Outforia Quicktake: Key Takeaways
- Florida is home to over 50 species of lizards, with 15 native species playing a vital role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem.
- Lizards in Florida generally belong to one of five categories: Infraorder Iguania, Infraorder Gekkota, Infraorder Scincomorpha, Infraorder Anguimorpha, and Infraorder Amphisbaenia.
- Some common lizard species in Florida include the Six-Lined Racerunner, Florida Scrub Lizard, Coal Skink, Brown Anole, and Green Iguana.
- Most lizards in Florida are not harmful, but some possess toxic saliva which can cause infections when they bite.
- The largest lizard in Florida is the Argentine Black and White Tegu, an invasive species found mostly in South Florida.
Whether you view them as friend or foe, lizards are a populous species within Florida. The Sunshine State is home to over 50 species of lizards, however, only 15 are native to the state. Each unique species of lizard plays an integral role in maintaining a rich and healthy ecosystem within Florida.
These small but mighty creatures often prey on small insects, whilst being wary of their vast predators such as snakes. Here, we will discuss 18 types of lizards living in Florida and define what makes them different to the rest.
What Are The Five Types of Lizards?
There are over 6,000 lizard species across the world, giving them the space to inhabit every continent aside from Antarctica. Generally, lizards are found in the reptilia class and can be segmented into five simple categories.
- Infraorder Iguania
- Infraorder Gekkota
- Infraorder Scincomorpha
- Infraorder Anguimorpha
- Infraorder Amphisbaenia
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<a href="https://outforia.com/lizards-in-florida/"><img style="width:100%;" src="https://outforia.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Lizards-in-florida-infographics-03162022.jpg"></a><br>Lizards in Florida Infographic by <a href="https://outforia.com">Outforia</a>
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- Lavishly illustrated overview of the world's lizards
- In-depth introduction covering the evolution, anatomy, and lifestyle of lizards
- Authoritative, taxonomically detailed, profiles of species from every family, accompanied by stunning color photographs
- 80+ lizard families and subfamilies, exploration of lizard biology, behavior, habits, and distribution
- Written by Mark O’Shea, a professor of herpetology at the University of Wolverhampton and a renowned expert in the field.
18 Common Species of Lizards in Florida
1. Six-Lined Racerunner
If you’ve ever visited Florida, you have probably seen one of these lizards skating around a variety of surfaces. The Six-Lined Racerunner can be found in an assortment of habitats such as rocky terrains and wooded areas. This lizard certainly lives up to its name, reaching incredible speeds of up to 18mph.
These lizards only reach a length of 3.75 inches (9.25cm) making them small and agile reptiles. The Six-Lined Racerunner can be identified from the various stripes found on their backs. These vary in brightness and usually radiate a white or yellow hue. In males, these stripes are significantly brighter and they often show hints of turquoise on their stomachs.
2. Florida Scrub Lizard
The Florida Scrub Lizard is native to Florida and can mostly be found on the state’s glorious beaches, buried within the warm sands. This lizard is most known for the collection of turquoise spots on its belly, giving its skin a unique shine. Despite these unusual shades of blue, this type of lizard also exhibits many shades of brown and black. This helps the creature to blend into its habitat. Florida Scrub Lizards range from 1.5 inches to 2.5 inches, (3.8 to 6.3cm) which does not include the tail.
This type of lizard is known as a ‘sit and wait’ predator, spying on beetles, ants, and spiders. Unfortunately, the Florida Scrub Lizard is at threat of becoming endangered. This is because of the lack of scrub found in the state because of the increasing levels of fire suppression. In turn, the scrub is left inhabitable for many of these lizards.
3. Coal Skink
Although there are a plethora of lizards found in Florida, some are harder to spot than others. Coal Skinks prefer to live in moist and damp habitats, being found under rocks and piles of leaves. Although they may be hard to find at first, they can be easily identified by the four light stripes that travel across their backs. Younger Coal Skinks often have completely black skin with little to no details.
Males transform during breeding seasons, developing red spots on the sides of their heads. Coal Skinks are extremely reactive to their environments, making them able to have a quick getaway from any threats. When faced with a predator, these lizards slip into shallow waters and hide behind large stones.
