Lizards - A comprehensive overview

Lizards - A comprehensive overview

the essentials in brief

  • Only these four types of lizard are found in German gardens: wall lizard, sand lizard, green lizard and forest lizard
  • Lizards like it dry and sunny and, depending on the species, live in dry stone walls, forest wheels or heaths
  • The mating season is between March and July
  • From September / October (males from August) lizards go into winter rigor

Lizards in German gardens

If you want to introduce lizards in the garden, you have to create a diverse mosaic of different habitats. In the most natural surroundings possible, the reptiles find good living conditions, whereby each species has individual requirements. The more species the garden is, the more comfortable not only lizards but also insects feel. In this way you create a varied food supply for the new garden dwellers.

also read

  • Lizards in your own garden
  • Profile of the snowdrop - a comprehensive overview
  • A comprehensive overview: Japanese ornamental cherry profile

Lizards feel at home here:

  • Stones with all day tanning
  • vegetation-free roadsides
  • Dead wood with hiding places
  • dense brambles
  • loose sandy soil

These lizards are found in our gardens in Germany:

Wall lizard

With dry stone walls, rock gardens or piles of stones you can offer this species an ideal livelihood. The sunnier and warmer the habitat, the more comfortable the wall lizard feels. It hides between the stones or in cracks in the wall, where it also lays its eggs from March to June. During this time, the stone landscapes should remain untouched so as not to disturb the animals or damage the clutch.

Sand lizard

Leave part of your garden to its natural course, so that after a short time a wild and natural habitat appears. The sand lizard feels particularly at home here. You can completely stop maintenance in this area. Between March and October, the areas should not be disturbed so that the reptiles are not frightened. With small walls or piles of stones you offer the species ideal places to sunbathe.


When you mow the remaining lawns, you should drive them in strips. This means that the lizards still have sufficient protection areas when they cross the lawn.

Green lizards

The species prefer to stay on slopes, with more humid habitats being preferred. Let sloping water edges, south-facing terrace slopes or hollows run wild so that natural vegetation develops. The more structured the vegetation, the better living conditions the reptiles will find. Dry stone walls and piles of stones provide good sun spots and hiding places.

Particularly suitable habitats:

  • Semi-arid lawn with bushes
  • Gorse heather and brambles
  • Meadows with sloes
  • Orchards

Forest lizard

The species prefers habitats rich in vegetation with different layers. It feels particularly at home in fringes and populates clearings and embankments. Since forest lizards need more moisture than their relatives, you should provide them with water in the garden. The animals are able to swim through the water in case of danger. Overgrown areas, which are loosened up with piles of reading stones, represent valuable and undisturbed living spaces in the garden.

Color change

If you offer the animals an undisturbed area, you can observe something special during the mating season. Males usually have a yellow colored underside. An orange belly indicates that the male is ready to mate. In rare cases, the belly is colored red.



Tail shedding

Lizards have a very long tail compared to the rest of the body, which they can shed in case of danger. At the base of the tail there is a predetermined breaking point, which breaks open through muscle contractions. The tail moves a few minutes after it is dropped. The movements attract the attention of the predators, allowing the lizard to escape.

Lizards are able to regenerate their tails. This usually grows back in a shortened form. There are more than 300 genes involved in regeneration, which are normally responsible for wound healing or embryonic development. The tail does not grow back in one piece but in stages. It takes about 60 days for the cells to form tissue along the resulting tail.

About the animal

Lizards are reptiles that belong to the scale reptiles. In the lower classification, the family includes about 300 species including sand lizards, wall lizards, and forest lizards. The age of the animals is variable and depends on the individual living conditions. In captivity the reptiles are much older than in the wild. Sand lizards can live up to twelve years in the terrarium, although the animals in the wild usually don't live to be more than six years old.


