13 Rare and Endangered Types of Lizards

Fiji Crested Iguana
CraigRJD / Getty Images

Lizards appeared on the Earth about 200 million years ago, and there are approximately 5,000 species of lizards on the planet today. Most lizards have long bodies and tails, small heads, short necks, and moveable eyelids. Like many other reptiles, lizards are suffering from a combination of habitat destruction, climate change, predation, and the illegal pet trade. As a result, many are on the IUCN Red List.

From the brilliant blue tree monitors to the expertly camouflaged Hidden Dragon lizards, there are many rare and fascinating types of lizards to discover.

1
of 13

Gargoyle Gecko

Gargoyle Gecko

Maisna / Getty Images

Gargoyle geckos (Rhacodactylus auriculatus) are polymorphs, which means that no two gargoyle geckos look exactly the same. What they all have in common, though, is they are fairly small, have round toe pads, and are good climbers. Gargoyle geckos hail from the southern parts of New Caledonia, east of Australia, and they are endangered.

2
of 13

Guatemalan Beaded Lizard

Guatemalan Beaded Lizard

reptiles4all/Getty Images

The Guatemalan beaded lizard (Heloderma charlesbogerti) lives in only one location: a patch of desert in eastern Guatemala. Discovered in the 1980s, it is closely related to the well-known Gila monster. Beaded lizards have scales that contain tiny bits of bone which look like beads, or studs, and they use venom to defend itself and anesthetize prey. These lizards are considered critically endangered, with only about 200 left in the wild.

3
of 13

Fiji Crested Iguana

Fiji Crested Iguana

MoMorad / Getty Images

The Fiji crested iguana (Brachylophus vitiensis) was discovered during the filming of the 1980s movie Blue Lagoon. It's an unusually beautiful lizard with bright green skin, white markings, and an impressive crest. This iguana is now critically endangered as a result of climate change. At one time, it was found on 14 Fijian islands, but now almost all specimens live in a protected sanctuary on the island of Yadua Taba.

4
of 13

Psychedelic Rock Gecko

Once it was discovered by scientists just about a decade ago, the psychedelic rock gecko (Cnemaspis psychedelica) became a favorite of the pet industry and illegal wildlife trafficking. Its popularity isn't surprising—this uniquely beautiful reptile has a yellow back, orange belly and tail, and feet that are often a golden hue. It is native only to two tiny Vietnamese Islands, Hon Khoai and Hon Tuong, and, in addition to being collected by hobbyists, it has also suffered from habitat loss and predation.

5
of 13

Hidden Dragon

Hidden Dragon on rocks

Stephen Mahony / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

The Hidden Dragon lizard (Cryptagama aurita), true to its name, keeps itself well camouflaged in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. In fact, this lizard looks exactly like a rock, which explains why it wasn't discovered until 1979. Today, scientists are still scrambling to learn enough about the Hidden Dragon to protect its habitat.

6
of 13

Culebra Island Giant Anole

The Culebra island giant anole (Anolis rooseveltii) was discovered in 1931 on Culebra Island in the Caribbean, and more specimens were collected in Vieques, Tortola Island (British Virgin Island), and St. John (United States Virgin Islands). Like other anoles, it was believed to eat fruit, insects, and other small lizards. But no further sightings have been reported since 1932.

7
of 13

Galapagos Marine Iguana

Galapagos marine iguana on rocks by the sea

COLLART Hervé / Getty Images

The Galapago marine iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) is the only lizard in the world that can swim and hunt in the sea. These strong swimmers use their powerful claws to grip rocks so they can feed on algae. There are six subspecies of these fascinating animals, and all of them live in the Galapagos. Though most are black, some subspecies are red and black or green and red. Galapagos marine iguanas are highly threatened because of cats and dogs introduced by humans. Another issue is the increasingly powerful El Niño weather system which periodically destroys the lizards' food supply.

8
of 13

Blue Tree Monitor

Blue Tree Monitor

Picture by Tambako the Jaguar / Getty Images

Like many endangered lizards, blue tree monitors (Varanus macraei) were only discovered by scientists very recently: in 2001 on the Indonesian island of Batanta. Their brilliant blue color makes these lizards very attractive to the illegal pet trade, and their entire habitat is only about 280 miles. Not surprisingly, they are under increasing threat and could become extinct in the wild.

9
of 13

Galapagos Pink Land Iguana

The Galapagos pink land iguana (Conolophus marthae) lives only in Wolf Volcano on the northern Isabela Island of the Galapagos. It is a pretty rosy pink with dark stripes. The species was only discovered in 1986, and it was placed on the critically endangered list in 2012. While not much is known about this elusive species, it is believed that there are only about 200 individuals left.

10
of 13

Chinese Crocodile Lizard

Chinese crocodile lizard

Nathan Rupert / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Chinese crocodile lizard (Shinisaurus crocodilurus) is active during the day, but it often seems to fall asleep, sitting absolutely still for hours. This behavior has earned it the name "the lizard of great sleepiness" and some believe that it can cure insomnia. While it looks rather ferocious, Chinese crocodile lizards are not fighters; they are likely to run from a possible confrontation—or slip into the water and swim away. There are only about 1,000 Chinese crocodile lizards left.

11
of 13

Ricord's Rock Iguana

Ricord's Rock Iguana

Kevin Schafer / Getty Images

Native to the island of Hispaniola, Ricord’s Rock Iguanas are critically endangered. In fact, there are only about 2,500 individuals left in the dry forests and shrubland of the south-central part of the island. Development, mining, and non-native predators have destroyed much of their habitat. Fortunately, the species is now protected and making a slow comeback.

12
of 13

Belalanda Chameleon

Belalanda Chameleon

Thorsten Negro / Getty Images

The Belalanda chameleon (Furcifer belalandaensis) is very possibly the rarest chameleon in the world. It lives only in the rural commune of Belalanda in Madagascar and is one of five locally endangered reptiles. Recently, the local government took steps to protect the chameleon by prohibiting its collection and sale. At the same time, local environmental protection groups are working to reforest the land.

13
of 13

Dwarf Day Gecko

Dwarf Day Gecko

Ger Bosma / Getty Images

The Dwarf day gecko (Lygodactylus williamsi) is a gorgeous, electric blue lizard (males) or beautiful green (female). Its beauty is its downfall—it has become extremely popular in the pet industry and, as a result, extremely endangered. Dwarf day geckos inhabit only a very tiny area in the Kimboza and Ruvu Forest Reserves in Tanzania, an area that has suffered from habitat degradation. Because it is native to the reserve, it is now a protected species.