What Are Lizards?
Lizards are reptiles. Reptiles are animals that have a backbone, dry skin and are covered with scales or bony plates. Their body temperature is controlled by the outside temperature and by their behavior. Some of them produce soft-shelled eggs that develop on land. They have four limbs or are related to ancestors that had four limbs. Lizards have a long body with a long tail. They have movable eyelids. Their lower jaw is fused (the two sides don’t move separately), and they have external ears. Male lizards are often territorial and fight other male lizards. There are eight species of lizards known to live in Illinois. Two of them are not native to the state.
What Do They Look Like?
All lizard species in Illinois except one have four legs and a long tail. The slender glass lizard (Ophisaurus attenuatus) is a legless lizard that lives in burrows. All lizards have scales.
How Big Are They?
The size varies with the species. The little brown skink (Scincella lateralis) is the smallest lizard species in Illinois. The largest lizard species in the state is the slender glass lizard at 22 to 42 inches long.
Where Do They Live?
The location depends on the species. Lizards are most numerous in the southern one-third of the state. They can be found in forests, rocky bluffs and areas near these habitats. The eastern collared lizard (Crotaphytus collaris) is not native to the state and is known in the wild only from Johnson County. The Mediterranean gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus) is also a nonnative species. It lives in Jackson and Williamson counties.
How Do They Reproduce?
Mating occurs in spring. The eggs are laid generally from June to July in rotten wood, loose soil, sand or leaf litter. The females of several species stay with the eggs for the one- to two-month period until they hatch.
What Do They Eat?
Lizards eat insects and other small animals, such as spiders, snails, worms, slugs and sometimes other lizards.
Does Anything Eat Them?
Many animals eat lizards. They include hawks, owls and many other birds, snakes, weasels, bobcats (Lynx rufus), Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana), raccoons (Procyon lotor), coyotes (Canis latrans) and other lizards.
What Else Should I Know About Them?
The slender glass lizard has no legs and lives in burrows. It has a groove along each side of the body that allows for the body to expand. The tail of this species breaks off easily, providing a distraction and food for a predator while the lizard escapes.
Common five-lined skink (Plestiodon fasciatus) young have a bright blue tail. It is believed the coloration acts as an identification feature that helps keep the adult male from attacking the young.