is defined as all extant members of the Lepidosauria (reptiles with overlapping scales), which are neither sphenodonts (i.e., tuatara) nor snakes – they form an evolutionary grade. While the snakes are recognized as falling phylogenetically within the Toxicofera clade from which they evolved, the sphenodonts are the sister group to the squamates, the larger monophyletic group, which includes both the lizards and the snakes. Lizards typically have feet and external ears, while snakes lack both of these characteristics. However, because they are defined negatively as excluding snakes, lizards have no unique distinguishing characteristic as a group. Lizards and snakes share a movable quadrate bone, distinguishing them from the sphenodonts, which have more primitive and solid diapsid skulls. Many lizards can detach their tails to escape from predators, an act called autotomy, but this ability is not shared by all lizards. Vision, including color vision, is particularly well developed in most lizards, and most communicate with body language or bright colors on their bodies, as well as with pheromones. The adult length of species within the suborder ranges from a few centimeters for chameleons such as Brookesia micra and geckos such as Sphaerodactylus ariasae to nearly 3 m (9.8 ft) in the case of the largest living varanid lizard, the komodo dragon. Some extinct varanids reached great size. The extinct aquatic mosasaurs reached 17 m (56 ft), and the giant monitor Megalania is estimated to have reached perhaps 7 m (23 ft).

  1. Satanic Leaf Tailed Gecko (Uroplatus Phantasticus)
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           Uroplatus phantasticus, the Satanic Leaf Tailed Gecko, is a species of gecko endemic to the island of Madagascar. First described in 1888 by George Albert Boulenger, U. phantasticus is the smallest in body of the Uroplatus geckos, though there is an ongoing debate as to whether one of its cousins, U. ebenaui, is smaller because of its shorter tail. It may also be known as the eyelash leaf tailed gecko or the fantastic leaf tailed gecko.
    Links: Top Ten Madagascar Attractions, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uroplatus_phantasticus,
  2. Armadillo Girdled Lizard (Cordylus Cataphractus)
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           The Armadillo Lizard (Cordylus cataphractus) is a lizard endemic to desert areas of southern Africa. It is also known as the Typical Girdled Lizard, Armadillo Girdled Lizard, Golden Armadillo Lizard and Armadillo Spiny-tailed Lizard. They have unusual square-shaped scales and a crest of spines along the neck and tail. If attacked they curl round and bite their tail to protect their soft belly, just like an armadillo. They also hide in crevices and puff themselves up so they can not be dislodged. Armadillo lizards are live-bearers and sometimes live in colonies of up to 40 individuals.
    Links: Top 100 Symbols, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armadillo_Lizard,
  3. Komodo Dragon (Varanus komodoensis)
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           The Komodo dragon also known as the Komodo monitor, is a large species of lizard found in the Indonesian islands of Komodo, Rinca, Flores, Gili Motang and Padar. A member of the monitor lizard family (Varanidae), it is the largest living species of lizard, growing to a maximum length of 3 m (10 ft.) in rare cases and weighing up to around 70 kilograms (150 lb.). Their unusual size has been attributed to island gigantism, since there are no other carnivorous animals to fill the niche on the islands where they live. However, recent research suggests that the large size of Komodo dragons may be better understood as representative of a relict population of very large varanid lizards that once lived across Indonesia and Australia, most of which, along with other megafauna, died out after the Pleistocene. Fossils very similar to V. komodoensis have been found in Australia dating to greater than 3.8 million years ago, and its body size remained stable on Flores, one of the handful of Indonesian islands where it is currently found, over the last 900,000 years, “a time marked by major faunal turnovers, extinction of the island’s megafauna, and the arrival of early hominids by 880 ka.” As a result of their size, these lizards dominate the ecosystems in which they live. Komodo dragons hunt and ambush prey including invertebrates, birds and mammals. Their group behavior in hunting is exceptional in the reptile world. The diet of big Komodo dragons mainly consists of deer, though they also eat considerable amounts of carrion. Mating begins between May and August, and the eggs are laid in September. About 20 eggs are deposited in abandoned megapode nests or in a self-dug nesting hole. The eggs are incubated for seven to eight months, hatching in April, when insects are most plentiful. Young Komodo dragons are vulnerable and therefore dwell in trees, safe from predators and cannibalistic adults. They take about eight to nine years to mature, and are estimated to live for up to 30 years. Komodo dragons were first recorded by Western scientists in 1910. Their large size and fearsome reputation make them popular zoo exhibits. In the wild their range has contracted due to human activities and they are listed as vulnerable by the IUCN. They are protected under Indonesian law, and a national park, Komodo National Park, was founded to aid protection efforts.
    Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Komodo_dragon,
  4. Veiled Chameleon
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           The veiled chameleon, Chamaeleo calyptratus, is a large species of chameleon found in the mountain regions of Yemen, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. It is also sometimes referred to as the Yemen Chameleon. The male veiled chameleon is primarily green in color and tends to be marked with stripes and spots of yellow, brown, and blue. Depending on the animal’s emotional state, this green will range from a bright lime green to a red olive drab. When veiled chameleons are stressed they often display strong coloration including bright yellow and sometimes even black. Surroundings only partly contribute to a chameleon’s “decision” to change color. Adult male Veiled chameleons are relatively large for reptiles. It is possible for them to reach an overall length of 24 inches (60 cm). Like most chameleons, veiled chameleons are specialized tree dwellers. They have a flattened body meant to mimic a leaf and feet specially designed for grasping limbs and branches. They have a prehensile tail that acts as a fifth appendage and aids in climbing. Their eyes work independently of one another allowing the chameleon to look in front of and behind itself at the same time. They have a long sticky tongue that they use to capture their insect prey. Veiled chameleons are ambush predators and are capable of lying still for very long periods of time waiting for an unsuspecting locust to wander by.
    Links: Top Ten Yemen Attractions, Top Ten United Arab Emirate Attractions, Top Ten Saudi Arabian Attractions, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veiled_chameleon,
  5. Frilled Lizard (Chlamydosaurus Kingii)
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           The frill-necked lizard (Chlamydosaurus kingii), also known as the frilled lizard or frilled dragon, is found mainly in northern Australia and southern New Guinea. Its name comes from the large frill around its neck, which usually stays folded against the lizard’s body. It is largely arboreal, spending the majority of the time in the trees. The lizard’s diet consists mainly of insects and small vertebrates. The frill-necked lizard is a relatively large lizard, reaching up to 91.4 cm in length.
    Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frilled_lizard,
  6. Jesus Lizard (Basilisk)
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           The basilisk also known as the Jesus Lizard sometimes runs as a biped. Basilisks have the unique ability to “walk” on water and, because of this, they have been dubbed as “The Jesus Christ Lizard.” On water, the basilisk can run at a velocity of 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) per second for approximately 4.5 meters (14.8 feet) before sinking on all fours and swimming. Flaps between their toes help support the basilisk, creating a larger surface and a pocket of air.
    Links: Top Ten Biblical Figures, Top Ten Statues of Jesus, Top Ten Biblical Passages, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basiliscus_%28genus%29,
  7. Web Footed Gecko
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           Web-footed geckos, in the genus palmatogecko are two species of Gecko that live in the Namib Desert. They have webbed feet in order to move more easily across desert sand. They don’t possess eyelids so they must lick their eyeballs clean in order to keep them moist. The Web-footed gecko uses various clicks, squeaks, croaks and other sounds to frighten attackers. The second defense is to break off its tail like all other geckos and flee to safety. Sometimes, when the Web-footed gecko sheds its skin it will eat the dead skin. During breeding season the female lays about two eggs that are the size of a bean. The eggs take eight weeks to hatch.
    Links: Top Ten Deserts, Top Ten Namibian Attractions, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palmatogecko,
  8. Leaf-Tailed Gecko (Uroplatus)
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           Uroplatus is a genus of geckos commonly referred to as Flat or Leaf-tailed Geckos. All the comprising species are endemic to Madagascar or nearby islands, such as Nosy Be, where they are found in primary and secondary forests.
    Links: Top Ten Madagascan Attractions, Top Ten African National Parks, Top Ten Skulls, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uroplatus,
  9. Iguana
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           Iguana is an herbivorous genus of lizard native to tropical areas of Central America and the Caribbean. The genus was first described in 1768 by Austrian naturalist Josephus Nicolaus Laurenti in his book Specimen Medicum, Exhibens Synopsin Reptilium Emendatam cum Experimentis circa Venena. Two species are included in the genus Iguana: the Green Iguana, which is widespread throughout its range and a popular pet, and the Lesser Antillean Iguana, which is endemic to the Lesser Antilles and endangered due to habitat destruction. The word “iguana” is derived from a Spanish form of the original Taino name for the species “Iwana.” In addition to the two species in the genus Iguana, there are also several other related genera in the same family for which the common name of the species includes the word “iguana.”
    Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iguana,
  10. Red Spotted Newt and Alpine Newt

           The eastern newt (Notophthalmus viridescens) is a common salamander of eastern North America. Eastern newts dwell in small lakes, ponds, and streams or near-by wet forests. They can coexist in an aquatic environment with small, non-carnivorous fish, however, their skin secretes a poisonous substance when the newt is threatened or injured. They have a lifespan of 12 to 15 years in the wild, and may grow to 5 inches in length. The strikingly colored (orange) juvenile stage, which is land-dwelling, is often known as the red eft. Some sources blend the general name of the species and the red-spotted newt sub-species name into eastern red-spotted newt (although there is no “western” one). The Alpine Newt (Ichthyosaura alpestris, formerly Triturus alpestris and Mesotriton alpestris) is a newt of the Salamander order Caudata (or Urodela) in the class of Amphibians.
    Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red-spotted_newthttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alpine_Newt,
  11. Spotted Salamander and Tiger Salamander
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           The Spotted Salamander or Yellow-spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) is a mole salamander common in the eastern US and Canada. The Spotted Salamander is the state amphibian of South Carolina. This salamander ranges from Nova Scotia, to Lake Superior, to southern Georgia and Texas. It has recently been found that its embryos have symbiotic algae living inside them. The Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum) is a species of Mole Salamander. The proper common name is the Eastern Tiger Salamander, to differentiate from other closely related species.
    Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spotted_Salamander,
  12. Panther Chameleon (Furcifer Pardalis)
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           The Panther Chameleon (Furcifer pardalis) is a species of chameleon. It lives in the eastern and northern parts of Madagascar in a tropical forest biome. Additionally, it has been introduced to Réunion and Mauritius.
    Links: Top Ten Best Dressed Animals, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Furcifer_pardalis,
  13. Thorny Devil and Horned Lizard
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           The thorny devil (Moloch horridus) is an Australian lizard that is also known as the thorny dragon, the mountain devil, the thorny lizard, or the moloch. This is the sole species of genus Moloch. The thorny devil grows up to 20 cm (8.0 inches) in length, and it can live up to 20 years. Most of these lizards are coloured in camouflaging shades of desert browns and tans. These colours change from pale colours during warm weather and to darker colours during cold weather. These animals are covered entirely with conical spines that are mostly uncalcified. The thorny devil also features a spiny “false head” on the back of its neck, and the lizard presents this to potential predators by dipping its real head. The females are larger than the males. The thorny devil’s body is ridged in structure, and this enables the animal to collect water from any part of its body. That water is then conveyed to its mouth. Horned lizards (Phrynosoma) are a type of lizards that are a genus of the Phrynosomatidae family of lizards. The horned lizard is popularly called a “horned toad,” “horny toad,” or “horned frog,” but it is neither a toad nor a frog. The popular names come from the lizard’s rounded body and blunt snout, which make it resemble a toad or frog. (Phrynosoma literally means “toad-bodied.”) The spines on its back and sides are made from modified scales, whereas the horns on the heads are true horns (i.e. they have a bony core). There are 14 species of horned lizards in North America, 8 of which are native to the US. The largest-bodied and most widely distributed of the US species is the Texas horned lizard (P. cornutum).
    Links: Top Ten Frogs/Toadshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thorny_devil, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horned_lizard,
  14. Psychedelic Gecko
    Psychedelic Gecko
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  15. Parson’s Chameleon
    Chameleon (Parson’s Chameleon)
    The Parson’s chameleon (Calumma parsonii) is a very large species of chameleon that is endemic to isolated pockets of humid primary forest in eastern and northern Madagascar. It is listed on CITES Appendix II, meaning that trade in this species is regulated. As with the majority of chameleon species from Madagascar, it is illegal to import Parson’s chameleons from their native country.
    Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parson%27s_chameleon,
  16. Bonus: Twin Lizards
    Twin Lizards
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  17. Links: Top Ten Reptiles (Living), Top Ten Dinosaurs, Top Ten Snakeshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lizard,

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