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Facts About Curly Tailed Lizards in Florida

Known as the Sunshine State, Florida is renowned for its unique ecosystem, warm weather, beautiful beaches, and diverse wildlife. One such creature that calls this state its home is the curly-tailed lizard. This fascinating and exotic inhabitant of Florida didn’t always live here, but it has become a notable presence in Florida’s urban and natural landscapes. In this article we will learn some facts about curly tailed lizards in Florida, taking a look at their physical appearance, habitat, and life cycle.

Curly Tailed Lizards In Florida

Hispaniolan khaki curly tail lizard
Hispaniolan khaki curly tail lizard | image by Erfil via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

There are two species of curly tailed lizards that call Florida its home: the northern curly tailed lizard (Leiocephalus carinatus) and the Hispaniolan khaki curly tail lizard (Leiocephalus schreibersii). The northern curly tailed lizard is the more common of the two and is primarily found near the Palm Beach area of Florida. The Hispaniolan khaki curly tail lizard is typically found in the southern portion of the state.

Physical Appearance Of Curly Tailed Lizard

Curly-tailed lizards are small to medium-sized lizards, measuring between 5 and 9 inches in length. One of the most distinctive features is their curly tail, which is how they get their name. These curly tails are used for various purposes, including balance and communication.

The tail curls over the lizard’s back in a tight spiral when the creature is at rest. Their exact coloration can vary depending on the species, but they are usually brown or grayish-brown with dark stripes or bands along their back and sides.

Curly Tailed Lizard’s Habitat

Curly tailed lizards have adapted to a wide range of habitats in Florida, making them a common sight in both natural and urban settings. They are most commonly found in coastal areas, including sandy beaches, dunes, and rocky shorelines. However, these reptiles are highly adaptable and can thrive in other environments as well, such as parks, gardens, and even suburban neighborhoods.

The Behavior and Diet Of The Curly Tailed Lizard

Northern curly tailed lizard crawling
Northern curly tailed lizard crawling | image by Donald Hobern via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Curly tailed lizards are diurnal, which means they are active during the day. They are also known for their curious personality, often seen basking in the sun or running around in search of food. Their diet mostly consists of insects, spiders, and small invertebrates, which they catch using their fast reflexes and sharp teeth.

An interesting fact about these lizards is that they use their curly tail as a defense mechanism. When threatened, they can curl their tails over their backs and stand on their hind legs, which makes their body appear larger and more intimidating. This is usually enough to deter potential predators.

Curly Tail Lizard’s Life Cycle

During the breeding season, which typically occurs in late spring and early summer, male curly-tail lizards become more brightly colored to attract females. They engage in courtship rituals, which can involve head bobbing and push-up displays. Females will dig in loose or sandy soil to create a nest where they will lay 2 to 10 eggs.

The incubation period lasts several weeks, and the female does not care for the eggs or hatchlings. Once the young lizards hatch, they are on their own, and their survival will depend on their ability to find food and steer clear of predators.

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Humans and Curly Tail Lizards

Curly tailed lizard basking
Curly tailed lizard basking | image by Thamnophis via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

Because of their adaptability and curious nature, curly tailed lizards and humans often come across each other’s path. Thankfully, these reptiles do not pose a risk to humans or pets. In fact, curly tailed lizards are not considered aggressive and may not even bite when restrained.

That doesn’t mean, however, that they cannot bite. The truth is, that these creatures have the potential and ability to bite with their sharp teeth, but since they are not aggressive, they typically won’t.

One issue that these humans can have with the curly tailed lizard is that they have a burrow behavior and may dig up lawns and gardens. This can be problematic for some people, leading many to consider these lizards a nuisance.

Are Curly Tailed Lizards Endangered In Florida?

Curly tailed lizards are listed as “least concern” according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. What this means is that this reptile’s status is currently considered stable in the state of Florida. They are not threatened or endangered, and their population numbers are healthy.

However, that doesn’t mean that, like so many other wildlife species, their future in the state isn’t without challenges. Urban development in Florida has led to habitat loss for many animal species, including the curly tailed lizard. As their natural environment continues to be converted to residential and business areas, more and more humans are encountering the curly tailed lizard.

Can I Keep A Curly Tailed Lizard As A Pet?

There are currently no laws stating that the curly tailed lizard cannot be kept as a pet. But that doesn’t mean you should run out and start trying to find a wild lizard to keep indoors.

If you’re interested in having any reptile as a pet, make sure to obtain the animal from a reputable business or company. Additionally, it is always best to only get lizards that were specifically bred for domestication instead of snatching one from its native habitat.

Are Curly Tailed Lizards Invasive in Florida

Yes, curly tailed lizards are considered invasive in Florida. Originally from the Caribbean, these lizards were introduced to the state through the pet trade. They have adapted extremely well to Florida’s environment and have become established in many areas.

Their presence has raised concerns because they can outcompete native lizard species for resources, and can disrupt local ecosystems. As a result, efforts have been made to manage and control curly-tailed lizard populations to reduce their impact on Florida’s native wildlife.

Sources:

  • “Leaping lizards! Does South Florida have an influx of new species?”, Jenny Hudak, Mews@TheU, July 13, 2023, news.miami.edu