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Lizard Classification Information -- Families

A natural classification system was devised by Carl Linnaeus in the late eighteenth century. This was a way of arranging plants and animals into groups based on differences and similarities between them. These groups start out as one big group, the phylum, and then are broken down into smaller groups all the way down to the individual animal, or species. The first groups the phylum is broken into are classes. Lizards belong in a large class of animals called Reptilia. The class is then broken into several orders and the lizards belong to the order called Squamata. Snakes and amphibians also belong to this order. The majority of lizards then fall into the suborder called Lacertilia.

This is where we start with our table below. The suborders are broken into families. Most families are groups of varied lizards tied together by anatomical similarities. There are approximately 19 groups or families (a couple have sub-families under the family) containing several genera or genus. Each genus contains one or more species, the species being the individual animal. Many, though not all, of the more common species are listed in the right hand column of this table.

Description of family characteristics Subfamily: Name - Genus species:


This group of lizards consists of:
3 subfamilies, 80 genera and about 600 species.
Geckos are found worldwide in all the warmer regions. What distinguishes them as a family is that they have the ability to produce sounds. Some make high pitched calls, some sound like ducks, and others like barking dogs. Most geckos have fused eyelids (like snakes) and they lick them with their protrusible notched tongue to clean them. 75% of them are nocturnal so their pupils are narrow and vertical to block out light. The rest have round pupils.
They all have flattened bodies, short necks and wide flat heads. The digits of their feet (kind of like toes) are adhesive because they have rows of tiny hooked bristles which allow them to climb straight up walls and across ceilings.
Geckos are generally hardy and fairly easy to maintain in captivity. Many will also breed easily in captivity.



Banded Desert Gecko - Coleonyx variegatus
Leopard Gecko - Eublepharis macularius
Bibron's Gecko - Pachydactylus bibronis
Brook's Gecko - Hemidactylus brooki
Day Geckos - Phelsuma (28 species):
Gold Dust Day Gecko - Phelsuma laticauda
Madagascar Day Gecko - Phelsuma madagascariensis
Striped Day Gecko - Phelsuma lineata
- Phelsuma standingi
- Phelsuma cepediana
Disc-tailed Gecko - Lygodactylus picturatus
European Leaf-toed Gecko - Phyllodactylus europaeus
Fan-fingered Gecko - Ptyodactylus hasselquistii
Flying Gecko - Ptychozoon kuhli
House Gecko - Hemidactylus frenatus
Kuhl's Gecko - Ptychozoon kuhli
Moorish Gecko or Wall Gecko - Tarentola mauritanica
Naked-fingered Gecko - Gymnodactylus kotschyi
Tokay Gecko - Gekko gecko
Turkish Gecko - Hemidactylus turcicus
Striped Leaf Gecko - Gonatodes vittatus


The Iguana is the largest of the lizard families and consist of 60 genera and over 700 species.
The Iguanids contain the curlytails, swifts, anoles, and iguanas as well as others.
They are considered a "New World" family because they are found mostly on the Americas. Specifically they are found from southern Canada in North America to the tip of South America and on the islands of Fiji and Madagascar.
Iguanas range in type from the tree dwelling arboreal type to the terrestrial and the semi-aquatic type. They have well developed limbs, short tongues that are barely protrusible, and most have long tails, crest, and dewlaps. Males are bright and varied in coloring. Most lay eggs in the ground but a few who are live bearers.
The desert and forest dwellers are mainly herbivores while the smaller iguanidae are insectivores or omnivores.

Brown Anole - Anolis sagrei
Chuckwalla - Sauromalus (6 species)
Club-tail Iguana - Hoplocercus spinosus
Collared Lizard - Crotaphytus collaris
Common Swift or Fence Lizard - Sceloporus undulatus
Conehead Lizard - Laemanctus longipes
Crevice Spiny Swift - Sceloporus poinsetti
Cuban or Knight Anole - Anolis equestris
Desert Iguana - Dipsosaurus dorsalis
Fiji Island Iguana - Brackylophus (2 species: fiji/tonga)
Forest Iguanas - Polychrus marmoratus
- Polychrus acuttirostris
Galapagos Land Iguana - Conolophus subcristatus
Galapagos Marine Iguana - Amblyrhynchus cristatus
Giant Anole - Anolis recordii
Granite Spiny Lizard(Swift) - Sceloporus orcutti
Green Anole(American Chameleon) - Anolis carolinensis
Green Iguana - Iguana iguana
Horned Toad or Texas Horned Lizard
- Phrynosoma cornutum
Keel-tailed Lizard - Tropidurus torquatus
Largeheaded Anole - Anolis cybotes
Mexican Emerald Swift - Sceloporus malachiticus
Northern or Cuban Curlytail - Leiocephalus carinatus
Red-sided Curlytail - Leiocephalus schreibersii
Rhinoceros Iguana - Cyclura corhuta
Spiny-tail (Black) Iguana - Ctenosaura


