Snakes and lizards are both similar and different in many unexpected ways. Both reptiles belong to the same order, Squamata, so you know there will be a lot of overlap in their natural habitats, diets, and reproduction.
This sometimes poses some issues, especially when trying to identify reptile eggs in the wild. There’s considerable overlap between the appearance of snake and lizard eggs. To make matters more complicated, the eggs occur in similar environments, including deserts, forests, grasslands, and rocky outcrops.
Not all is lost, though! There are still ways to identify snake and lizard eggs. All it takes is a keen eye for detail and knowing the subtle differences. Keep reading to learn more about these if you’re curious! I’ll cover everything you need to know in this article, including egg size, shape, shell texture, color, and more!
Overview of Snake Eggs
Snake eggs are small. The average snake egg is the size of a small coin or slightly larger. The eggs are typically elongated and have a white shell. They feel smooth and squishy to the touch, but the shell is quite durable.
Snake eggs are laid in clutches, and the number of eggs per clutch varies greatly between snake species. The average snake will lay between 10-30 eggs, but the range goes from just one to over 100 eggs!
Overview of Lizard Eggs
Lizard eggs are also small. The average lizard egg is slightly smaller than a USA quarter coin or a paperclip. They typically have a rounded shape, an off-white color, and are sometimes speckled. The shell is smooth but also delicate.
Lizards lay eggs in clutches, and the clutch size is widely variable. The average number of eggs is 1-20 per clutch, but larger lizards might lay up to 80 eggs or more. Some documented veiled chameleons have laid up to 200 eggs!
Key differences between Snake and Lizard Eggs
At first glance, snake and lizard eggs look nearly identical. But don’t be discouraged! There are some subtle differences that will help you tell them apart. Snake and lizard eggs differ in a few small but important ways, including:
|Characteristics||Snake Eggs||Lizard Eggs|
|Size and Shape||Elongated, 1-5 inches long on average, tic-tac-shaped||Rounded, slightly smaller than a USA quarter coin or a paperclip, oval-shaped|
|Shell Texture and Color||Leathery, soft, squishy, resilient, white or dirty white||Soft and rubbery or harder and chalkier, varying from white to beige to light brown, some may be spotted|
|Incubation Period and Hatching||55-60 days on average, ideal temperature 78-84°F, humidity between 75-85%, sensitive to temperature and humidity fluctuations||Roughly 40-90 days, average 60 days, smaller eggs usually take less time to hatch, optimal temperature 80-90°F, optimal humidity 40-75%, less sensitive to humidity fluctuations than snake eggs|
Size and Shape
One of the main differences between snake and lizard eggs is size, with snake eggs being larger in most cases. Snake eggs are 1-5 inches long on average, while lizard eggs are just 0.4-1.2 inches. And these are just the averages! On the extreme end, some lizards, like anoles, produce eggs that are just 0.2 inches long.
The shell shape for both reptiles ranges from round to oblong. Lizard eggs are most commonly oval and rounded due to their smaller size. Snake eggs are larger and thus elongated (similar to a big tic-tac shape). There’s a bit of overlap in shape between lizard eggs and small snake eggs, but these differences hold in most cases.
Shell Texture and Color
Almost all reptile eggs are rubbery to the touch and have a pale color. The same applies to snake and lizard eggs. But if we were to look closer, we’d notice some subtle differences.
Snake eggs are always leathery to the touch, and the shell is soft and squishy but resilient. Some snake eggs may also appear bumpy. If the shell gets deformed, it can typically “bounce” back to its original shape by absorbing moisture from the environment. The shell color is always pure or dirty white.
Lizard eggs show more variety in shell texture, depending on the species. Some lizard eggs are soft and rubbery, similar to snake eggs. Other eggs have harder and chalkier shells. Lizard eggs are more sensitive to mechanical stress than snake eggs. The color ranges from white to beige to light brown; some species’ eggs may be spotted.
Incubation Period and Hatching
There’s also a slight variation in the incubation period and environment.
Snake eggs take 55-60 days to hatch, on average. The ideal incubation temperature for snake eggs is 78-84°F, and the humidity should fall between 75-85%. Snake eggs are sensitive to temperature and humidity fluctuations— both factors can affect the length of the incubation period, as well as the size of the hatchlings.
