Africa Lizards

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Africa Lizards

The lizards are the most diverse, abundant and visible group of the reptiles. No one visits East Africa without seeing a few lizards.Over4450 species are known world wide. In East Africa just fewer than 200 species are known so far. The world’s largest lizard is the Komondo dragon Varanus Komodoensis
A monitor from south East Asia that weighs upto 160 kg and may be 3.1 m in length. East Africa’s longest lizard is the Nile monitor reaching about 2.7 m or more. The smallest is the cape dwarf gecko,6 cm long (adult).There are no venomous lizards in Africa; two venomous species (gila Monster Heloderma suspectum and beaded lizard Heloderma  horridum)are found in southern North America, However many people in East Africa fear lizards especially chameleon ,but usually for superstitious reasons.

Lizards occupy a wide range of habitats, from the artic circle to the equator; they are nearly all terrestrial, although a few are semi-aquatic, and there are marine iguanas in Galapagos islands. In east Africa, lizards range from montanne moorlands at 3500m down to the intertidal zone where little coral-rag skink cryptoblepharis boutii hunts. Lizards are particularly numerous in the drier savannah areas of east Africa, especially where there are rocks; they tend to be rare in high altitudes forest. In eastern and northern –eastern Kenya ,there has been  a tremendous radiation of small geckoes and lacertids;no doubt there are still several un described species there. The most numerous  families in East Africa are the Geckos(55 species),the Skinks(45 species),and the chameleons (40 Species).Unlike snakes ,some lizards are social animals, living in structured colonies .Some species are commensal with man ,living in houses on on walls.

All lizards have scales, usually overlapping, but they may be granular or juxtaposed. Most lizards have four limbs, but a few have none (so called ‘’snake –lizards’’)and some have only two. Most lizard have external ears, snakes do not. The two halves of the lower jaw are fused, unlike those of snakes. The tongue is not withdrawn into a sheath and unlike a snake’s tongue, is usually fleshy and undivided (except in monitors which have forked tongues).Most lizards can shed their tail if seized, and later grow a new one; in east Africa the only lizards that cannot do this are the monitors and chameleons. Lizards defence mechanism includes flight. Camouflage and concealment; some of the bigger species can give considerable bite; monitors can also scratch with their claws and lash accurately with their tail. Lizards have many enemies in East Africa, in particular snakes, small mammalian carnivores and predatory birds. Most Lizards eat insects and other arthropods, but a few species are totally or partially herbivorous, often liking flowers or brightly coloured fruit.

Most lizards lay eggs. Some guard the eggs, a few species gives live birth .there are about 20 families of lizards, of which eight occur in East Africa; they are the monitors (varanidae),geckoes (gekkonidae),agamas (Agamidae),chameleons (chamaelonidae),skinks(scincidae),typical Lizard or lacertids(lacerticidae),plated lizards and relatives (Gerrhosauridae) and girdled lizards and relatives(cordylidae).Lizards are more visible and more confiding than snakes.