Did you know that there is an incredible 5,000 species of lizards known to exist and most lizards are found almost everywhere, except Antarctica (give them time).
Because they live in such a wide variety of locations, a lizard’s diet and what omnivorous and herbivorous lizards and wild lizards eat can vary depending on their site.
Common Lizard Foods
There are between 6 and 10 million species of insects on this planet, representing a considerable number of potential foods for lizards.
The species the lizards eat depends entirely on where they are living. Probably the most common insects that lizards eat in the wild would be flies, crickets, grasshoppers, cockroaches, and ants.
Individual species may have very different diets in any given location. The bearded dragon is one of the popular domestic pet lizard that also eat insects.
Another form of food that is very easy for the lizard to find and eat would be eggs. I imagine that when I say eggs that in your mind, you are imagining chicken eggs.
However, the lizard will eat all sorts of eggs that it comes across, such as birds, reptiles, and even insect eggs.
It is all going to depend ultimately on what kind of creature lays eggs in the habitat where the lizard lives.
Fruits and Plants
Some lizards eat (especially the herbivores), only eating green stuff, but many other lizards have a mixed diet that has vegetation, fruits, flowers, and plant shoots, in addition to some meat.
Green Iguanas are a lizard that is an herbivore, and they will eat flowers, leaves, some grasses, soft fruits, and young plants.
Other Lizards and Meat
Some lizards eat meat and will enjoy insects, mice, snakes, and small birds. They also will happily eat other lizards if the opportunity arises.
One such lizard is the collared lizard, which is a Native American lizard that can reach up to 15 inches in length (including the tail).
The collared lizard cannot rapidly change color like the chameleon but can slowly blend in with his surroundings. These lizards are commonly found in Colorado and Arizona.
Types of Lizard
Lizards native to North America
There are 8 lizard families native (or established) in the United States. These eight families have 155 species, of which two are venomous. Some of these lizards live in trees, while other species prefer vegetation closer to the ground.
Others prefer areas sparse of plant and comprising mostly of rocks and desert. Texas has the highest number of reptile species and boasts 139 different species out of the 155 that live in the USA.
When thinking about lizards in the United States, some people might be including alligators. Lizards and Alligators might appear to be very similar, but they are very different creatures.
Alligators are descendants of the archosaurs and more related to dinosaurs and birds than they are to lizards.
The Green Anole
This lizard species is a native North American lizard (also called Carolina Anoles). They are frequently referred to as Chameleons but are not Chameleons (which live in Africa).
They do, however, have the ability to change colors due to temperature and humidity (not to blend in).
They feed on insects, and you can often see them sunning themselves on houses and around the yard. It has pads on its feet, which allow it to climb and cling onto various surfaces.
The Green Anoles is carnivorous eats small beetles, spiders, flies, butterflies, crickets, moths, small slugs, worms, ants, and termites.
When these wild lizards take up residence around a house, they are generally beneficial, helping to keep the insect population down.
The exciting thing is that it will only notice its prey if they move. If they stay entirely still, they are not harmed.
Cuban Brown Anoles
As the name suggests, the Cuban Brown Anoles lizard species originated in Cuba but were unintentionally introduced in Florida.
These invasive lizards threaten the native Green Anoles by competing for food sources and eating the Green Anole young. They can turn to very shades of brown, but they cannot turn green.
Anole lizards eat the same foods as the Green Anole, which is part of the problem.
The Ground Skink is very similar in appearance to blue tongued skinks or some may say a snake with legs. They have dark shiny scales, and you will often find them sheltering underneath leaf litter, rocks and logs.
These lizards very quickly shed their tales if threatened. Like most of the lizards in North America, these Skinks also eat insects and are commonly found in North America.
House Geckos are a wild species but make great pet lizards as they spend most of their time in houses. In areas where they are common, they are difficult to keep out of the house and slide in through any open windows, doors, etc.
People have mixed feelings about them. Some people almost welcome them as they are a very efficient and natural solution as geckos eat insects like bugs, spiders, ants, and cockroaches.
They are timid creatures and will often hide behind curtains or behind furniture until they are sure it is safe to come out.
Iguanas like bearded dragons make pet lizards are not native to North America. They are not ordinarily dangerous to humans and rarely aggressive.
But they are multiplying in such huge numbers that Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation is asking people to kill any they find on their land.
Males can grow as long as 5 feet and weigh nearly 20 lbs. If threatened, they have sharp claws and a tail that can whip violently, causing injury.
Iguanas are species of lizards famous for being herbivores and have different diets, living on a mixture of greens and fruit.
Another lizard moving into the USA is the tegu. And recently, there has been a migration of these substantial carnivorous lizards coming north into the United States.
One example is the Tegu Lizard, which is becoming increasingly common in the Florida everglades.
The species in question is the Argentine black and white tegu, which is the largest of the tegu lizards. Adult males are larger than the female and can be as big as 3 feet.
They can run at speed, and for short distances, that can also be just on two legs, which makes a scary site coming towards you.
How they hunt
Lizards use two basic styles of capturing their food. The first method is quite simple; they sit and wait for food to come to them.
Once the prey comes along and is close to them, the lizard shows a fantastic turn of speed to capture and scoop it up with their long tongue.
The second form of hunting is where the lizard moves very slowly, not stopping just from traveling so very slowly.
As they are moving, they are analyzing chemical signals that help them track their prey. Then when close, they use the burst of speed and their tongue to capture it.
All lizards can run, but the lizards in the second group have developed an ability to walk very slow, incredibly slow, so that they have time to analyze the data of potential prey as they move, using a unique chemosensory system to locate the victim.
Lizards have a unique sense organ called Jacobson’s organ. This is located in the roof of their mouth and can detect chemicals in their environment by continually flicking their tongue out and then pressing the tongue against the Jacobson’s organ.
Lizards also have a sense of hearing. It is not so sharp as that of a human, but better than a snake.
Another unique sense that lizards possess, in common with snakes, is the ability to sense heat and weather changes.
This is VERY sensitive and can detect a temperature change of just 2/1000 of a degree. With this ability, they can sense nearby prey even in total darkness, only by tracking the heat.
Only two of the 155 species of Lizard in the USA have venom. The first species is the Gila monster, which is a slow-moving lizard, quite massive and about two feet long.
The second species is a relative of the Gila monster called the Mexican beaded lizard. They are desert dwelling lizards; They do not usually bite unless they are handled.
The venom is passed by the teeth and not fangs.
The force of the jaw of a lizard can cause significant damage, and they often will just hang on, making the injury more severe.
The venom is rarely fatal to humans; the damage from the bite is usually more severe. The Gila monster eats small mammals, other lizards, carrion, frogs, and birds.
Wild lizards can be both our friends, as a natural way of controlling pests. Still, they can also be our enemies with the slash of an Iguanas tail, which hurts if he catches you square or the bite of a Gila monster, which is so strong that it can break bones and cause significant tissue damage.
Overall, they do far more good than harm and are beneficial to humans.