Australian Lizards in Cape York

Australian lizards is a huge group of animals.

Nowhere else in the world is there as many lizards in one country
as there is in Australia.

They particularly like dry outback habitat

They also like warm places, because like most other reptiles, they need warmth to keep their own body temperature

And in Cape York and northern Australia, there is plenty of heat and plenty of the outback - excellent lizard habitat.

We don't have some of the more famous ones such as perenties or thorny devils, but we have other beauties like frilled lizards, lace monitors, blue tongue skinks and many others.


The ones you see lots of, the small ones that run around in the leaf litter on the ground, are skinks - the largest group of Australian lizards with 370 species. 

australian skinks
A small skink on the ground in Cooktown. 

Some are legless, most have legs, and many are only known by Latin names. Some of the most famous ones are the larger ones, such as Blue Tongue Skinks. One species of them - Tlilqua scincoides - is found in Cape York.

Others that we have include Garden Skink Lampropholis delicata, Prickly Forest Skink Gnypetoscincus queenslandiae, Major Skink Egernia frerei, Eastern Striped Skink Ctenotus robustus, Eastern Water Skink Eulamprus quoyii, Lively Rainbow Skink Carlia Vivax, Black Mountain Skink Carlia scirtetis, and many other species that only have Latin names.

Gecko Lizards

Geckos belong to a fairly large group of small nocturnal reptiles. The best known ones to us locals are house geckos that live in our homes. Unfortunately nowadays the introduced Asian House Gecko has overtaken the niche and forced the original native house geckos (Eastern Dtella Gehyra dubia) back to the bush.

gecko lizards
A small gecko in Cape Tribulation. 

But there are heaps more species that live in the bush, and the ones we have in Cape York include
Ring-tailed Gecko Cyrtodactylus louisiadensis, Black Mountain Gecko Nactus galgajuga, Pelagic Gecko Nactus pelagicus, Mourning Gecko Lepidodactylus lugubris, Box Patterned Gecko Diplodactylus steindachneri, Bynoe's Gecko Heteronotia binoei, Giant Tree Gecko Pseudothecadactylus australis, Northern Velvet Gecko Oedura castelnaui, Zigzag Velvet Gecko Oedura rhombifer, McIllwraith Leaf Tailed Gecko Orraya occultus and Pickly Knob Tailed Gecko Nephrurus asper.

Dragon Lizards

Dragons are larger than skinks and geckos, and although not quite as large as monitors and goannas, they are quite impressive animals, and some of them are quite easy to come across.

dragon lizard
A water dragon. 

The most famous ones are the
Frilled Lizards Chlamydosaurus kingii. In moister areas such as the coast and rainforests, there are Water Dragon Physignathus lesueurii and Boyd's Forest Dragon Hypsilurus boydii. Others we have in Cape York include Nobbi Dragons Amphibolurus nobbi, Two Lined Dragons Diporiphora bilineata, Ta-Ta Lizard Amphibolurus gilberti and Tommy Roundhead Diporiphora australia.

Monitors and Goannas

The largest and most impressive of our lizards are monitors and goannas. We don't have perentie - Australia's largest one, but we have the second largest - Lace Monitor Varanus varius.
goanna lizard
A goanna lizard. 

Others that we have include Yellow-spotted Monitor Varanus panoptes, Sand Goanna Varanus gouldii, Mangrove Monitor Varanus indicus, Canopy Goanna Varanus keithhornei, Black Headed Monitor Varanus tristis, Rusty Monitor Varanus semiremex and Spotted Tree Monitor Varanus scalaris.

Legless Lizards

And finally there is the group of legless lizards - the strangest ones as they really look like snakes. At a closer look though, they have a head of a lizard and not a snake. Also unlike snakes, they have ear openings, unforked tongues and they can make a (gecko-like) noise. They are all harmless.

legless lizard
A legless lizard by eyeweed via

The ones we have in Cape York include
the Common Scaly Foot Lizard Pygopus lepidopodus, Northern Hooded Scaly Foot Lizard Pygopus steelescotti and Burton's Snake-lizard Lialis burtonis.

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