Panther chameleon, Amber Mountain National Park, Madagascar
© Christian Ziegler/Minden Picture
This camouflaged panther chameleon is one of a multitude of lizards that inhabit the island of Madagascar, many of which are found nowhere else. More than 50% of chameleon species are found only on the island, including the world’s smallest known chameleon, the recently discovered Brookesia nana, which is smaller than your fingernail.
There are more than 5,000 species of lizards living on every continent except Antarctica, and they have developed strategies for survival as varied as their environments. Chameleons and geckos can camouflage themselves so well they can seem almost invisible. Many lizards can release their tails, a technique called tail autonomy, to distract predators while they escape. The frilled-neck lizard tricks potential predators by making itself look large and scary. And Komodo dragons, the only lizards known to hunt humans, stay safe simply by being large and scary.