Top 10 Largest Lizards in the World

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  • The largest lizard in the world is the Komodo dragon, which can weigh up to 300 pounds.
  • Lizards are native to every continent except Antarctica.
  • Lizards can live up to 50 years and range in length from half an inch to 10 feet.

Lizards can often be seen soaking up some sunlight during the day, but they prefer to hide near rocks and other vegetation at night. Part of the reptilian group of animals, lizards have features like the forked tongue and scales of snakes. Lizards are cold-blooded and go dormant in cold weather. As such, they are most common in hot, dry regions of the world. Lizards use their claws to dig, climb and defend. Their tails are usually as long or longer than the rest of their bodies and are used for balance, climbing and protection. If a lizard's tail is injured or severed, it will eventually grow a new one.

Lizards can live up to 50 years and include 4,675 identified species. Most species lay eggs, but a few carry them inside the mother. Lizards mature anywhere from 18 months to 7 years, with some species taking longer to reach full maturity. They range in length from just over half an inch to over 10 feet.

Some interesting facts about lizards are:

  • they smell with their tongues
  • They have movable eyelids for blinking (with a few exceptions)
  • Their tails contain up to 60% body fat
  • When on a hot surface, they raise their legs quickly in a dance-like motion
  • Their ears are just below the surface of the skin with distinct openings
  • The only continent without lizards is Antarctica
  • When a mother lays, she doesn't stay around to protect the eggs

Lizards that we usually think of and know about don't appear on this list. Read on to find out which species make the top 10 list of the world's largest lizards!

#10: Marine Iguana ( Amblyrhynchus Crisstatus )

Marine iguana amblyrhyncus-cristatus-in-galapagos-islands
Marine iguana, Amblyrhyncus cristatus in Galapagos Islands

©iStock.com/Fred Chaveton

One fascinating lizard species is the marine iguana. They are the only lizards that swim in the waters around the Galapagos Islands. The short, blunt snout enables them to feed on seaweed and algae. Use their claws to help them stay on the bottom of the ocean and their flat tails to help them swim like snakes. They can stay underwater for up to 30 minutes and can submerge to a depth of 65 feet. They "sneeze" to expel excess salt absorbed in the ocean for a long time to prevent dehydration.

During times when food supplies are scarce, marine iguanas can shrink by as much as 20 percent in size. This allows the lizard to survive and stay healthy on less food. Once the food supply was restored, the lizards returned to their original size. Males grow up to 26 pounds and are about 4.5 feet long, while females are usually smaller, about 2 feet long.

Young marine iguanas are usually black. As they mature, their colors change, including red and black, green, red and gray, and they become more vibrant during mating season. They lay 2-3 eggs in burrows on land, which hatch after 2.5 to 4 months. Marine iguanas can live up to 60 years.

The species has declined dramatically in numbers, losing most of its population during El Niña and seeing a second wave of losses in the 2001 Jessica oil spill. The introduction of other animals such as cats, dogs and pigs also claimed the lives of many lizards. The current total population is estimated to be between 200,000 and 300,000.

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#9: Galapagos Land Iguana ( Conolophus Subcristatus )

Galapagos land iguana

©BlueOrange Studio/Shutterstock.com

Galapagos land iguanas are native to the Galapagos Islands. It will grow to 28-30 lbs and be nearly 5 feet long. They are predominantly yellow in color with white, black and brown spots. They are considered vulnerable. Increases in the number of small animals such as cats, dogs, pigs and mice are one reason land iguanas are declining. More animals are seeking the same food source, and these animals are predators of juvenile iguanas and their eggs.

Land iguanas mature between 8-15 years of age and have a lifespan of 50 years. When mating, the female looks for a suitable nesting site, digs a hole and lays 2 to 20 eggs. Males will be very territorial and will be protective of their rivals. Females will guard their nest in case other females want to use the same nesting area, but will eventually leave the nest for 3-4 months. It takes about a week for babies to dig their way out of the burrow.

#8: Blue Iguana ( Cyclura Lewisi )

Rare blue iguana, also known as the Grand Cayman iguana (Cyclura lewisi), in the wild on Grand Cayman
The rare blue iguana, also known as the Grand Cayman iguana (Cyclura lewisi), in the wild on Grand Cayman

©Kenneth Earl Coleman/Shutterstock.com

As the name suggests, this lizard is blue to gray-blue in color. It grows to about 31 pounds and is about 5 feet long. The coloring provides cover as the iguanas camouflage themselves on nearby rocks and in the bushes of Grand Cayman. The adaptable lizard makes its home in dry stony forests with prickly foliage or moist woodland forests, dry subtropical or semi-deciduous forests.

