Rainforest Lizards

Lizards are regarded as the most successful reptiles. They are very diverse, and so diverse that it’s often hard to box-in and categories all lizards into the group, as they can be very different from each other. For example, some lizards lay eggs, whereas others develop inside their mother; and stranger still, some have legs, whereas others are close to legless. The world’s rainforests contain half of all life on Earth and contain fantastic examples of this group of reptiles. Some are incredibly camouflaged to blend in with their environments, some have incredible methods of hunting and others can even glide between the trees.

Rainforest Lizards – Boyd Forest Dragon

Boyd forest dragons (Hypsilurus boydii), the pictured species above, are a commonly encountered lizard found in the rainforest of Daintree National Park, north Queensland, Australia and surrounding rainforest. Their coloration helps them blend in with the trees they cling to. When walking in the rainforest, you may see these animals clinging to different trees close to the track. You can easily identify these lizards by their yellowish loose skin under their chin, which has large white spines or scales. They also have a crest of pointed scales on their heads.


Found throughout eastern Australia, lace monitors (Varanus varius) are another lizard you are likely to see in the Australian rainforest. There are also a few other monitors you may see in the rainforests of Australia and Indonesia, such as the tree monitors. Lace monitors feed on a range of things on the forest floor and can also climb trees. Recently, researchers found that monitors are mildly venomous. Bites from monitors, such as the large Komodo dragons of Indonesian islands, were thought to bring down prey mainly by infection, but now we know some monitors are capable of envenomation.

Plumed Basilisk

Plumed Basilisk
Photo by William Warby on Flickr

This is a plumed basilisk (Basiliscus plumifrons), which lives in Central American forests and other vegetated areas close to water. They sit and wait on branches and vegetation waiting for insects and small vertebrates to eat. Giving them a prehistoric appearance, these lizards have a crest on their heads that extends down their back to their tail. One of the dramatic characteristics of plumed basilisks gives them the name of Jesus Christ lizard as they can run on two legs over the surface of water.


Photo by Richard on Flickr

A few chameleons live in southern Europe and Asia, but the vast majority of chameleons can be found on the African mainland and the island of Madagascar. Distinct features of chameleons include their unusual clasp-like feet that can easily grab hold of branches and their projectile tongue that shoots out to catch passing insects. The color-changing ability, however, is only found in certain species, such as the pictured Malagasy giant chameleon (Furcifer oustaleti) from Madagascar.

Flying Lizard

Photo by Gee on Flickr

Flying lizards are lizards in the genus Draco. They have skin stretched over their elongated ribs, which means they can glide between trees as a predator avoidance strategy. They are a very active lizard hunting the trees for insects. The lizards generally blend in well with the trees, such as the pictured species, but they also have a brightly colored throat flap used to attract mates.

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