4. Brown Anole
This reptile is mostly native to Cuba and the Bahamas but is possibly the most common type of Lizard in Florida. The Brown Anole was first introduced to Florida in late 1800 when cargo ships from the Caribbean were first brought to the Florida Keys. Since then, their population has blossomed and they are mostly found on tree trunks near grassy areas.
Brown Anoles often have a corpulent build and a deflated tail. Moreover, their skin is often light brown with a selection of yellow spots scattered across the surface. The most striking feature of this type of lizard is their dewlap, a thin and loose piece of skin that hangs from their throat. A Brown Anole’s dewlap is bright red with orange tones, creating a sharp contrast from its dark skin.
5. Hispaniolan Green Anole
The Hispaniolan Green Anole is most commonly found in Southern Florida, living close to trees, shrubs, and buildings within the area. This type of Anole can be easily spotted due to its rich emerald-colored skin, particularly in the male species whose skin is much darker.
This type of lizard is native to Hispaniola, a small island between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. They made their way to Florida when a breed of palm trees was imported into the state whilst carrying its eggs. This large lizard ranges from 5 to 8.5 inches long (12.7 to 21.5cm) and often presents a long and prominent snout.
6. Florida Reef Gecko
The Florida Reef Gecko is the only gecko native to Florida, making it at risk of endangerment due to the rising sea levels across the US. Florida also has the largest number of invasive lizards, posing a threat to the entire ecosystem.
This lizard can grow up to 2 inches (5 cm) long but is so small and fragile that its skin can break with just the slightest touch. However, these Florida geckos are extremely fast, allowing them to avoid threats with ease. Florida Reef Geckos are mostly brown with a few dark spots that eventually fade over time.
7. Madagascan Day Gecko
With its luminous green skin and expansive pupils, the Madagascan Day Gecko is truly a sight to behold. These bright creatures are most native to Madagascar but can be found in South Florida and the Keys. This type of gecko is relatively new to Florida, arriving in the 1990s to the surprise of many ecologists.
A fully grown male can reach up to 12 inches in length (30.48 cm) and can live for up to 20 years. This makes them attractive and desirable pets for many reptile lovers.
8. Mediterranean House Gecko
Mediterranean House Geckos were first introduced to the Florida Keys in 1915 and were quickly able to establish themselves as an invasive species. This gecko is known for its vertical pupils that are accompanied by a pair of immovable eyelids. This species also has two color phases for optimal camouflage against predators.
The first color phase is known as the pale phase, this transforms from light pink to a faded brown. The dark phase transforms the skin to a dark brown, obscuring any blotches that were there previously. Mediterranean House Geckos are also nocturnal but are easy to spot in a collection of urbanized habitats.
9. Knight Anole
These anole species are the biggest in Florida, ranging from 13 to 19.5 inches long (33 to 49.5cm). Knight Anoles are undoubtedly large lizards that are best known for their prominent bone structure and ridged indent on their heads. Their dewlap is also quite big and shows a pale pink color.
Knight Anoles are native to Cuba but can be found scattered across Southern Florida and the Keys. This type of lizard lives in high trees and hardly ever travels across the ground. Furthermore, these anoles are extremely aggressive, presenting press-up movements to scare off their predators.
10. Bark Anole
Bark Anoles get their name from their dark green and brown skin, which resembles the tones of tree bark. Their distinctive skin color also helps them hide away from vicious predators. Bark Anoles also have a bold dark stripe that starts at their forehead and follows all the way down to their tail.
This species of lizard can vary dramatically in color, ranging from dark green to pale brown. In fact, there are currently 11 subspecies of Bark Anoles with hopes that these creatures will be classified as their own species in the future.
11. Jamaican Giant Anole
These immense anoles are often hard to find because even though they can grow up to 10.5 inches long, (26 cm) they rarely come down to the ground. The Jamaican Giant Anole resides in vast forests, living on the top of plump treetops. Although they are usually a pastel green, they transform into a brown color at night.
Jamaican Giant Anole also presents dewlaps that differ depending on the sex of the lizard. The males have a bright yellow dewlap with a prominent orange center. In contrast, females have a beige dewlap. These lizards have no issue thriving in Florida as the state has a similar climate to Jamaica.
