Lizard Info, Photos and Videos
Australian lizards are big, colourful and unusual, and some of our most beautiful lizards even make good pets.
Many owners of Australian pet lizards and also many serious herpetologists dream about going to Australia to see our lizards in the wild...
I guess I am lucky as in that I can observe many lizard species each and every day in my garden, on camping trips, well, anywhere I go. Lizards really are plentiful in the Outback regions of Australia.
Australian lizards (Lacertilia) belong to the order Squamata which also contains the Serpentes, the Australian snakes. Between the lizards and snakes Australia has over 700 different species, and that number is growing as more species are discovered. No wonder herpetologists are in heaven here.
Australia has more lizards than any other part of the world. There is a huge variety of them. They range in size from the tiny Grey's Skink which is only 25 mm long, to the impressive Perentie, which can grow to over two metres:
I'm no herpetologist and I will not attempt to cover every single lizard species within our five lizard families, but I will tell you a bit more about the popular ones and about the lizards that you are likely to see on your visit to the Australian Outback.
By far the biggest group of Australian lizards is the family of skinks (Scincidae) which has well over 300 species in it. Skinks make up over 50% of all Australian lizards. One of the most popular pet lizards is from the family of skinks:
Many other popular lizard species are from the family Agamidae, the dragon lizards. That sounds big and dangerous, but they really aren't. Most of them are fairly small, and that family includes many unusual and photogenic lizards:
- The Bearded Dragon
If you travel through the Australian Outback there is a very good chance that you will see some bigger lizards. The Varanidae or monitor lizards aren't a very big family, but they are big lizards. (The two metre Perentie in the photo above belongs to this family.)
There are about 28 different species of goannas in Australia, and they occur all over the continent except in Tasmania.
The geckos (Gekkonidae) are another lizard family that you will definitely come across in Australia's warmer regions. There are many ground and tree dwelling gecko species, but the best known geckos are the house geckos. Many geckos have toe pads that allow them to run across smooth walls and ceilings, and they have adapted well to sharing our houses.
Originally it was Darwin's common house gecko that could be found on the walls of early dwellings. Early European settlers introduced the Asian House Gecko which largely replaced the native geckos. Recently another introduced species, the Mourning Gecko, has been discovered in Darwin. This is the most widespread gecko in the world. It has an advantage because the females can produce fertile eggs without any contact with a male lizards.
When you see a gecko on the wall in a house in Darwin, or anywhere in the north of Australia, it will likely be one of the introduced species. But the native geckos are still plentiful in the bushland, which the introduced geckos don't seem to like much.
Below is the only gecko photo I have. I found the fellow under the seat cushion of the lounge on my veranda. He lived there permanently, because every time I lifted that cushion to clean underneath, he (or she?) was there. Maybe a reader knows what kind it is?
The indoor geckos I had were all plain grey, and like everybody else I had dozens of them inside.
Last but not least is the most unusual Australian lizard family, the legless lizards (Pygopodidae). That lizard family is endemic to Australia and New Guinea, you can't find them anywhere else in the world.
Legless lizards look a lot like small snakes, except they have ear openings and snakes don't. The legless lizards have a fleshy, notched tongue and snakes have a deeply forked tongue. Also, their scales show different patterns. Legless lizards often have longitudinal stripes. Snakes never have stripes along their body, only across. All legless lizards have hind limbs, but those are reduced to scaly flaps which lay along the body.
Of course the ear opening, tongue and those flaps are a bit hard to see at a glance, so if you are not sure what you are looking at you better leave it alone. It might just be a snake...