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Types of Lizards: 15 Lizards You Should Know!

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key point:

  • The five suborders broadly categorize all types of lizards based on characteristics such as their body structure, how they have evolved over time, and other physical traits they may share.
  • The Komodo dragon is the largest lizard in the world. Native to several small islands in Indonesia, these lizards can weigh over 100 pounds and often reach lengths of over 8 feet.
  • The leopard gecko is a small spotted lizard, probably the most popular lizard in the pet trade besides the bearded dragon.

There are more than 6,000 unique species of lizards on Earth, making them an incredibly diverse group of reptiles! From giant monitor lizards to tiny geckos, let's take a look at some of the most fascinating lizard species you absolutely need to know about. We'll also briefly cover how lizards are taxonomically classified and the species of lizards in each major group!

Five Types of Lizards

Jackson Chameleon Lizard With Spikes
All lizards, including this panther chameleon, belong to one of five taxa within the suborder Lacertilia. Chameleons, in particular, belong to the Iguania group.

© Jan Bures/Shutterstock.com

Before we get into specific species, it's helpful to understand how we classify lizards and the general types of each.

In the order Squamata of reptiles there is the suborder Lacertilia, which contains all known species of lizards. We can further break down this suborder into five major groups, or suborders. These five suborders broadly categorize all types of lizards based on characteristics such as their body structure, how they have evolved over time, and other physical traits they may share.

The main five groups of lizards are:

  1. Anguimorpha : A fairly eclectic group that includes glass lizards, beaded lizards, crocodile lizards, alligator lizards, legless lizards, slow worms, tumor-scaled lizards, chicken wasps, and, oddly enough, Varanidae, better known as It's monitor lizard.
  2. Gekkota : This group contains every species of gecko, including those with eyelids. Most geckos are small, ranging from just half an inch to about 20 inches long. More than 60 percent of species have sticky pads on their feet, making them agile climbers.
  3. Iguania : Another "catch-all" group that includes iguanas, chameleons, chuckwallas, helmeted lizards, lizards or "dragon lizards," collared lizards, and anoles.
  4. Lacertoidea : Often called a "true" lizard because most species are common throughout Europe. However, as more species were discovered, they were found to have a surprisingly wide distribution across Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas. This group includes lizards and wall lizards, tegus, whiptails, spectacled lizards, and worm lizards.
  5. Scincomorpha : This group contains all species of skinks as well as ringed, plated and night lizards.

Of course, we could further subdivide these groups, but for an overview article like this, it makes things a bit tedious and confusing. Now, without further ado, let's take a look at some of the unique species in each group!

Anguimorphs: Legless lizards, monitor lizards, and more

Slowest Animal: Monster Lizard
While Gila monsters are technically venomous, they are too slow and nonaggressive to pose a threat to humans.

©Vaclav Sebek/Shutterstock.com

Anguimorphs are a bizarre group of reptiles ranging from humble, legless slow worms to huge, fearsome monitor lizards! Strangely, many of the lizards in Anguimorpha don't even look like lizards at all. Species like the glass lizard look more like snakes at first glance, while many monitor lizards look like dinosaurs from Jurassic Park!

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Here are some species in the suborder Anguimorpha that you should know about:

  1. Slow worm ( Anguis fragilis ). There are actually five different species of slow worms, although they are all morphologically similar. Legless, highly reclusive, and with poor eyesight, their name suits them well.
  2. Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis) . The largest lizard in the world, the Komodo dragon is a fearsome and majestic beast! Native to several small islands in Indonesia, these lizards can weigh over 100 pounds and often reach lengths of over 8 feet.
  3. Gila Monster ( Heloderma suspectum ) . Gila monsters are distinctive for their venomous bite and raised round orange and brown scales. They are native to the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. Thankfully, due to their shy nature and slow-moving nature, they are not much of a threat to humans.

Gekkota: Geckos, Geckos and More Geckos!

Satanic Leaf-tailed Gecko isolated on white background.
The Satanic Leaf-tailed Gecko is able to subtly camouflage itself in fallen leaves.

©Valt Ahyppo/Shutterstock.com

Geckos are probably one of the cutest and liveliest lizards of all five taxa. Most species are small, fast and good at climbing. They are most commonly found in warm, humid, heavily forested areas near the equator, although a wide variety of species live all over the world!

Here are three great lizards in this group that you should know about:

  1. Leopard Gecko (Eublepharis macularius) . Besides the bearded dragon, this little spotted lizard is probably the most popular lizard in the pet trade! They are also unique in their functioning eyelids and claws, rather than sticky pads on their feet.
  2. Dongkai gecko ( Gekko gecko ) . These visually stunning blue and orange geckos are beautiful, but also very aggressive. They are native to parts of Asia and some islands in the Pacific Ocean. If you are lucky enough to spot a lizard in the wild, be sure to observe these lively lizards from a safe distance!
  3. Satanic Leaf-tailed Gecko ( Uroplatus phantasticus ) . This lizard really lives up to its name! Native to Madagascar, these monstrous, wide-eyed geckos have tails that resemble dead leaves, ideal for camouflage.

Iguania: iguanas, chameleons, dragon lizards

Green iguanas by the lake
The green iguana is one of the most famous iguanas.

© iStock.com/passion4nature

Iguanas are another diverse group that includes a wide variety of iguanas, chameleons, lizard lizards, and chameleons. Most iguana lizards prefer warm, humid equatorial climates, but many have migrated to places such as the Americas and Europe on their own or with the help of humans.