12. Florida Wormlizard
If you are a fan of weird and wonderful lizards, then the Florida Wormlizard is arguably one of the strangest. These creatures resemble worms in both stature and color, hiding mostly underground for a majority of their lives. The Florida Wormlizard is characterized by a sunken jaw, giving them signature lizard features.
These types of lizards are native only to Florida and are the only species of worm lizards found in North America. Florida Worm Lizards are known for their powerful bite but luckily, they are not poisonous.
13. Island Glass Lizard
The Island Glass Lizard lives on the many coastal dunes and sandy areas in the eastern Everglades. They are long, slender, and without legs, giving them similar features to a snake. The only difference is that Island Glass Lizards have moveable eyelids, external ear openings, and inflexible jaws.
They present a blend of brown and yellow shades with a single dark stripe down from either side of the body. The Island Glass Lizard is a highly understated species as we are unsure how common the species actually is.
14. Eastern Fence Lizard
This sun-loving lizard can be found in Northern Florida, basking in the magnificent warmth of the sunshine. The Eastern Fence Lizard spend their evenings hiding under rocks and on tree trunks, in order to hide from predators. Their dark brown skin helps them to better blend into their habitat.
Male species have a collection of blue spots underneath the sides of their bodies, whereas females have a few dark horizontal stripes on their backs. At just 4 to 7.5 inches long (12cm), Eastern Fence Lizards enjoy feasting on small insects such as fruit flies, grasshoppers, and crickets.
15. Green Iguana
Green Iguanas are native to Central and South America, living in the tropical rainforests found in these areas. These lizards are mostly found in South Florida and are considered to be an invasive species. Many Floridians find these reptiles to be a destructive force to their roads and crops. Thus, it is legal for residents to cause them harm if they cause irreversible damage to their property.
This type of lizard can grow up to an astonishing 12 to 60 inches (30 to 152cm) long and can pierce a human’s skin with their ravenous bite. Even though they are known as Green Iguanas, these lizards can be blue, lavender, red, and more.
Most surprisingly, Green Iguanas have the ability to disconnect from their tail. They do this in order to flee if they have been trapped by a predator. Once they have found a safe haven, these iguanas can grow a new tail over time.
16. Argentine Black and White Tegu
The Argentine Black and White Tegu are the largest of all of the Tegu species, ranging from 91 cm to 140 cm. This humongous lizard is native to Brazil, Paraguay, eastern Uruguay, and northern Argentina. Floridians often say that the Argentine Black and White Tegu resembles an alligator but has more monochrome-colored skin.
Although these lizards are quite tame, they have the potential to offer a damaging bite. This type of Tegu presents its aggression by stomping its feet and thrashing its tail side to side, reminding predators and humans to stay far away.
17. Tokay Gecko
Tokay Geckos are similar to Green Iguanas in that they are able to detach their tail as a way to flee from predators. However, these small lizards are considered to be a remarkable source of pest control from many Floridians as they mainly eat small rodents, moths, and cockroaches.
Originally found in South Asia, there are two varieties of Tokay Geckos in Florida. Some have black spots across their blue bodies and some have red spots. They are also known for their unescapable bite as Tokay Geckos will clamp down and can sometimes bacterial infections such as salmonella.
18. Nile Monitor
Nile Monitors are expert swimmers and can remain underwater for up to 15-minutes. Their olive green and black skin mean that they are often found on tree branches close to Florida’s waters. The Nile Monitor also has a poisonous bite but it is not fatal to humans.
This bite is dangerous to its large prey such as birds, crabs, and frogs. Nile Monitors enjoy living freely and a majority of human accidents occur when we try to keep them captive and hold them as domesticated pets.
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What is the most common lizard in Florida?
The most common lizard in Florida is the Brown Anole. While they arrived in the sunshine state over a century ago, they were first bred in the Caribbean.
Are the lizards in Florida harmful?
The lizards in Florida are not considered to be venomous. However, some lizards have toxic saliva that can spread infections and harmful bacteria through their bite.
What are the big lizards in Florida?
The largest lizard in Florida is the Argentine Black and White Tegu. These lizards are an invasive species and are found mostly in South Florida.
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