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Lizards of Wisconsin

camouflaged skink

One special trick skinks possess is camouflage.
This five-lined skink blends in well with its surroundings.

Special Tricks

Lizards protect themselves from predators by not being seen. Most are well camouflaged, blending in with their surroundings. They also avoid detection by spending much of their time under rocks, bushes, or other suitable cover. Lizards that live in the desert will often flatten their bodies against the ground to eliminate their shadow.

If a lizard is detected, it usually flees fast to escape. Prairie racerunners have been clocked at up to 18 miles per hour. Not bad for a critter that is only 6-9 inches long. Most lizards have one or more retreats, usually burrows that they can return to for safety. Many smaller lizards will inflate their bodies, elevate their bodies by extending their legs, or do a series of quick push-ups all in an effort to scare off predators. As a last resort, a lizard may turn to face its attacker. Sometimes it will even jump forward in a show of aggression and bite its attacker.

Here's a fun fact. Horned lizards, found in the southwestern United States, are able to squirt blood from their eyes at a distance of up to seven feet! Some predators don't like the taste of blood (imagine that!) so they'll abandon an attack if they are squirted in the mouth or eyes.

skink with a broken tail

The tail of a lizard can continue wiggling even
after being cut off or discarded.

Many lizards have the ability to discard all or part of their tails. This is called autotomy. Special muscles cause the tail to part from the body and continue to wriggle. This defense strategy can save a lizard's life. When the tail is discarded, or cut off by a predator it will wriggle wildly. This often distracts a predator allowing the lizard to make an escape. The fortunate survivor will begin to regenerate a new tail, although it will never by as long or useful as the original. You can tell if a lizards tail has been regenerated. It is patternless and obvious. Most lizards can lose and regrow their tails over and over. But, regrowing a tail uses lots of energy. It can result in slower growth of young lizards and can result in fewer or no egg production in females until their energy stores are rebuilt.

Continue Reading about Lizards of Wisconsin:
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