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6 Types of Lizards in Mississippi (Subspecies)

Whether hiking through the woods or sitting on their own front porches, most Mississippi residents can attest to seeing one or more of the numerous lizard species across the state. Mississippi is home to over a dozen species of lizards, many of which have made their way into urban and residential areas, which makes human encounters relatively common. 

In this article, we will discuss the six types of lizards found in Mississippi, and which species make up each. Keep reading to find out what they are, how to identify them, and which species you are most likely to see.

Collage photo lizards in Mississippi

6 Lizards in Mississippi

The six types of lizards found in Mississippi are anoles, spiny lizards, glass lizards, skinks, geckos, and whiptails. Let’s dive into the common, and the not-so-common, lizard species that contribute to the reptile diversity in Mississippi. 

1. A​noles

T​he first type of lizard we will explore is genus Anolis, or the anoles. Many Mississippians are familiar with green anoles, as they are frequent visitors to southern backyards, porches, and gardens. 

They are found in rural, urban, and residential areas throughout the southeast, and are often considered a staple of southern childhood. Green anoles have the ability to change the color of their skin from a vivid green to a deep brown depending on their environment. 

Brown anoles do not have the ability to change color and, as their name suggests, remain a deep brown color throughout their lives. The males of both species often display a bright red throat pouch, accompanied by a head bobbing motion, to attract female anoles in the area. An old Southern saying describes this behavior as the male “showing his money.” 

N​orthern green anole

Northern green anole
Northern green anole | image by Gary Leavens via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Anolis carolinensis 
  • Length: 5 to 8 inches 
  • Range: The southeastern United States from Texas and Oklahoma, to Virginia down into the Florida keys.
  • Diet: small insects and other invertebrates

B​rown anole

Brown anole
Brown anole | image by Judy Gallagher via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Anolis sagrei
  • Length: ​5 to 8.5  
  • Range: Native to the Caribbean islands; an introduced species to the southeastern United States
  • Diet: insects, spiders and other invertebrates

2. S​kinks

Many Mississippians are familiar with skinks, as they are frequent garden and backyard inhabitants. Skinks are members of the family Scincidae, and are smooth scaled lizards with long bodies and short legs. 

Many skinks display different colors and patterns depending on their age. Juveniles of both the common five-lined skink and the broad-headed skink are black with a distinctive bright blue tail, and five lines running down the length of their bodies. These stripes typically fade with age, and the adults of both species will have brown bodies with an orange or red head. 

Skinks are typically less arboreal than other types of lizards, such as the anoles, spending much of their time on the ground under leaf litter, logs, and other inconspicuous areas. 

They prey mainly on invertebrates, including insects, spiders and snails; but some species are reported to eat prey as large as small rodents and even bird eggs.

There are five defined skink species in Mississippi:

Common five-lined skink 

Common five lined skink on rock
Common five-lined skink on rock
  • Scientific Name: Plestiodon fasciatus
  • Length: 5 to 8 inches
  • Range: F​ound throughout the eastern United States
  • Diet: Primarily arthropods including spiders and crickets
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Southeastern five-lined skink

Southeastern five-lined skink
Southeastern five-lined skink | image by gailhampshire via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Plestiodon inexpectatus
  • Length: 5.5 to 8.5 inches
  • Range: Found throughout the eastern United States
  • Diet: Primarily arthropods, including prey as large as grasshoppers.

B​road-headed skink 

Broad-headed skink 
Broad-headed skink  | image by Peter Paplanus via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Plestiodon laticeps
  • Length: 6​ to 13 inches
  • Range: F​ound throughout the southeastern United States
  • Diet: Primarily invertebrates like insects and spiders

Coal skink 

Skink coming out of the tree hole
Skink coming out of the tree hole | image by Leafyplant via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Scientific Name: Plestiodon anthracinus
  • Length: 5 to 7 inches
  • Range: Patchy distribution throughout the eastern United States
  • Diet: Primarily invertebrates like insects and spiders

G​round skink 

Little brown Skink
Little brown Skink | image by Peter Paplanus via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Scincella lateralis
  • Length: 3 to 5.5 inches; making them one of North America’s smallest lizards
  • Range: Found throughout the s​outheast United States
  • Diet: S​mall insects and arthropods

3. Glass Lizards, or “Legless Lizards”

The often elusive g​lass lizards are members of the Aguidae family, and are a thrilling sight for amateur herpetologists and wildlife enthusiasts. Although abundant, they are usually shy and quick to get underground cover before they are seen. 

They can also offer a startling encounter for the common gardener with a respectful fear of snakes, as they are often misidentified as such. The confusion is not surprising, as these lizards lack legs and often move in a snake-like way; but there are several characteristics to distinguish them from snakes. 