The approximately 300 different species of lizards occur from Europe to the Middle East and Southeast Asia. They colonize tropical and subtropical habitats in Africa. There are no lizards on the Australian and American continents. There are large species that can grow to be almost three feet long. Small animals are as big as the distance between thumb and little finger in an outstretched position. The size of the reptiles varies between twelve and 90 centimeters.

general characteristics

Lizards have four short limbs, each with five toes, that sit on an elongated body. You can close your eyes with eyelids. The eardrums that are visible on the skull are noticeable. Between the throat and chest is a collar covered with scales. The ventral scales are arranged in regular longitudinal and transverse rows. These are larger than the scales on your back. Unlike many other reptiles, lizards do not develop throat pouches, sticky toes, or back crests.

Lizards develop sexual dimorphism. The males are more vividly colored than the females, whose bodies are better camouflaged by inconspicuous colors and patterns. In some species, such as the forest lizard, the belly changes color, making the male more attractive to females.


Dragon lizard

The correct name for this reptile is Giant Belt Tail (Smaug giganteus). The German common name is misleading because this species is not a lizard but a related species. The reptiles are known as miniature dragons because of their strikingly large, thorn-like scales.



The physique of the animals is very slim, which gives them a high degree of maneuverability. The reptiles are divided into head, torso and tail. Your skeleton has a spine that supports the body. The skull can be separated from other reptiles by the symmetrical shields on the top. A zygomatic arch and covered temple openings are characteristic. Lizards have what is known as a pleurodontic dentition, in which the teeth are rootless on a ridge in the jaw. There are two to four cusps on the side teeth.


The animals move by snaking their bodies and moving their limbs. Because of this snaking-crawling mode of locomotion, lizards are counted among the reptiles, which are also known as reptiles.

Reproduction and way of life

The mating season of the native reptiles extends between March and July. The males secrete a waxy substance from their glandular scales on the thighs. Once they have found the right partner, they both go on a mating march. After successful fertilization, the female increasingly seeks sunny places to promote the development of the offspring. In rare cases, lizards can reproduce without prior fertilization.

This is what young animals of the forest lizard look like:

  • 30 to 40 millimeters long
  • dark bronze color
  • Black coloring is partially retained in old animals ("Schwärzlinge")


Young animals are on the menu of various animals. They are hunted and preyed by smaller songbirds such as robins. Beetles can also be dangerous to the newly hatched lizards. The enemies of the adult animals include birds of prey and kestrels. Crows and storks also hunt lizards. Sometimes they fall victim to the hunting instinct of domestic cats.

Where lizards live

The reptiles prefer habitats that offer mostly dry conditions. Sunny places where the animals can warm themselves are important. At the same time, they need hiding places in hollowed-out tree stumps, holes in the ground or crevices in the rock. In the thick vegetation, lizards seek protection from too much heat. Their scales enable the lizards to live independently of the water.

Forest lizardsmall insects, spidersHeath, moors, forest edges, meadows
Wall lizardInsects, spidersDry stone walls, rocks
Sand lizardInsects, spiders, wormsdensely overgrown forest edges and heaths
Green lizardsSnails, larger insects, spiders, small vertebratesovergrown slopes with moist soil

The different types


The males go to their winter quarters in August. Females retreat in September, while the young remain active into October. Before winter sets in, the reptiles look for a safe hiding place between tree roots, in crevices and holes in the ground or in cavities under stone slabs and dead wood. If there are no suitable retreats, lizards dig their own burrows.

In winter, lizards go into a freeze. Unlike hibernation, winter rigor is only influenced by the outside temperature. When the air temperature drops, the body temperature adjusts.

This is how lizards survive the winter:

  • open eyes
  • Heartbeat and breathing slow down
  • no movements possible
  • no food intake

What lizards eat

The lizards' diet mainly includes worms and insects such as mosquitoes and flies. They eat articulated animals and do not disdain seeds or fruits. Some species feed on small invertebrates.


Sow small strips of wildflowers in the meadow and create perennial beds to increase biodiversity. The compost heap is also part of the lizard's habitat, as many insects cavort here.

Catching prey

The prey catching behavior of the lizards is impressive. They lie in wait to see their prey. Once they have targeted an insect, the reptiles begin to flicker. The tongue slides in and out of the mouth in quick movements. Lizards can absorb odors from prey with their tongues and pass them on to a sensory organ located in the oral cavity. The lizards capture their prey while jumping. It is crushed by jaw movements before it is devoured.

