This is the first volume in the World of Animals series to deal with reptiles. It begins with general information that applies to the 8,000 or so species of reptiles as a whole, followed by an introduction to the lizard group. The volume then describes, with examples, four groups of lizards—tuataras, agamas, chameleons, and iguanas. Although they look like lizards, the tuataras are unique and ancient reptiles that have more in common with species that lived many millions of years ago than with other modern reptiles. They survive today only on a handful of small islands off New Zealand.
The lizards are the most conspicuous reptiles and are especially numerous in warm climates. They adapt well to a variety of environmental conditions and are present in most places from rain forests to deserts. There are several aquatic and semiaquatic species. One, the Galapagos marine iguana, regularly enters the sea to feed. The agamas, chameleons, and iguanas are all covered in this volume. Agamas and iguanas include many large, showy species in which males in particular are extremely colorful. They often develop horns, crests, dewlaps, and other ornamentation for use in territorial or courtship displays. Chameleons are famous for their ability to change color—a talent that is often exaggerated—but these fascinating reptiles have several other unique characteristics, such as their ability to catch insects with the sticky end of a long, protrusible tongue, and independently swiveling eye turrets.