Basilisks, until recently were included in the family Iguanidae. Now they are in their own family consisting of one genera and 4 species.
These lizards are also considered a "New World" family because they are found on the continent of North America in Central America, starting in Cost Rico and Panama and Costa, southward into Columbia on the continent of South America .
The basilisks are slender lizards with well developed limbs that are fairly long. They have a helmet-like head crest and a sail-like erectable crest that runs down their back.
They are arboreal and semi-aquatic. They are omnivorous requiring both vegetable matter and proteins.
Many will breed in captivity, laying eggs in ground burrows.

Helmeted Basilisk - Basiliscus basiliscus
Green, Double-Crested or Plumed Basilisk
- Basiliscus plumifrons
Red-headed Basilisk - Basiliscus galeritus
Brown or Striped Basilisk - Basiliscus vittatus


Agamids consist of 35 genera and over 3900 species.
These lizards are considered the "Old World" equivalent of the iguanidae because they are found on the "old world" continents of Africa, Asia, and Australia.
| Another similarity to the iguanidae is that they come in the terrestrial, arboreal, and semi-aquatic types. Agamids have well developed limbs, long tails, and often bizarre forms with crest, dewlaps and expandable appendages. The males are often brightly colored. Many will breed easily in captivity, laying soft-shelled eggs in ground burrows.
Bearded Dragon, Inland - Pogona vetticeps
Bearded Dragon - Pogona barbata
Bell's Agama - Leiolepis belliana
Blue-throated Agama - Agama atricollis
Bornean Bloodsucker - Calotes cristellatus
Desert Agama - Agama mutabilis
Dwarf Bearded Dragon - Pogona minor
Egyptian Thorny-tailed Agama - Uromastyx aegyptius
Garden Tree Lizard or Indian Bloodsucker
- Calotes versicolor
Green Tree Lizard - Acanthosaura capra
Indian Thorny-tailed Agama - Uromastyx hardwickii
Lawson's or Rankin's Bearded Dragon
- Pogona henrylawsoni
Mountain-horned Lizard - Acanthosaura armato
North-west Bearded Dragon - Pogona mitchelli
Nullarbor Bearded Dragon - Pogona nullarbor
Philippine Sailfin - Hydrosaurus pustulatus
Pyramid, Hardun, or Common Agama - Agama stellio
Rainbow Lizard - Agama agama
Sawback Agama - Calotes calotes
Soa Soa or Lassara Sailfin - Hydrosaurus amboinensis
South African Agama - Agama aculeata
Spiny-tailed Agama or Black Thorny-tailed Agama
- Uromastyx acanthinurus
Toad Head Agama - Agama savgney
Water Dragon - Physignathus cocincinus
Western Bearded Dragon - Pogona minima


The skink family consists of:
50 genera and over 600 species.
Skinks are very wide spread and found on six continents; Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America and South America.
They are terrestrial and often burrowers. Their diet consisting mostly of insects though some are omnivorous.
Skinks have elongated, rather circular bodies, little necks, small pointed heads, and short legs. The legs are absent on some species. Their tails vary from short to long and they are generally colorful.
Many will breed fairly easily in captivity. Some are livebearers and some egglayers.
African Five-lined Skink or Rainbow Rock Skink
- Mabuya quinquelaeniata
Apocathary Skink - Scincus scinscus
Berber or Desert Skink - Eumeces algeriensis
Blue-tongued Skink - Tiliqua scincoides
Cunningham's Skink - Egernia cunninghami
Eyed Skink/Ocellated skink - Chalcides ocellatus
Five-lined Skink - Eumeces faciatus
Great Plains Skink - Eumeces obsoletus
Green Tree Skink - Dosia smaragdinum
Pinecone Skink or Shingleback Skink
- Trachydosaurus rugosus
Snake-eyed Skink - Ablepharus kitaibeli
Solomans Giant Skink - Corucia zebrata
Striped Skink - Mabuya striata


The chameleon lizards consists of:
2 genera and about 50 species.
Chameleons are found in Europe, in Asia through much of India, and in all of Africa, especially Madagascar. They are all arboreal, living in trees, and are insectivores. Some are egglayers and others are livebearers.
One of the chameleons most distinguishing features is their remarkable to color changing ability. They change color depending on mood, lighting, temperature and other environmental influences.
They have highly ridged, laterally compressed bodies, large heads, and sticky long tongues which they can accurately project at insect prey. The opposing digits of their feet are fused in groups of two or three which they use, along with their prehensile tail to move from branch to branch. They move slowly and methodically.
The chameleons eyes are cone shapes protruding from their head, with a small opening at the end for the pupil. The eyes move independently from each other and rotate in all directions.

