Puerto Rico is a lush, tropical island that supports a wide array of lizard species; approximately 50 species inhabit the island. The diversity of the island’s lizards is evident in their varied diets, behaviors and sizes. The island’s largest lizards weigh 2,000 times as much as the island's smallest lizards do.
About 20 different gecko species live in Puerto Rico. All species hunt insects, spiders and other invertebrates, but a few species consume nectar and fruit as well. One endemic species, the Monito gecko (Sphaerodactylus micropithecus), is endangered throughout the lizard's range. As has happened in a number of other tropical locations, humans have inadvertently introduced the common house gecko (Hemidactylus mabouia) to the island.
Several iguana species live on Puerto Rico and its adjacent islands, including the islands' largest lizards, Cuban ground iguanas (Cyclura nubila nubila) and green iguanas (Iguana iguana). Green iguanas reach 6 feet in length and 15 pounds or more in weight. Cuban ground iguanas are slightly smaller than green iguanas, reaching 4 feet and almost 12 pounds. Both species are largely herbivorous and avoid competing by splitting the habitat -- green iguanas are largely arboreal, while Cuban ground iguanas are terrestrial. Juveniles of both species may consume insects in addition to fruit, leaves and flowers. Neither species is historically native to the island; beginning in the 1970s escaped pets started forming breeding populations.
The highly diverse genus Anolis reaches its greatest diversity in the Caribbean islands. Puerto Rico is home to 10 anole species. The crested anole (A. cristatellus) reaches about 7 inches and is the most commonly seen species of the genus in Puerto Rico, as the creature adapts to humanity well. The tiny dwarf anole (A. occultus) reaches only 3 to 4 inches in length, which helped the lizard avoid scientific discovery until 1963.
Four Amphisbaenid species inhabit Puerto Rico. These bizarre reptiles lack legs and superficially resemble earthworms; upon closer inspection, you will see tiny scales covering their bodies. All four species are burrowing creatures, less than 1 foot long, that consume ants, termites and beetle larvae. One of the species, the Puerto Rico worm lizard (Amphisbaena caeca) is endemic to the country.
Four amievas (Ameiva sp.), one skink (Mabuya mabouya) and one species of galliwasp (Dipoglossus pleei) are native to Puerto Rico. These fast, primarily terrestrial lizards prey on invertebrates and small vertebrates. Galliwasp sightings are rare; scientists know little about their life history, though they are closely related to the skinks and presumably share a number of similarities.
- USDA Forest Service: 2009 Wildlife Facts - Puerto Rican Galliwasp
- The Puerto Rico Gap Analysis Project: Amphisbaena Caeca
- Animal Biodiversity and Conservation: Natural History and Morphometry of the Cuban Iguana (Cyclura Nubila Gray, 1831) in Cayo Sijú, Cuba
- Wall Street Journal: To Battle Iguanas, Puerto Rico Has New Plan: Put Them on Menu
- Animal Diversity Web: Iguana Iguana
- Vulnerability of Tropical Ectotherms to Climate Warming: Puerto Rican Anoles
- Arkive: Turkish Gecko
- ITIS Report: Sphaerodactylus Micropithecus
Ryan McVay/Digital Vision/Getty Images