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Lizard Terminology

When learning about lizards, you will undoubtedly come across terms you do not understand. To understand the world of herpetology, you need to know these terms, and how they apply to lizards.

Lizards that spend a large amount of time in trees are classified as arboreal. The first part of the word, arbor, is the latin word for 'tree'.

Self-severing, or self-amputation. In this case, the ability of a lizard to drop it's own tail.

A lizard whom eats only meat (animals, insects) is said to be carnivorous.

Data Deficient
When a lizard is classified as 'Data Deficient' by the IUCN, it means there is insufficient data for proper conservation classification.

This terms simply refers to the weakening of the lizard. This can refer to the bones, skin, tail or anything that is getting weaker.

Not all lizards have dewlaps, but some do, like the Green Anole and Brown Anole. A dewlap is the inflatable or extendable flap of skin under their necks.

The term 'dorsal' refers to the backside, or top, of a lizards body.

Diurnal is the opposite of nocturnal (see below). Diurnal lizards follow a human sleep pattern; active and eating during the day, while sleeping at night.

The term ectothermic refers to living things (animals, plants, etc) that warm their bodies using external sources.

When a lizard is said to be 'endemic', it means they are confined, restricted, or found only in a particular location.

A state of dormancy in which some lizards enter during a hot and dry season. It is somewhat similar to hibernation, but their bodies do not enter the same state.

This term means the item in question is situated near the thigh, or femur. In lizards it most often refers to pores located at the base of the tail.

This is the process of feeding prey nutritious food with the intention of passing it on to the lizard.

A lizard that eats only fruits, vegetables, and other plant matter is herbivorous.

Some lizards can place themselves in a state of regulated hypothermia, which conserves energy during winter months, and allows them to survive without food.

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) is an organization dedicated to natural resource conservation. They are responsible for classifying the conservation status' of lizards, and other animals.

The study of the form, shape or configuration of an organism or part of an organism.

When a lizard is nocturnal, it means they are active during the night. A nocturnal lizard will sleep during the daytime and hunt for food at night.

Nuchal Crest
A row of spikes starting large at the base of the head that gets smaller as it moves down to the base of the tail.

Animals that eat both meat and plant matter are said to be omnivorous.

An animal that is oviparous, like most lizards, lay eggs as opposed to giving live birth. Little development happens inside the mother.

These animals retain eggs inside their body, and give birth to live offspring.

Female lizards that are parthenogenetic develop eggs without the fertilization from a male.

Pineal Gland
The pineal gland in lizards regulates their internal biological clock, and helps in thermoregulation. It is located on the surface of the brain, and is connected to their Parietal Eye.

The term preanal means 'before the anus'. With lizards it most often refers to pores located on the underside of the lizard, located immediately before the anus.

The abbreviation for snout-vent length is SVL, and is commonly used when describing the size of a lizard. This is the measurement from the tip of their snout, to the opening of their vent.

Lizards that live partially or entirely on land are classified as terrestrial.

Lizards are cold-blooded and do not produce an internal temperature. They have to regulate their body temperature using their external environment, and this is referred to as thermoregulation.

These are wart-like projections, or rounded bumps, commonly found on lizards.

The underside (abdomen, or belly) of a lizard.


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