Common Chameleon - Chamaeleo chameleon
Flap-neck Chameleon - Chamaeleo dilepsis
Four Horned Chameleon - Chamaeleo quadricornus
Jackson's Chameleon or Three-horned Chameleon -
Chamaeleo jacksoni
Madagascan Chameleon - Chamaeleo verrucosis
Millers Giant Chameleon - Chamaeleo melleri
Striped Chameleon - Chamaeleo bitaeniatus
Veiled Chameleon - Chamaeleo calyptractus


This group of lizards consists of:
about 40 genera with about 200 species.
The teiidae family can be found in North America and South America, specifically in the United States, central America, south and central Argentina, and Chile
. Their terrain varies from tree dwelling to desert dwelling, with some types being limbless burrowers. For the most part, they have well developed limbs, long tails, large platelike heads, and an extensible forked tongue.
In their diet, the teiidea vary from being carnivorous to partly or mostly herbivorous. Because of their nervous nature, they don't always do real well in captivity, and are sparse breeders.

Ameiva - Ameiva ameiva
Black and WhiteTegu - Tupinambis teguixin
Golden Tegu - Tupinambis nigropunctatus
Jungle Runner - Cnemidophorus lemniscatus
Red Tegu - Tupinambis rufescens
Six-lined Racerunner - Cnemidophorus sexlineatus
Golden Tegu - Tupinambis nigropunctatus


The monitor family consists of:
one generation and about 30 species.
These lizards are found in Australia and the neighboring islands of Asia. Most of these are fairly large ground dwelling lizards and all are carnivorous.
Monitors have well developed limbs and a long whiplike tail. They have an elongated body topped of with a long head and pointed snout.
The monitors jaws are very, very powerful. Many species do well in captivity, but successful breeding is pretty rare.
Australian Monitor - Varanus giganteus
Australian Ridge-tailed Monitor - Varanus acanthurus
Black Rough-necked Monitor - Varanus rudicollis
Black Tree Monitor - Varanus beccarii
- Varanus bogerti
Blue-tailed Monitor - Varanus doreanus
Crocodile or Papuan Monitor - Varanus salvadorii
Dumeril's Monitor - Varanus dumerilii
Gould's Monitor - Varanus gouldi
Green Tree or Emerald Monitor - Varanus prasinus
Irian Jayan Peach-throated Monitor - Varanus jobiensis
Komodo Dragon - Varanidae komodoensis
Mangrove Monitor - Varanus indicus
Nile Monitor, Ornate Nile Monitor - Varanus niloticus
Pygmy Mulga Monitor - Varanus gilleni
Rusty Monitor - Varanus kingorum
Salvator or Asian Water Monitor - Varanus salvator
Savannah Monitor - Varanus exanthematicus
Southern Argus Monitor - Varanus panoptes rubidus
Spiny-tailed Monitor - Varanus acanthurus
Storr's Monitor - Varanus storri
Timor Monitor - Varanus timorensis
White-throated Monitor - Varanus albigularis


This group of lizards consists of:
20 genera and about 70 species.
Lacertidae are "Old World" typical lizards from the continents of Africa, Europe and Asia.
These lizards are distinguished by a collar of large scales on the underside of their necks. Most of their other physical characteristics can be described by "long" and "thin". They have slender elongated bodies with a well defined head above a narrow neck, a long extendable tongue that is deeply forked, a long slender tail that can be shed, and thin toes.
Typical lizards are hardy and easily kept in captivity though they move very quickly. The structure of their tail supports fast zigzag movements and very accurate jumps that are needed to catch their insect prey. They are all insectivores.
Many will breed easily in captivity. Most are egglayers though some give live birth.

Algerian Sand Lizard - Psammodrumus algirus
Dwarf Keeled Lizard - Algyroides fitzingeri
Emerald Lizard or Green Lizard - Lacerta viridis
Eyed Lizard - Lacerta lepida
Greek Wall Lizard - Lacerta graeca
Ruins Lizard - Lacerta [Podarcis] sicula
Sand Lizard or Mongolian Lacerata - Lacerta agilis
Spiny-footed Lizard - Acanthodactylus erythrurus
Turkish Rock Lacerata - Lacerta saxicola
Ukrainian Lacerata - Lacerta taurica
Viviparous Lizard - Lacerta vivipara
Wall Lizard - Lacerta [Podarcis] muralis
Other species:
- Lacerta muralis muralis
- Lacerta muralis brieggemanni
- Lacerta sicula sicula
- Lacerta [Podarcis] lilfordi
- Lacerta [Podarcis] pityusensis


