All animals (or almost all) have natural predators, and lizards are no exception. This entire topic is more complex than you’d think because not all lizards have the same predators. Also, some predators migrate to other areas, either accidentally or intentionally, often due to human activity, and invade environments that they’re not endemic to.
This can cause an array of additional problems because the lizards living in those areas are not adapted to that new type of predator. As you can already tell, today, we will discuss reptile and lizard natural predators for a bit more light on the topic.
Types of Predators that Prey on Lizards
As awesome, adaptable, and predatorial as some lizard species are, these animals usually rank at the bottom of the food chain. That’s because they have a variety of natural predators belonging to multiple species.
- Mammals – Felines, mongooses, dogs, raccoons, and many other types of mammals can hunt and eat lizards. However, I don’t recommend allowing your mammal pet to eat lizards. Reptiles are notorious for carrying various pathogens and bacteria that can be deadly for household pets.
- Birds – Hawks occupy the first position because they specialize in hunting reptiles and small mammals.
- Other reptiles – Lizards and snakes eat each other as well.
- Insects – Some species of spiders feed on smaller lizards, especially if the size discrepancy is visible. Tarantulas don’t have any problems feeding on lizards, small snakes, birds, and rodents whenever available. Then you have the regal jumping spider that can eat lizards 3 times its body size. Ants can also kill and eat lizards, especially fire ants, due to their potent venom and hunting tactics.
- Chicken – Many people don’t realize that chickens are omnivorous and are the literal descendants of dinosaurs. They eat insects, worms, grains, grass, and even reptiles and small mammals. These beaked monsters were once vastly different than they are today. Research has shown that chickens have latent genes for teeth that have been deactivated when food wasn’t as readily available as it is today. This forced chickens to develop beaks to scout for food in otherwise inaccessible areas.
- Humans – Yes, we also eat lizards in some cultures. I’m talking about a generic ‘we,’ as I don’t exactly fit that category.
To put it plainly, almost anything can eat lizards and snakes and vice-versa. If you think lizards are exclusively prey, have a talk with the Komodo dragon. Or the python or anaconda, for that matter.
Factors that Influence Lizard Predation
Not all lizards face the same predators or predation risks. The factors that influence the effect of predation on lizards include:
- Geographical area – Some environments have different predators or more predators than others.
- The lizard’s size – The larger the lizard is, the fewer natural predators it will have. Consider alligators, for instance, which aren’t lizards but crocodilians. Baby alligators have a variety of predators, including birds, other reptiles, and even fish. Adult alligators have virtually no natural predators due to their size and ferocity.
- Coloration – Some lizards are flashier than others in terms of coloring. This makes them easier to spot. Then you have chameleons that change color based on their surroundings to blend it and decrease their visual print. Most lizards can’t do that, but they have adapted to their environment, causing them to blend in with the foliage.
- Behavior – All lizards have adopted different behaviors to avoid predation as much as possible. Most lizards are ambush predators, so they remain motionless during their active hours, waiting for unsuspecting prey to wander nearby. This behavior also protects them against predation since most predators rely on movement detection to identify their prey. Most lizard species also have a variety of other defensive mechanisms, which we will discuss shortly.
How do Lizards Defend Against Predators?
Lizards have some amazing defensive capabilities, far beyond what anyone could imagine. Allow me to explain:
- Camouflage – The ability to camouflage refers to color changes as well as remaining perfectly still. This works against most predators that rely on detecting movement during their hunting excursions.
- Speed – Speed is the most obvious defensive technique. Simply put, if everything else fails, movement speed and agility are the main escaping tools available. Not all lizards are as equally adept at running as some are slower by nature. Leopard geckos, for instance, aren’t good runners, so they rely on keeping a low profile and hiding rather than running.
- Tail amputation – Most lizards lose their tails to create a diversion while they make their grand escape. The self-severing mechanism is quite astonishing, as the lizards’ tails possess biomechanisms that prevent hemorrhage. Most lizards also regrow their tails, although never to the full size and shape.
- Tail-biting – This is a lesser-known defensive method since it’s not available to all lizards. However, one species pulls this off consistently: the Armadillo girdled lizard. This species lives in crevices in desertic areas and bites its tail whenever a predator dives in for the kill. This causes the reptile’s body to become somewhat circular, expanding in size and preventing the predator from dragging it from the crevice or swallowing it.
- Deimatic (frightening) behavior – This is also a valid defensive method that allows some species to confuse and scare off their predators. Some lizards inflate their bodies, posture up, and open their mouths in a show of force and intimidation. Such a behavior can sometimes confuse the attacker, allowing the reptile the time it needs to flee.
- Shooting blood – This sounds and looks as gory as you might expect. We’re talking about a lizard species shooting blood out of its eyes at approaching predators. The greater short-horned lizard native from Alberta, Canada, ruptures blood vessels in the eyes under pressure, causing it to squirt the liquid over distances of up to 3 feet. The blood shot can confuse predators, but it’s also toxic to canines.
- Armor plating – Many reptiles showcase a spiky armored back that makes them unfit for eating.
Impact of Human Activities on Lizard Predation
Human activities and presence are also overwhelmingly negative. Aside from habitat destruction, humans also affect lizard populations via the introduction of airborne chemicals and pollutants and the transfer of new species of predators. Some of them are house pets, while others have been introduced accidentally.
Such is the case with fire ants invading geographical areas where they shouldn’t have been able to reach on their own. Crested geckos struggle with fire ants for this reason, after the insects are introduced into their environment by humans. The problem is that crested geckos didn’t adapt to fire ants because they never shared the same environment.
So, when fire ants came, crested geckos had no way of avoiding them. Other lizard species have adapted to these nasty insects by growing longer legs, allowing them to run faster. More importantly, such an amazing characteristic only took approximately 40 generations to occur.
Lizards have an array of defensive abilities that they constantly put to the test. They also show an incredible ability to adapt to their environment and the arising of new threats, provided they have the time to do so.
The human presence will always test this ability due to the novel dangers we bring along; so it’s our job to help lizards and other animals adapt, survive, and thrive in their ever-changing habitat.