Blue iguanas love to eat green leafy vegetables, carrots, sweet potatoes, fungi, insects, soil, droppings, leaves, stems, fruits and flowers. They like to bask in the sun and hide in rocks, crevices or burrows at night.

This lizard has an average lifespan of 25-40 years and does not reach sexual maturity until 4-9 years old. They breed in spring, usually April to June. Female iguanas can become aggressive and territorial after mating. The eggs remain inside the female until late June to August. She will have as many as 20 eggs, bury them a foot deep, and nurture them for 60-90 days until they hatch. There are large numbers of eggs that succumb to predators.

#7: Lace Display ( Varanus Varius )

lace monitor
Lace monitors lay their eggs on the side of an end mound—knowing that the termites will repair it and seal the eggs.

©Ken Griffiths/Shutterstock.com

Aptly named, Lace Monitors are dark in color with a cream to yellowish lace-like pattern. This is to help them camouflage themselves from predators. When they lay eggs, the female monitors dig up the side of the termite mound and lay 6-12 eggs. The termites will rebuild their mound, which protects the eggs from predators and the elements, keeping the eggs at a constant temperature. After about seven months, the female returns to dig out the hatched eggs.

The Lace Monitor is Australia's second largest lizard, weighing up to 31 pounds. They modified their long tongues into snakes to make better use of their senses of smell and taste. Using their highly developed senses, they can judge the location of predators by flicking their tongues and tasting molecular residues. They are poisonous but not deadly. Their long tails are used for balance while climbing, whipping for defense, swimming, and for dominance when courting females during mating season.

#6: Nile Monitor Lizard ( Varanus Niloticus )

nile monitor
Nile monitor lizards can have extremely long tails

© MattiaATH/Shutterstock.com

Our sixth largest lizard is the Nile monitor, which averages 44 pounds and is 8 feet long. Their tail is almost 1.5 times the length of the body and is olive green to black with cream or yellow V-shaped stripes on the head and neck. These stripes look like bands or spots when you look down from behind.

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At about two years old, or 14 inches, females will begin laying eggs. They are placed in burrows and typically lay 12-60 eggs at a time, depending on the size of the lizard. Nile monitor lizards are semi-aquatic, but prefer to bask on rocks and branches. They are native to Africa and reach elevations up to 6,560 feet. A number of Nile monitors have been found in Florida, possibly due to escapes or release from captivity.

They are known as crabs, crayfish, mussels, snails, slugs, termites, caterpillars, beetles, spiders, grasshoppers and crickets, fish, frogs, toads, lizards, turtles, snakes, small crocodiles and other reptiles, birds and their eggs subsistence, as well as small mammals.

Black Threat Monitor
The black-throated monitor lizard is a large tropical lizard from Africa that is often kept as a pet.

© iStock.com/Charlotte Blakeenberger

#5: Black-throated monitor lizard ( Varanus albigularis Microstictus )

This large lizard is often kept as a pet. When kept as pets, they are so gentle that they even need to interact with humans, and they are said to recognize their owners. If you tend to raise a black throated monitor, they love to play and they need exercise. You can walk them on a leash. This can be a stress reliever for your lizard, leading to a better immune system, improved health and social skills. Those raised in the wild can become aggressive due to the need to play. Uncertainty about what a person wants can cause them to become fearful and lash out.

These lizards can grow up to 60 pounds and be up to 7 feet long, and they are characterized by gray-brown scales and yellow-and-white markings. Since they are native to Africa, they like warm temperatures, preferably not lower than 68 degrees. Black-throated monitor lizards need about 12 hours of UVB lighting per day. They eat small rodents, crustaceans, fish, birds, eggs, small reptiles, and even chickens.

#4: Perentie or Goannas ( Vavanus Giganteus )

Goana
The perentie lizard is the largest monitor lizard in Australia.

© Jacob Loyacano/Shutterstock.com

Australia is home to the perentie lizard, a relative of the Komodo dragon. A bite from a perentie lizard is not poisonous, but it takes a long time to heal. Lizards do have an evolutionary relic of venom glands, which may account for the long healing times after a bite.

If a predator approaches, the perentie will raise its head and hiss to scare the predator. Their second line of defense is to use their long tail as a whip. If none of this works, they will turn and run away.

Their favorite foods are turtle eggs, insects, birds, other reptiles, small mammals and marsupials. At 8.2 feet long and weighing an average of 44 pounds, perentie lizards can live up to 40 years in the wild, hibernating during the cooler months.