This group of lizards consists of:
2 subfamilies, 10 genera and about 40 species.
The cordylidae lizards are found in Africa southeast of the Sahara and in Madagascar.
The subfamily, the Cordylinae lizards have enlarged scales around the body like girdles, and they are typically spiny while the other subfamily, the Gerrhosaurinae lizards have a body armor produced by bony plates beneath their scales.
Most of the species have well developed limbs. They are all carnivorous and feed on small mammals.
Many do well in captivity and can be bred. The cordylidae give live birth and the Gerrhosaurinae lay eggs.
Cordylinae -
Girdled Lizards

Gerrhosaurinae - Plated Lizards

Armadillo Lizard - Cordylus cataphractus
Common Sungazer - Cordylus cordylus
Giant Zonare, Sungazer, Girdled Lizard,
or Girdle-tailed Lizard - Cordylus giganteus
Jones Armadillo Lizard - Cordylus tropidosternum
Ornamental Flat Lizard - Platysaurus guttatus
Sudan Plated Lizard - Gerrhosaurus major
Ornate Giant Sudan Plated Lizard
- Gerrhosaurus nigrolineatus
Madagascar Giant Plated Lizard - Zonosaurus maximus
Yellow-throated Plated Lizard - Gerrhosaurus validus


This family consists of:
some subfamilies, about 8 genera and about 60 species.
They are found in Europe, Asia, the northwestern part Africa, North America and South America.
Anguidae have elongated bodies and long tails that they can shed. The limbs are very slight or often gone, giving them a snake like appearance. However, their moveable eyelids betray them as lizards. A snakes eyelids are fused.
They have either a notched or forked tongue and are either insectivores or carnivores.


Slowworm/Blindworm - Anguis fragilis
Glass Snake/Scheltopusik - Ophisaurus apodus

Green Arboreal Alligator Lizard - Abronia Graminea
Southern Alligator Lizard - Gerrhonotus multicarinatus


This group of lizards consists of:
7 genera and 18 species.
These lizards are from Australia and New Guinea
They have serpentine-like bodies with no front legs and the back legs are nothing more that flaps. They have fused eyelids and an extensible notched tongue.
Their diet consists of small lizards and invertebrates.
Burton's Snake Lizard - Lialis burtonis
Common Scaly-foot - Pygopus lipidopodus


This family consists of:
3 genera and 6 species.
They are found in semi-desert environments in North America, specifically lower California, central America and in the West Indies.
They have fused eyelids, short tongues that do not protrude, and they are nocturnal and carnivorous.
Granite Night Lizard - Xantusia henshawi
Yuccan Night Lizard - Xantusia vigilis


This group consists of:
1 genus and only 2 species.
They are found in North America, specifically in south-western United States and Mexico.
They have a stout body with a broad head, well developed limbs, a short fat tail, and they are carnivorous.

These are the ONLY VENOMOUS LIZARDS. These lizards may only be kept with a license.
Gila Monster - Heloderma suspectum
Beaded Lizard - Heloderma horridum


This group of lizards consists of:
1 genus and 3 species.
They are found in southeast Asia and New Guinea.
They are wormlike with no limbs, though there are stumps on the males. There Eye and ear openings are covered with skin and they burrow. Rarely kept in captivity..


This lizards is a:
single genus and a single species.
It is found in North America, specifically central Mexico.
It has a wormlike body and skin covered eyes and ears. It is not known to have been kept in captivity.


This is a little know family that consists of:
a single genus with only 4 species.
They are found in central Africa.
They are wormlike and limbless, living in loose soil and leaf matter, possibly eating termites. Not known to be held in captivity.


This is a small group that consists of:
a single genus and 2 species.
They are found in North America, specifically in central and coastal California in the United States.
They have small limbless bodies, small eyes, no obvious ears and a forked tongue. They eat invertebrates. They are not known to be held in captivity.


This is a family consists of:
2 genera and 4 species.
The crocodile lizard is found in Asia, specifically China, and the strange lizard is found in North America, specifically central and southern Mexico.
They both have well developed limbs. The crocodile lizard is semi-aquatic and eats fish and aquatic invertebrates, while the strange lizard is primarily insectivorous. Neither is known to be kept in captivity.
Crocodile Lizard - Shinisaurus crocodilurus
Strange Lizard - Xenosaurus (3 species)


This family consists of:
a single species.
It is found only in north-west Borneo.
The earless monitor has an elongated body, short blunt tail, a broad flat head on a thick neck and no external ear openings.
It is found around waterways and has been known to eat raw strips of fish in captivity. Bornean Earless Monitor - Lanthanotus borneensis

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