Glass lizards get their name from their ability and willingness to drop, or “shatter,” their tails when threatened by a predator- an ability unique to lizards that snakes do not possess. Glass lizards also have eyelids and external ear openings, while snakes have neither. 

Snakes have extremely flexible jaws, which glass lizards do not have. Other than their lack of legs, their body condition and facial features are almost identical to that of skinks.

Glass lizards mainly feed on insects, arachnids, and other small invertebrates; as well as small reptiles, and even rodents. They are commonly found under houses or boards, vegetation and leaf litter, and other various debris. The three species found in Mississippi are:

E​astern glass lizard

Eastern glass lizard
Eastern glass lizard | image by Bert Cash via CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Ophisaurus ventralis
  • Length: 18 to 43 inches 
  • Range: F​ound in southern Mississippi and as far eastward as Virginia and Florida
  • D​iet: Insects, arachnids, and other invertebrates; as well as small rodents and occasionally eggs from other reptiles or birds.

E​astern slender glass lizard

Eastern slender glass lizard
Eastern slender glass lizard | image by Tedd Greenwald via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 4.0
  • Scientific Name: Ophisaurus attenuatus longicaudus
  • Length: 22 to 36 inches 
  • Range: Found more abundantly throughout Mississippi than the eastern glass lizard, and can be found throughout the southeastern United States
  • Diet: Insects, arachnids, and other invertebrates; as well as small rodents and occasionally eggs from other reptiles or bids.

Mimic glass lizard

Mimic glass lizard
Mimic glass lizard | image by Ryan Somma via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Ophisaurus mimicus
  • Length: 1​5 to 26 inches
  • Range: southeastern United States
  • Diet: Various arthropods and worms 

4. House G​eckos

There is only one representative of the family Geckonidae, or geckos, found in Mississippi. No other lizard species in Mississippi has adhesive foot pads, a trait unique to geckos. Although it is not a native species, it is very commonly found around homes and other urban areas throughout the state. 

The Mediterranean house gecko is a small, nocturnal lizard with dark spots over pale pink skin. Although they have won the hearts of many Mississippi residents for being a cute front porch visitor; as a non-native species, their effect on native wildlife is still being determined. 

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On the other hand, they often find themselves indoors in homes where they are not always greeted as welcomed house guests. They are often found after dark, sitting beneath a porch light, eating flying insects attracted to the light. They are also known for their vocalizations, which are usually described as “chirping” or “barking.”

Mediterranean House Gecko

Mediterranean house gecko
Mediterranean house gecko | image by Mick Sway via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Hemidactylus turcicus
  • Length: 4 to 5 inches
  • Range: N​ative to the Mediterranean but found throughout the southeast United States
  • Diet: I​nsects and other arthropods

5. S​piny Lizards

Spiny lizards are members of the Phrynosmatidae family, and get their name from their rough scale patterns. They are adapted for hot, dry climates. Mississippi is home to one species of spiny lizard: the eastern fence lizard. 

They exhibit sexual dichromatism, resulting in the males and females of this species being differently colored. While both males and females are typically dark brown, the males appear solid in color while the females exhibit dark brown horizontal stripes across their backs. 

Mature adult males have patches of bright blue scales on their chin and the underside of their bodies for attracting females during mating seasons. They are mostly an arboreal species, spending a lot of their time in and around trees. You are most likely to see them in open forests, or as their name suggests, often along fence posts and in other urban environments.

E​astern fence lizard 

Eastern fence lizard 
Eastern fence lizard  | image by Judy Gallagher via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: Sceloporus undulatus
  • Length: 4​ to 7.5 inches
  • Range: They are found across the Southern United States,  and are most abundant in the Southeastern states
  • Diet: Primarily ants and grasshoppers

6. W​hiptails

T​he eastern six-lined race runner is the only member of the Teiidae family, commonly known as whiptails, found in Mississippi. As their name suggests, race runners are extremely fast and are often only seen from a distance. 

They can be identified by their dark bodies with six white or yellow stripes down their backs. This ground-dwelling species can be found in hot, dry, open areas such as fields, sandy dunes, and the edges of forests. 

Six-lined race runner 

Six-lined racerunner in the wild
Six-lined racerunner in the wild | image by Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific Name: A​spidoscelis sexlineatus
  • Length: 6 to 9.5 inches
  • Range: Found in the s​outheastern and south-central United States
  • Diet: Primarily a variety of insects and spiders

About Laura Leggett

Laura is an experienced animal care professional with a bachelor's degree in biology. Over her seven-year career as a zookeeper, she has nurtured and cared for a wide variety of species from across the globe.