It's a little difficult to narrow this group down to just three notable species, but here are the most interesting types of iguana lizards we think you should know about:

  1. Green iguana ( Iguana iguana ) . Native to parts of Central and South America and some Caribbean islands, the large, hardy iguana now appears to have migrated to Florida and Texas. It's a shame these lizards are so aggressive and destructive because they make great pets and are very intelligent and curious.
  2. Feathered snake lizard ( Basiliscus plumifrons ) . Also known simply as the green basilisk, this lizard has a beautiful armor or veil on top of its head. It's also visually striking thanks to its vibrant green color and tall crest that extends down its back and tail. This gives it a decidedly dino-like look!
  3. Nosy Hara Leaf Chameleon ( Brookesia micra ) . One of the smallest reptiles in the world, the Nosy Hara leaf chameleon rarely exceeds an inch in length. Many photos of a chameleon show it sitting comfortably on the head of a match or the cap of a pen! Possibly due in part to its small size, this chameleon was not discovered until 2012.
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Lacertoidea: "True" lizards, Tegus, worm lizards, etc.

Species of Green Lizard - Gem Lakata
The jewel lizard's name fits its beautiful, dazzling scales very well.

©Fercast/Shutterstock.com

Next, we have the fourth major group of lizards, the Lacertoideans! Most notably, this suborder includes wall lizards, tegus, whiptails, and worm lizards, among others. Initially, researchers grouped these lizards with skinks, but they later placed Lacertoideans in their own distinct group.

Here are the three lizards in the Lacertoidea group you should know about:

  1. Jewel/Eye Lizard ( Timon lepidus ) . These vibrant green and blue spotted lizards are native to the Iberian Peninsula, more specifically Spain and Portugal. Their beautiful scale patterns make them popular in the pet trade.
  2. Argentine black and white tegu ( Salvator merianae ) . The Argentine black and white tegu is the largest of all the tegu lizards and is also very popular in the pet trade. These large, highly intelligent, "dog-like" lizards are primarily native to the warm, moist rainforests of South and Central America.
  3. Mexican mole lizard ( Bipes biporus ) . This very unusual lizard looks more like an oversized earthworm with tiny legs than a reptile! Native to southern California and northern Mexico, this shy, reclusive lizard is a peculiar burrow-dweller.

Scincomorpha: Skink

The armadillo ringed lizard has an odd defensive stance in which it curls up and bites the end of its own tail.

© iStock.com/reptiles4all

Finally, we come to our fifth and final major group of lizards, the Scincomorpha. As you may have guessed by now, this group is mainly composed of skinks and some related families such as plated lizards, night lizards and ringed lizards. These lizards are usually small to medium in size, with a triangular head, small, weak legs, and a broad, strong body.

Here are three fascinating types of this lizard you should know about:

  1. Northern blue-tongued skink ( Tiliqua scincoides intermedia ) . These lizards are popular for their neon blue tongues, cute facial expressions, and docile dispositions. While we find these skinks' vibrant tongues cute, they actually use them to scare away predators in the wild!
  2. American five-lined skink ( Plestiodon fasciatus ) . If you live in the Eastern United States, you've almost certainly seen the bright blue tails of five-lined skink pups! Although their tails are brightly colored as juveniles, they turn a softer brown or tan color as adults. These lizards are happy to observe and thrive in temperate forests near lakes and rivers.
  3. Armadillo Ringed Lizard ( Ouroborus cataphractus ) . The spiky, dragon-like lizard's scientific name references the species' resemblance to the ouroboros (the mythical snake that eats its own tail), as it wobbles by curling up and biting the end of its own tail. When in a defensive position. They are native to the deserts off the coast of South Africa.
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What type of lizard is a green chameleon?

Green Anole Lizard Relaxing
Green Chameleon Lizards Can Be Seen in Most U.S. Yards

© Brad Boland/Shutterstock.com

The charming little green lizard is one of the most common backyard lizards and belongs to the suborder Iguana. This small lizard is the only species native to the United States, and is often mistaken for a gecko or chameleon because of its color-changing behavior. They feed on trees and plants and can often be seen clinging to walls, running along deck rails or basking in the sun. Green chameleons also like to hunt insects in flower beds.

different kinds of lizards

lizard lizard

Lizards form small social groups containing dominant and subordinate males.

chameleon

There are nearly 400 types, several of which change color.

crested gecko

Crested geckos can walk on glass and even have a tail they can grab.

Oriental Glass Lizard

When a glass lizard loses its tail, it can grow another. But the new tail doesn't have the markings of the old tail, and it's usually shorter.

Monster lizard

This lizard's tail doubles as a fat storage facility!

horned lizard

Horned lizards can spurt blood from their eyes.

knight anole

When threatened, the lewd knight Anolai will drop to all fours and turn bright green with a menacing expression.

lazarus lizard

Lazarus lizards can communicate through chemical and visual signals.

lizard

There are about 5,000 different species!

marine iguana

Adult marine iguanas vary in size depending on the size of the island they live on.

slow worm

Found everywhere in English gardens!

Next:

  • Top 10 Largest Lizards in the World
  • Are Komodo Dragons Venomous or Dangerous?
  • Types of Lizards: 15 Lizards You Should Know!

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featured image

Species of Green Lizard - Gem Lakata

© Fercast/Shutterstock.com


about the author


Hailey Pruett is a non-binary content writer, editor, and lifelong animal lover living in East Tennessee. They grew up on a hobby farm and owned and cared for a variety of animals, from the mundane (dogs, cats) to the more exotic and unusual (lizards, frogs, goats, llamas, chickens, and more!). When they're not busy writing about how awesome reptiles and amphibians are, they're usually playing arcane indie video games, collecting Squishmallows, or hanging out with their cat, Hugo. Their favorite animals are bearded dragons, salamanders and marine iguanas.

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