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ImageHow far can you stick out your tongue? No matter how far you can stick it out, you cannot beat the chameleon. The chameleon can stick out its tongue up to twice the length of its body. The chameleon is a type of lizard. There are more than 4,300 different species (kinds) of lizard.


Lizards are reptiles. Snakes, alligators, and crocodiles are also reptiles. There are more species of lizard than of any other reptile. Like snakes, lizards have dry, scaly skin. Most lizards are only a few centimeters long. The biggest lizard is the Komodo dragon. It can be up to 10 feet (3 meters) long.

Lizards have four legs and a long tail. Some lizards can run fast on their hind legs. Some lizards use their legs for swimming. Some lizards have claws on their toes for climbing trees. The gecko has toes that grab like suction cups. Geckos can climb up walls and walk across ceilings. The glass lizard and the slowworm have very short legs. These lizards look more like snakes that crawl on their bellies.


Most lizards live in warm places such as deserts and the tropics. The tropics are areas near the equator, the imaginary circle that runs around Earth’s middle. Most lizards cannot live in cold places.

Lizards are cold-blooded. They cannot make their own body heat. They must lie in the sun to warm up. The common lizard lives the farthest north of any lizard. It can live near the North Pole.

Some lizards burrow into the ground. Some lizards live in trees. Other lizards live in or near water.


Insects are the favorite food of most lizards. The green iguana likes to eat vegetables. The Gila monster, which lives in deserts, eats reptile and bird eggs and mice and other small rodents. The Gila monster stores fat in its tail. Monitor lizards eat insects, bird and reptile eggs, small mammals, and dead animals.

Many lizards use their mouths to grab their prey. Chameleons shoot out their long, sticky tongues to catch insects.


The beaded lizard and the Gila monster are poisonous. Most lizards are not poisonous, but lizards can bite to defend themselves. Some lizards also use their tails like whips to defend themselves. Most lizards are harmless to people, but the Komodo dragon will sometimes use its claws and sharp teeth to attack people.

Some lizards can puff themselves up to look frightening, or hide by blending in with their surroundings. Chameleons can change the color of their skin to blend in and hide from enemies.

Lizards can grow new tails. If an enemy grabs a lizard’s tail, that part of the tail just breaks off. Then the lizard grows a new tail.


Lizards do not live in families. Lizard parents do not take care of their young. Lizard babies must learn to live on their own.

Most female lizards lay eggs. Baby lizards hatch out of the eggs. A few lizard species, such as the slowworm, give birth to live young.


The Komodo dragon is an endangered species. Many other lizards are also endangered. People hunt lizards and their eggs for food. They hunt lizards for their skin. Many places where lizards lived have been destroyed to build farms and towns.

Source: Microsoft ® Encarta