Differences between gecko and lizard

Geckos are reptiles that, like lizards, are a family of their own. Some species of gecko are mistakenly called lizards. These include the leopard lizard, behind which the Pakistani fat-tailed gecko hides. Although geckos and lizards are related, they differ in many ways.

orderScaly creepersScaly creepers
Way of lifediurnalpredominantly crepuscular and nocturnal
Eggsoften parchment-likecalcareous
distributionvariablewarm climatic regions

Differences between lizard and salamander

Salamanders are amphibians that are adapted to a life below and above the water surface. The tailed amphibians are thus only distantly related to the lizards, although their appearance is similar in many ways. Salamanders do not have fin edges. Their body is elongated and has a long tail.

Unlike lizards, salamanders do not have scales. They are protected by a smooth skin. The amphibians also have the ability to regenerate tissue. However, this property does not only apply to the tail. Salamanders are able to regenerate all limbs.

Native species:

  • Fire salamander: spotted black and yellow
  • Alpine salamander: lacquer black
  • Mountain newt: blue back, black and white dotted flanks

Keeping as a pet

Because of their exciting way of life and the different colors, exotic lizards are often kept in the terrarium. Keeping them requires some specialist knowledge and special feed so that the animals can be offered a species-appropriate habitat. They come from completely different climatic regions. These conditions must be ensured at home.

Pityusen lizard

The diurnal lizard feeds on insects and arthropods. It also eats leftover food and plant parts. This lizard is particularly attractive because of its back color. The males develop bright blue tones with a green sheen. The species is strictly protected. Only a few owners breed the animals legally.

Six-lined long-tailed lizard

This species can be recognized by its disproportionately long tail, which makes up about 5/6 of the entire body length. The males usually have white flanks and black vertical stripes, although the color is variable and often includes brown tones. There are some populations with light green flanks.

Blue tailed lizard

The lizard, up to twelve centimeters long, has a cream-colored back with a black pattern. The species is named after the striking tail, which is colored blue on the top and has black transverse bands. It lives in bushland and forests, with the animals preferring to stay on tree trunks. In their natural range, flying specimens can be observed more often. Due to their strongly flattened body, the reptiles are able to glide over short distances.

Only buy animals from trustworthy breeders! Many lizards are under nature protection, so a certificate of origin is necessary.

Arts and Culture

The reptiles are popular motifs for decorative elements, tattoos, cliparts and coloring pages. Lizards stand as metal figures in the garden and serve as templates for jewelry. The animals have a special symbolic power, which impresses people again and again.

Maori lizard

In Polynesian cultures, the lizard is seen as an apparition of the gods. It can symbolize both good and evil forces. In Maori mythology, the lizard represents an emissary of the god Whiro. It is the god of the dead, who embodies evil and is ruler over darkness. He inspires people to do evil deeds.

When other gods wanted to kill a person, they let a lizard enter the body. Even so, the Maori regarded the lizard as a guardian and protector. The power animal has retained this importance to this day. Ornate wood carvings serve as a lucky charm to protect the wearer.

Dream interpretation

The lizard is a common symbol in dreams, the meaning of which can vary depending on the individual context. The reptile often stands for a turning point in various life situations that leads to improvement. In the dream world, lizards also have a warning task. The color of the animal is also important.

What the color says:

  • green lizards : misunderstandings
  • gray reptiles : quarrel and anger
  • colorful lizards : variability and adaptability

Film adaptations and comedies

Lizards are often used as characters in films because of their characteristics and way of life. Bill the Lizard is a fictional character from the children's book “Alice in Wonderland” who does the hard work for the white rabbit. The figure is based on the nimble characteristics of the lizards.

In Helge Schneider's comedy “00 Schneider - Im Wendekreis der Lidechse” the character Jean-Claude Pillemann appears, who is known as “the lizard” because of the hissing hissing sounds and his supple mobility.


The constellation Lizard consists of a chain of stars that shine only faintly. It lies between the swan and the striking constellation Kassiopeia. In the northern area it is crossed by the Milky Way. In 1929, an object was observed in the lizard, the brightness of which changes irregularly. Researchers later found out that this object is an active nucleus of a galaxy (English: Active Galactic Nucleus, AGN for short).

