Australian Museum Herpetology Department

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Frequently asked questions


How many of species of lizards are there in the world?

Is very hard to keep track of all the species that are currently recognised by science. However, at a rough count, about 4796 species of lizards are currently known.

How many species of lizards live in Australia?

As of 2002 there were 623 species of lizards recognised in Australia.

Are there any lizards on the endangered list?

There are many endangered species of lizards. The list of endangered species for almost any state or country is likely to contain lizards. You can find the list of endangered species for New South Wales and for the Commonwealth of Australia on the web, or ask your school or local library to help you.

How many lizards are known to be extinct?

If you mean how many species of lizards have gone extinct since lizards first evolved in the Triassic more than 200 million years ago, the answer is an awful lot, perhaps more than are alive today. A recent survey of fossil lizards didn't even bother to count them all, but there were at least several hundred fossil species listed

If you mean how many species of lizards that were alive say 500 years ago before technologically equipped humans starting spreading over the globe and destroying the environment on a large scale, then the number would be in the tens. Species on small islands have been especially at risk of extinction. This is because these islands often lacked large predators like mongooses, cat, dogs, pigs, and hence the lizards on the islands were quickly wiped out when humans brought these exotic animals ashore.

What is the size range of lizards?

There are two ways to measure size in lizards, or any other animal for that matter. The most common measure of size in lizards is the length, either of the head and body or of the entire length. But the best way to measure size is through the weight. This is because weight is more likely to tell important things like how much the lizard needs to eat, how fast it might be and how long it might live. Weight is also a better indicator of size than length because a short fat lizard and a long thin lizard differ can differ greatly in length but have the same weight.

As adults, the smallest lizards such as certain geckos weigh about one gram and the largest lizard such as the Komodo Dragon Varanus komodoensis, has been recorded at 54 kg. The extinct Megalania may have weighed about 650 kg.

What is the life span of a lizard?

The life span of lizards varies depending on the species. But in general, the larger the species of the lizard, the longer it is likely to live. Some small lizards live on average for just one year, where some large lizards could be expected to live for decades.

How do lizards camouflage themselves?

Most lizards have a general colour and pattern that makes them blend in well with their general natural background. For example, arboreal (tree dwelling) lizards are often green; lizards living in open spaces are often nearly the same colour as the ground, and lizards living on dead trees are often greyish. Some lizards are also able to lighten and darken their overall colour pattern depending on temperature and mood. Chameleons can change both their colour and pattern, and many species that can do this show quite complex patterns.

How do some lizards run across water?

There is a group of tropical American lizards that look like skinny versions of our Water Dragons, Physignathus lesueurii, which can run on the surface of water for short distances. They do this by being relatively lightweight for their size and by having long toes on the rear feet (they run on water only on their rear legs). But the main principle that keeps them on top of the water is momentum. Just as we can belly surf for a short distance by throwing ourselves across the water, so can a relatively light weight lizard dash across water before it starts to sink.

How fast can a frilled-neck lizard run?

No one has measured the running speed of frilled-neck lizards, but a close relative, Lophognathus longirostris, has been estimated run at a speed of about 20 to 24 km/h or about 5.5 to 6.5 m/sec.

How did lizards evolve?

Lizards evolved from ancestors that looked like … lizards! The actually closest living relatives of lizards are the two species of tuataras in New Zealand.

Lizards probably evolved in the Triassic, more than 200 million years ago.

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