Did You Know?
Contrary to popular belief and also to their portrayal in "Holes", the National Book Award-winning novel by Louis Sachar, yellow-spotted tropical night lizards do not possess a venom and are not harmful to humans.
The yellow-spotted tropical night lizards are also known as tropical night lizards or yellow-spotted night lizards. Scientifically known as Lepidophyma flavimaculatum, these creatures belong to the family Xantusiidae that includes about 17 lizard species that are thought to be nocturnal or crepuscular in nature. The yellow-spotted tropical night lizards are among the largest species from this family, and have two subspecies viz., Lepidophyma flavimaculatum flavimaculatum and Lepidophyma flavimaculatum obscurum.
These reptiles are known for their secretive nature and for staying at one spot through most of their life. While they can be kept as exotic pets, their trade is not a common practice, and it is extremely difficult to find them at pet shops. This is one of the reasons that very little is known about the care of these lizards in captivity. This Buzzle article will give you some fast facts about this unusual and odd species of lizards.
◆ These lizards possess a body color that ranges from black to rusty brown, and as the name suggests, they bear a series of yellow spots along the sides of their bodies, right from the tip of the snouts to the abdomen. These yellow spots are often faded in appearance and have very indistinct borders.
◆ The underside of their bodies are yellow in color, often with brownish patches.
◆ These lizards have scaly bodies. The dorsal scales are larger and have a bead-like appearance. On the other hand, the ventral scales are smaller and squarish in shape.
◆ The top of the lizard's head is shiny black in color and has several faint yellow spots. The underside of its head is uniformly colored in a dark brownish gray shade.
◆ The lower jaw of this lizard has a rather robust appearance, and it has a pattern of alternating light (white/yellow) and dark (black) bands on its underside.
◆ The upper lip is uniformly black and has a number of light yellow spots on it.
◆ The scales on the yellow-spotted lizard's tail form a whorl pattern around it. Thus, we can also see alternative bands of yellow and black/brown/gray on the tail.
◆ These lizards are one of the largest species of night lizards. A fully grown adult measures between 2.5 to 5 inches in length.
Distribution and Habitat
◆ The yellow-spotted tropical night lizards are found in the Central American subtropical rainforests. Alongside the Pacific and Atlantic coasts where these lizards are often found, they are also known to inhabit elevated areas, some of which may be as high as 2,265 feet.
◆ Despite the significant geographical range that it covers, they are rather difficult to spot in the wild. Generally, these reptiles are known to reside in a damp environment.
◆ Rotting logs, crevices in the trunks of trees, and/or even leaf litters are some of the common places where they may be found.
◆ If you take a walk in the night along a forest path or some other lush area (falling within the geographical range of the yellow spotted tropical night lizard), you may have some chances of spotting one. They can be found underneath damp leaves or even rocks―their flat bodies help them squeeze under rocks rather easily.
◆ Before we go on to describe how the tropical night lizard reproduces, it is vital to mention that it is not possible to identify the two sexes of this species by looking at its external features. Sexual dimorphism, if any, is difficult to understand in these creatures.
◆ The reproductive habits of the tropical night lizards have been subject to several interesting till date, owing to the fact that they are pretty unusual. For one, they are viviparous in nature, in that they do not lay eggs, but give birth to live individuals instead.
◆ Moreover, since there are defined microhabitats where these lizards tend to be found, their populations are, more often than not, isolated. There are even some all-female populations in some of their microhabitats, which are known to reproduce by parthenogenesis. Parthenogenesis is a process of asexual reproduction in which the embryos develop without fertilization. However, certain other populations are also known to reproduce sexually.
◆ Parthenogenetic populations are usually found in the southern areas of their geographical range, whereas those living in the northern part of their geographical range are known to reproduce sexually.
◆ Little is known regarding the age of sexual maturity of these lizards, except that they take several years for the same. The average lifespan of the yellow-spotted lizard in the wild is between 10 to 15 years.
◆ The tropical night lizards are known to be primarily insectivores in nature.
◆ In the wild, they generally feed on small insects like ants, centipedes, flies, scorpions, spiders, and even termites. However, in captivity, they are also known to feed on crickets and wax worms.
◆ Generally, they can find their prey within their microhabitats―decaying logs, crevices of tree trunks, etc. However, in cases where they do not find the prey so easily, they are also known to come out in the open and hunt for the same.
◆ On the other hand, bigger animals, such as snakes, that reside in logs of wood etc., are considered to be possible predators of these lizards.
As mentioned above, very little is known about the care of these lizards in captivity owing to the fact that they are not found so easily, and very few people actually keep them as pets. However, if you are reptile enthusiast, interested in keeping one of these lizards as pets, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind. In fact, if you are novice, it is advisable that you do not opt for a yellow-spotted lizard at all. The main reason being the need of proper knowledge of handling these shy creatures, else you might end up being bitten by them. Although their bites are not poisonous, their sharp teeth might cause injury. Secondly, since most specimens that are up for sale are caught from their wild microhabitats, the chances of them being parasitized are extremely high. Therefore, unless you know how to maintain them or you know a person who knows all about them, it is best to avoid keeping them as pets, rather than not being able to care for them properly.