The Lizards of Missouri

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Published on: Aug. 2, 1997

Last revision: Oct. 27, 2010

Missouri is home to 13 kinds of lizards. All lizards native to the Show-Me-State are harmless and non-venomous. Like other reptiles, lizards are ecdothermic or "cold-blooded." They are closely related to snakes, and some even look and "act" just like snakes.

Most Missouri lizards are long, slender reptiles with scales, a long tail and four legs with claws on their toes. They are different from snakes because they have legs, ear openings and eyelids. However, as with other animals, there are exceptions: The western slender glass lizard, which lives in many Missouri counties, is legless, but has eyelids and ear openings, which snakes lack.


Our lizards live in three types of habitats: forests, glades and prairies. Those living in forests use clearings, where they bask in the sun on fallen logs. Glade species bask in the sun on rocks, as well as take shelter under them at night. Prairie lizards have no problem finding places to bask, but they take shelter in animal burrows or under dead grass.

Lizard Skin

Missouri's lizards all have scales and a tough outer skin. Just like snakes, lizards must shed their skin so they can grow. A lizard's outer skin normally comes off in large pieces three or four times during the summer.

What Lizards Eat and What Eats Lizards

All of our lizards eat insects (grasshoppers, ants, crickets and beetles) and spiders. They are valuable as a natural control of destructive species, such as termites. Skinks and fence lizards are known to eat the winged life stage of termites (called "alates") as they emerge from underground in mid-spring. And, the eastern collared lizard is an important predator of other lizards!

Kingsnakes and racers will eat lizards at every opportunity. The roadrunner, a bird that lives on glades in southwest Missouri, is a primary lizard eater. Hawks are important lizard predators. Skunks and badgers dig up lizard eggs. Unfortunately, house cats have proven to be a primary predator of all species of lizards.

Tongues and Teeth

Lizards use their tongue to pick up odors in their environment. They use their small, strong teeth to grab and crush insects. If you capture a large skink or a fence lizard, its bite will feel like nothing more

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