Lizard eggs have a wider range of incubation times, roughly 40-90 days, with 60 days being the average. Smaller eggs usually take less time to hatch. As with snake eggs, temperature and humidity can influence the incubation times and the hatching rate in lizard eggs. The optimal values for most species are 80-90°F and 40-75% humidity.
Distinguishing Snake Eggs from Lizard Eggs
Sometimes, you might stumble upon reptile eggs, and the curiosity gets the better of you. But remember, the best thing you can do is to leave the wild eggs untouched. Messing with them could damage the embryo. So, try not to move or feel the eggs, if possible.
You can still “diagnose” the eggs without touching them. Consider the following traits when trying to distinguish snake from lizard eggs:
Examination of the Eggshell
This method isn’t foolproof, but it’s a good place to start. There’s some overlap between snake and lizard eggs in terms of size, shape, color, and texture. But for the most part, remember that snake eggs are over 1 inch long and generally have an oblong shape.
Virtually all snake eggs are white or off-white. A snake egg that is brown or another color is not viable. As for texture, this is harder to observe without disturbing the eggs. But if an egg is larger than one inch long and has a smooth and shiny shell, it’s almost definitely a snake egg.
Eggs smaller than 1 inch long and oval are almost invariably lizard eggs. If the egg is beige or brown, you could try candling it. If the inside looks pink and there are veins, the colorful egg contains a viable lizard hatchling. If the shell appears smooth but chalky or hard, that’s another clear sign you’re looking at a lizard egg.
Observing the Eggs in the Natural Environment
You can also tell the difference based on environmental clues. Snake and lizard eggs need slightly different temperatures and humidity levels to incubate. Thus, the eggs’ location will also differ.
Most snakes are terrestrial, and their eggs need high humidity and temperature levels to incubate. For these reasons, snakes usually bury their eggs in loose and humid soil, rotten logs, compost, dirt, and even animal manure! Any hidden spot that’s warm, damp, and dark makes a good nest.
Lizards can be terrestrial or arboreal. In any case, lizards are pretty good climbers. Lizard eggs are also less sensitive to humidity fluctuations, especially if the shell is thick and chalky. All these factors suggest that lizards have a wider variety of accessible nesting sites.
Indeed, lizard eggs may occur on the ground, in underground burrows, loose tree bark, beneath shrubs, under logs, woodpiles, sheds, and decks. Some lizards, like geckos, produce extremely sticky eggs. These can be stuck onto tree branches and even walls!
Egg positioning may also give us some clues. Snake clutches look very different than lizard ones. If you see a bunch of eggs stuck together into a clump, these are definitely snake eggs. While lizard eggs are sticky when they first come out, they don’t stay clumped together for long.
Factors Affecting the Appearance of Snake and Lizard Eggs
It’s clear by now that snake and lizard eggs differ. But there are also in-group differences between different snake or lizard eggs. Factors like the reptile’s species, environment, and the developmental stage of the egg can all influence egg appearance. Here’s how these factors can contribute:
Age of the Eggs
The appearance of snake and lizard eggs changes slightly throughout the incubation period. Depending on the eggs’ developmental stage, you may have a harder or easier time identifying the reptile species.
When first laid, snake and lizard eggs might look quite similar. As the eggs absorb moisture from the air and the embryo develops, the egg can change size. This happens in eggs with soft, leathery shells, most commonly in snakes. Many, but not all, lizard eggs can also swell and grow throughout incubation, albeit to a lesser extent.
Sometimes, the shell color might change slightly. As the eggs swell, the shell might develop lighter or near-translucent portions. The inside of the egg gets darker as the embryo develops and uses up the yolk and albumen.
When candling the eggs, you might see a dark brown shadow. If the shell gets thinner as the egg expands, you might also notice that some snake eggs get an off-white tint. Lizard eggs might become yellowish or tan. This color change is due to changes in the yolk composition and newly-formed blood vessels.
Environmental parameters, namely humidity, can influence egg development and appearance. Under optimal humidity levels, both snake and lizard eggs should remain plump and smooth.