Literature and history

Some past events have damaged the positive image people have of the lizard. The use of the name for warships, chilling descriptions in the literature or discussions on species protection from the recent past ensured that the lizard is associated with negative ideas.

Yellow spotted lizard from "holes"

The novel by Louis Sachar dates back to 1988 and describes a lizard whose bite is fatal. She lives on a dry lake in the middle of a karstified inland desert in Texas. But the animal described does not belong to the lizard family. Behind it is the Gila-Krustenechse, which lives in dry and hot desert areas. It has poison glands on its lower jaw and is able to kill its prey with one bite.

Stuttgart 21

The lizard caused a sensation in the Stuttgart 21 construction project. Thousands of wall lizards live on the gravel areas and embankments of old railway lines in the Stuttgart urban area. Many of these habitats have already been destroyed in the course of the construction work. Substitute habitats are intended to offer the animals a new habitat, but the species protection requirements are repeatedly discussed as their implementation seems almost impossible.

German LSM "Lizard Class"

The LSM class (English: Landing Ship Medium) was a landing ship class whose ships could accommodate troops and vehicles. Some of these ships were given additional names such as crocodile, lizard, salamander and viper. They were grouped together as the lizard class. Today there are model kits from Revell for the original lizard.

Funny facts

The “lizard peeling treatment” is an ointment that contains salicylic acid as well as allantonin and petrolatum. It is used to combat corns, calluses and calluses and has little to do with the reptile apart from the name.

In the game Little Alchemy, the lizard can be formed from the resources “swamp” and “egg”. If you combine them with shoes, you get a salamander.

In Saarland, pallet trucks that are used to transport pallets are also known as lizards. Elsewhere the devices are referred to as an ant.

Even in yoga there is the lizard. This position describes a hip opener, which strengthens the trunk and mobilizes the hip joints.

frequently asked Questions

Do lizards lay eggs?

The majority of all lizards are oviparous, meaning they lay eggs. The eggs are not hatched by the lizards. You lay the eggs in a hole in the ground and let the sun hatch them.

There are a few exceptions such as the forest lizard. They belong to the viviparous reptiles, whereby the young are wrapped in a soft egg skin immediately after birth. It can take a few minutes to several hours for the reptiles to free themselves from the egg membrane. This behavior is described as ovoviviparous. Less often it happens that the shell is punctured in the womb. This phenomenon describes the actual viviparity.

How many species are there in Germany?

Of the approximately 300 species from 40 genera, only five species occur in Germany:

  • Wall lizard (Podarcis muralis)
  • Forest lizard (Zootoca vivipara)
  • Sand lizard (Lacerta agilis)
  • Western green lizard (Lacerta bilineata)
  • Eastern green lizard (Lacerta viridis)

One reason for the Germany-wide distribution of the forest lizard is that the young are born alive. The reptiles are less dependent on long-term sun exposure than related species, whose eggs have to be constantly exposed to the sun. With the eggs in its stomach, the forest lizard can colonize cooler habitats, which is why the species is also found in Scandinavia.

Why are there so few species in Germany?

Lizards are cold-blooded animals that cannot regulate their body temperature on their own. They use the sun's warmth to raise their body's temperature. In Germany the temperatures are too low for most species.

Why are lizards smaller in the north than in tropical regions?

Exotic giant lizards live in special habitats that can be found in the Canary Islands. In contrast, native species are true mini editions. This is related to the temperature, because all reptiles are cold-blooded and need the sun to warm up.

It is more advantageous for cold blooded animals to be smaller in colder regions. You can use the limited heat more effectively if your body volume is as small as possible and the body surface area is as large as possible in relation to the volume. Therefore, the species have adapted their size to the distribution areas in the course of evolution.

What is the name of the lizard in other languages?

In some languages, the term for the lizard was derived from the scientific name Lacertidae, which stands for the family of real lizards:

This is the name of the lizard on:

  • Turkish: kertenkele
  • spanish: lagarto
  • Italian: lucertola
  • English: lizard