#3: Tree Crocodile, or Crocodile Monitor ( Varanus Salvadori )

alligator monitor
Crocodile spotters live on the island of New Guinea

©Vladislav T. Jirousek/Shutterstock.com

Tree crocodiles are usually 7-9 feet long, but the longest crocodile is 16 feet, making them the longest lizards (the Komodo dragon is still the largest). The longest part of a lizard is the tail, which is half its length. They like to eat carrion, small reptiles, mammals and bird eggs.

Due to its aggressive nature, this species is considered a challenging hunt. However, it turns out that their meat and hides can be used to make clothes and drum heads. Many people fall into the traps used to catch other animals. Monitor lizards have snake-like tongues, which allow them to be more accurate in finding their prey. The long tail acts as a whip, and the serrated teeth slice and tear flesh like a crocodile, which is how they got their name.

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#2: Common or Malayan Water Monitor Lizard ( Varanus Salvator )

Monitor lizard (Varanus Indicus) - lying on sidewalk
Malayan water monitors spread across Southeast Asia

© Martin Pelanek/Shutterstock.com

Southeast Asia is the home of the Malayan Water Watch. Up to 9.8 feet long, this ferocious lizard can swim underwater for long periods of time and live happily on a diet of crabs and other invertebrates. It can also climb trees and eat what it finds in the nest. They are not timid in urban areas and have been found eating roadkill.

The tail and neck are long, and the sharp claws and tail are used as weapons. A person bitten by a python will not die from the venom, but will be slightly affected by the venom and the bite bacteria.

The male squad leader can wrestle. They stand on their hind legs, and when they engage in combat, they appear to be cuddling. When one person knocks the other to the ground, the game is over and the person remaining wins.

#1: Komodo Dragon (Varanus Komodoensis)

Komodo Dragon Hunting
Komodo dragon eating its prey

©Sergey Uryadnikov/Shutterstock.com

Weighing up to 300 pounds and reaching a length of 10 feet, the Komodo dragon ranks first among the largest lizards. Juveniles are 18 inches long and live in trees for several months as they grow. Adult Komodo dragons will eat their young and other dragons, but usually carrion is their main food source. Sometimes they also eat pigs, deer and cattle. They have been known to attack and eat humans.

Komodo dragons don't always need to catch prey. Their venom prevents blood from clotting; thus, prey go into shock as they bleed to death. Some believe the bite also introduces bacteria, increasing the death process. Komodo dragons also feed on recently dead or nearly dead prey. These creatures live in Indonesia.

Summary of the 10 Largest Lizard Species in the World

Lizards are fascinating creatures that come in a wide range of sizes and habitats. Iguanas and monitor lizards are the most common of the larger lizard species, but are much smaller than the largest and meanest of them all, the Komodo dragon. The top ten lizards, from largest to smallest are:

rank lizard size
1 komodo dragon 10 feet long and 300 lbs
2 Common/Malayan Water Monitoring 9.8 feet long, 100 lbs max
3 Tree crocodile or crocodile monitor Up to 16 feet long and up to 44 pounds
4 Perentie or Goannas 8.2 feet long and 44 lbs
5 black throat monitor 7 feet long and 60 lbs
6 nile monitor Up to 8 feet and 44 lbs
7 lace monitor Up to 6 feet and 30 lbs
8 blue iguana 5 feet long and 31 lbs
9 Galapagos land iguana Almost 5 feet long and 30 lbs
10 marine iguana 4.5 feet long and 26 lbs

What was the largest lizard that ever lived?

monitor lizard
Megalania prisca was the largest lizard that ever lived.

© Петр Меньшиков / CC BY-SA 4.0 – License

Megalania prisca, a giant relative of monitor lizards, is the largest known lizard. The estimated length of this prehistoric monster ranged from 3.5 – 7 meters (11.5 – 23 ft) and its weight ranged from 97 – 1,940 kg (214 – 4,277 lb). Megalonia lived in a variety of Pleistocene habitats in Australia, including open forests, woodlands, and grasslands. Like its cousin the Komodo dragon in Indonesia, this giant lizard likely ate large mammals, snakes, other reptiles and birds.

A cast fossil of the Australian Queensland monitor lizard in the Melbourne Museum. It is an extinct species of giant monitor lizard, or monitor lizard.
A cast fossil of the Australian Queensland monitor lizard in the Melbourne Museum. It is an extinct species of giant monitor lizard, or monitor lizard.

©Danny Ye/Shutterstock.com

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Komodo dragon eating its prey

© Sergey Uryadnikov/Shutterstock.com


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