Excessive moisture, however, can kill the embryo in soft-shelled eggs. If the shell lets too much humidity pass through, this can drown and kill the baby snake or lizard. Dead snake eggs will change color rapidly, turning yellowish, brown, or bluish-green. Rotting snake eggs will also develop fuzzy mold and a bad odor.
With lizard eggs, it’s a bit harder to tell. Unless the eggs are naturally white, color changes would be unnoticeable. However, oversaturated lizard eggs will become squishier and grow mold as well.
Insufficient humidity will have the opposite effect. When soft-shelled eggs lose too much moisture, the eggs shrink, and the shell appears deflated, pinched, or wrinkled. This happens in both snake and lizard species. However, hard-shelled lizard eggs are less vulnerable to humidity loss.
Note that environmental humidity is only the direct cause of egg mold, rotting, or dehydration. Secondary factors also influence humidity and its effects on the eggs. High temperatures, for example, result in water condensation and egg “sweating,” raising the risk of mold formation. Nesting location and medium (e.g., soil, leaf litter, etc.) can also affect humidity levels.
Diet of the Mother Reptile
The appearance of snake and lizard eggs can be influenced by a variety of factors, including the diet of the mother. Reptiles that consume diets low in minerals will typically lay smaller, softer eggs with a nearly translucent appearance. This is because the shell is made up of calcium, which the reptile obtains from its diet. If the mother is not consuming enough calcium, the eggshell will be thinner and more delicate.
On the other hand, a diet high in minerals will produce thicker-shelled eggs with a bumpy or chalky texture. This is because the excess minerals are stored in the shell, making it more resilient. However, it’s essential to note that this can vary between species, with some producing eggs that are more sensitive to mineral intake than others.
One example of this variation is chameleons. Female veiled chameleons, for instance, require a high-calcium diet to produce healthy eggs with thick, bumpy shells. Without the proper calcium intake, their eggs will be thin and less viable, leading to poor hatch rates.
Beyond generalizations, it’s almost impossible to give a comprehensive, all-encompassing description of snake or lizard eggs. Most species produce similar-looking eggs, but there is still so much variation and overlap between reptile species.
Take corn snakes, for example. They produce medium-sized eggs, roughly 1.5-2.5 inches long. They look like the snake eggs described in this article— oblong, white, and leathery. Then, there are python eggs; these are over 6 inches long, nearly perfectly oval, and have a creamy off-white shade.
Then, there are the more extreme outliers. For example, the tiny Barbados thread snake produces eggs that are just 0.08-0.5 inches long, roughly the size and shape of a grain of rice. As you can guess based on these examples, large snakes produce larger eggs, while small snakes produce smaller ones.
Egg size, shape, and color differences also occur in different lizard species, such as geckos, anoles, and iguanas, to name a few. Crested geckos, for example, lay small oval eggs. They’re about 1 inch long and milky white.
Other geckos, like leopard geckos, produce larger eggs, roughly 1.5 inches long. Leopard gecko eggs can be dark beige or brown and usually speckled. Then, there are anole eggs— approximately 0.25 inches long, rounded, and covered in brown speckles.
Overall, the general egg descriptions in this article apply to most snake and lizard species. So, don’t sweat the exceptions. Unless you’re out looking for exotic and dangerous reptile eggs, like vipers, pythons, or monitor lizards, rest assured this info will prove accurate!
The reptiles you’re most likely to encounter in or close to urban environments are geckos, racerunners, skinks, milksnakes, hognoses, and bullsnakes. Other common snakes in the U.S., such as watersnakes or garter snakes, don’t lay eggs at all!
The average snake and lizard egg are going to look quite similar. They’re usually around the size of a small coin, off-white, and with a smooth shell. However, there are still some subtle differences that could help you distinguish between snake and lizard eggs.
Snake eggs are almost always larger than 1 inch long and oblong, while lizard eggs are 1 inch in size or smaller and are usually oval. Lizard eggs can feel chalky to the touch and come in more potential colors ranging from white to beige to brown. Snake eggs are almost always white or dirty white and have a leathery, flexible shell.