Friday, December 31, 2010

Different Lizards

When identifying e.g. birds and animals - in this case, lizards - the characteristics, which distinguish 1 species from another, are most important. During my research to "correctly" identify the lizards, which I've photographed, I had problems finding "proper lists" of distinguishing features. So, of what I managed to "collect", I present the following:
Lizards (in general & like snakes) are covered in an armour of small scales, whilst their tails are at least as long as the body & many can discard their tails in an emergancy (= to escape a predator). Then a new tail usually grows from the stump of the old one [SEE further down: a "classical" example = photo of a male Rainbow skink].

One of southern Africa's lizard species are agamas, which are closely related to chameleons [SEE: previous entry on this blog; this photo = a Rock agama, photographed in the Gansbaai area, Western Cape]. By way of comparing these 2 lizard species, agamas characteristically have broad, toad-like heads & like chameleons, change colour as a form of camouflage.

This is another photo of another Rock agama species (photograped on Table Mountain) & which I think best "illustrates" its name in Afrikaans: koggelmannetjie (translation: mimicking little man).

About a dozen species (& subspecies) of agamas are indigenous to South Africa, amongst them also the Tree agama (photograped in the Kruger National Park). Agamas have long tails, which, if lost, don't regrow (!!) - similar to chameleons, which can't dispense their prehensile (= capable of grasping) tails.

[Also SEE: "Agama Confusion" = other agama species, posted on this blog Saturday, 31 January 2009].

A Lacertide lizard is characterised by a long tapering tail, other than having well-developed legs and clawed feet. They tend to be mobile, slender and terrestrial (= occuring on the ground). This species is also said to have the "typical" lizard-like appearance.

The Plated lizard belongs to a subfamily of the Cordylid lizard family, characterised by the fact that its head is NOT a distinct section in relation to the rest of its body (= rather a continuation of it) & has a long tail.

[I've "published" photos of this lizard before BUT "wrongly" described it as a gecko !! SEE: Monday, 22 March 2010 on this blog]

Skinks are a large & diverse family of lizards, of which the evolutionary link between lizards & snakes is the most obvious. They are characterised by long, smooth-scaled, shiny & cylindrical bodies = have a "stream-line" physique. They can also be distinguished from "similar-looking" lizards by having short (or NO) limbs. The Blue-tailed skink is a terrestrial member of this family (> burrowing skinks).

The Blue-tailed species is also known as the Rainbow skink, of which the female (in the photo) has a less electric-blue tail than the juvenile (= photo above).

The male Rainbow or Blue-tailed skink (in contrast to a juvenile or a female of this species) can be identifies by its reddish orange tail & pearly dots on the body scales. Skinks can shed their tails [SEE: "introduction" above] = "classical" tail/stump.

Finally: a "genuine" gecko (in contrast to the plated lizard, which ignorantly at the time, I once said was a gecko]. This lizard species has a distinctive, wide-eyed look (= large head & eyes), whilst unique amongst lizards, geckos lack moveable eyelids. Geckos are mostly thick-bodied, soft-skinned & easily shed their tails.

Last but not least: a tiny (= a baby) Cape gecko, a common but generally shy species found in most parts of our country except the coastal belt. In total there are 64 species of gecko in South Africa, of which 42 are found throughout the country.

SO: now I've "covered them all" = the lizard family (other than leguaans - but I've "posted" them before) & mentioned how one family member can be distinguished from another - from chameleons (= previous blog entry) to agamas, skinks & geckos, as well as cordylid & lacertid lizards.

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