Lizards: Fact And Myth

Lizards & reptile facts: these reptiles are often misunderstood and mistreated creatures due to a lack of knowledge. Lizards are diverse and durable, as long as we respect their worlds.

Lizards are probably the most familiar of all reptiles. There are over 3500 difbferent types of lizards throughout the world, existing in all climates including as far south as Argentina and as far north as Norway and New Zealand. They can survive at sea level or heights the upwards of 16000 feet. Lizards are as diverse as their dwellings. They are often misunderstood and feared because of a lack of knowledge and exposure.

In many countries, lizards are welcome houseguests, catching and eating many annoying insects. They walk the walls and ceilings and live their lives unharmed by understanding humans. Some lizards are facing becoming non-existent due to a lack of understanding. Beaded lizards and Gila Monsters are poisonous lizards, often killed out of fear. They store poison in their lower jaw but only bite and inject the poison for food and self defense. Left alone, both lizards are docile creatures.

Lizards are adaptable creatures. Some, like Geckos, are very delicate, while others are stronger and physically more durable. There are Chameleons that are able to change their outer skin color to hide in their environment. There are lizards that can re-grow their tails and who will voluntarily give up their tails when attacked.

Not all lizards have four legs. There are legless lizards and those with only their hind legs. They have evolved this way to adapt to their environment where burrowing into holes is a necessity and legs would just get in the way. Diversity among the lizard population is evident in size as well. The Gecko is very small compared to the Gila Monster, but neither lack in agility and swiftness, a trait shared by most lizards.

Lizards abound in ancient cultures and history. Some cultures feared lizards and created superstitions such as if a lizard bit the shadow of an unsuspecting person, they were then doomed to die. Other cultures revere the lizard and have positive beliefs. Asian cultures believe that if a Gecko calls from the bedroom of newlyweds, they shall lead a long and prosperous life together.

Many countries utilize the lizard in ceremonies, still practiced today. Some Indian tribes of North America used lizard tails in a recipe for love potions. In India, live Monitor Lizards are used in fertility rites and serpent festivals, often bringing harm to the lizard. They are also eaten and their skin used for leather. In the tropics, the Green Iguana is killed for its flesh and eggs.

Today, the Gila Monster and Beaded Lizard face depletion, mainly due to being killed off as deadly, venomous lizards. They are venomous, but not as deadly as people have come to think. The greatest threat to most lizards is the permanent destruction and alteration of their habitats, especially those of the tropics. Soon, many species of lizard will only be found and bred in zoos and sanctuaries.

Salmonella has recently caused concern associated with the handling of lizards as pets. In the last ten years, the Centers for Disease Control reported a significant increase in Salmonella cases. This increase is in part due to advances in reporting and tracking, but also due to the popularity of lizards as pets.

Anyone interested in a lizard as a pet should be aware that veterinarians and petstore owners have a responsibility to provide potential owners with information on Salmonella. In addition, washing your hands and arms thoroughly with soap and water after handling lizards or their cages is essential. Proper hand washing and handling is a number one prevention. Any child under the age of five or anyone whose immune system is compromised should avoid contact with lizards to prevent the risk of infection. In addition, lizards should not be allowed in the kitchen, near food or dishes and don't use the kitchen sink to wash the lizard or its home. Sensible thinking can help lessen the risk of the spread of Salmonella.

Lizards, such as Geckos and Iguanas, can make wonderful pets, when taken care of properly and respected. Lizards such as the Gila Monster and Beaded Lizard that face depletion, also need respect and to have their homes handled properly. No creature should be eliminated to make room for another. Lizards are versatile and diverse. They have been around for a very long time with ancestors having roamed the Earth long before man. Take the opportunity to learn about these amazing reptiles and you will be surprised. You will also understand how easy it is to appreciate and admire such unique and scaly reptiles. Though some species of lizard may one day only be found in zoos, many others will walk the Earth for centuries to come.

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